Irish Independent

Kate’s a fan, but does hypnobirth­ing work?

As Kate Middleton admits that she quite enjoyed labour thanks to hypnobirth­ing, Tanya Sweeney weighs up the pros and cons of the celeb-approved birthing method — and examines the evidence behind it

- Keeping it natural

Even though there was a scrum of the world’s media outside, the birthing suite inside the famous Lindo Wing was an oasis of calm and tranquilli­ty.

So much so, in fact, that Kate Middleton has recently revealed that she ‘really quite liked’ the experience of natural childbirth.

Speaking on the Happy Mum, Happy Baby podcast, the duchess revealed that she had used hypnobirth­ing techniques during her three pregnancie­s, in between battling bouts of severe morning sickness.

“I saw the power of it really, the meditation and the deep breathing and things like that — that they teach you in hypnobirth­ing — when I was really sick and actually I realised that this was something I could take control of, I suppose, during labour,” she revealed.

“It was hugely powerful and because it had been so bad during pregnancy, I actually really quite liked labour. Because actually it was an event that I knew there was going to be an ending to. I’m not going to say that William was standing there sort of, chanting sweet nothings at me. He definitely wasn’t! I didn’t even ask him about it, but it was just something I wanted to do for myself.”

Middleton’s sister-in-law Meghan Markle is also rumoured to have used self-hypnosis as a means to ease her birth last May. Miranda Kerr, Jessica Alba and Gisele Bündchen are also fans of the technique, which helps a woman manage her pain during labour and childbirth. Using visualisat­ion, relaxation and deep breathing, hypnobirth­ing encourages women to focus on birthing their baby, and to remind themselves that their body is designed for childbirth.

The term “hypnosis” describes a state of altered consciousn­ess, in which a person is feeling deeply focused and attentive. When you’re hypnotised, you are thought to become more responsive to guidance or suggestion­s from within or from others.

Aisling Killoran, a certified hypnothera­pist and psychother­apist, (birthwithe­, has certainly noticed an increase in the number of women looking into hypnobirth­ing options. “More are seeking out a relaxed way of preparing for the birth of the baby, as they want to have a say in how their birth will play out,” she notes. “They want to be heard and for there to be open lines of communicat­ion both ways, as opposed to just one way.

“They seek out hypnobirth­ing because they want to be more self-informed, reduce the need for interventi­ons and be more in control of their bodies and decision making, around the birth of their baby,” she adds.

“Also, hypnobirth­ing mums tend to give birth safely in a shorter amount of time, due to them being relaxed and in control.” “[Hypnobirth­ing] keeps the woman calm, relaxed, empowered and in control from the inside out,” Killoran explains. “They are more in touch with their bodies and know what’s going on from the inside out versus the outside in, which reduces the fear of the unknown.” Much of the breathing involved in hypnobirth­ing reportedly helps to stimulate the production of oxytocin, which aids the body’s muscles and essentiall­y makes the uterus work during labour.

Nadia Arthurs, a registered Rotunda midwife who regularly runs hypnobirth­ing classes in Swords (Labourof explains: “When adrenaline levels go up, this has a knock-on effect on labour, which inhibits the production of oxytocin. This can make labour go on a lot longer than usual, so it’s important that the more relaxed the woman is, the better.” Women tap into relaxation techniques in different ways, usually between 22 and 30 weeks gestation, and those aiming for a hypnobirth will listen to an audio track during pregnancy, which will help guide meditation.

One visualisat­ion technique is called the “silver glove,” in which women imagine donning a silver glove that causes their hand to tingle, go numb and relax. They can “spread” that numbness around by envisionin­g their hand touching other body parts.

The main objective, Arthurs, explains, is to educate women on how to give birth with calm and confidence.

“Some find water births, or using music is a good way to relax,” Arthurs notes. “It works at different levels for different people.”

Several women have extolled the positives of a hypnobirth, and the World Health Organizati­on has officially recommende­d relaxation techniques during labour. Yet there is scant scientific evidence to prove that hypnobirth­ing actually works.

In the UK, a trial of self-hypnosis for intrapartu­m pain showed no major difference in satisfacti­on with pain relief or women’s ability to manage labour contractio­ns. Hypnosis training also appears to have had little or no impact on instances of spontaneou­s vaginal births, or women’s ability to manage labour contractio­ns.

However, another study, published by The Hypnobirth­ing Institute in the US, noted that those who went through its programme were less likely to have C-sections or episiotomi­es, compared to American mothers who hadn’t used hypnobirth­ing.

Another study, published in 2013 by BMC Pregnancy Childbirth, saw that most respondent­s reported positive experience­s of self-hypnosis and highlighte­d feelings of calmness, confidence and empowermen­t.

“We actually looked at hypnosis as opposed to hypnobirth­ing as a whole package,” one of the study’s authors, Professor Soo Downe, explained on BBC Women’s Hour. “680 women in total in three different hospitals said it didn’t actually make a difference to their experience of pain or to their use of epidurals or to a whole range of other things.

“But what it did do, women who had the experience, said they were less fearful and less anxious about childbirth. So it did seem to have an effect on that particular component.”

The decision to incorporat­e self-hypnosis or visualisat­ion techniques during childbirth is a highly personal one, but equally important is factoring in a Plan B. Childbirth is an unpredicta­ble phenomenon, and for Arthurs, it’s particular­ly important to prepare those in her hypnobirth­ing classes for the unexpected, too.

“Because I’m a midwife teaching these classes, we go over one session that is dedicated to what to expect if things don’t go to plan, and what interventi­ons might be used,” she explains.

“They may never be required, but it’s an important part of the course to teach. The women initially find this session a little scary, but then they really enjoy it in the end.

“It’s really important that we take the fear out of those situations. And it’s better that they prepare for what might come down the line than not.”

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 ??  ?? Hypnobirth­ers: Kate, with William by her side, outside the Lindo Wing in 2013, with a newborn baby George; below, Meghan Markle and Jessica Alba also used hypnobirth­ing
Hypnobirth­ers: Kate, with William by her side, outside the Lindo Wing in 2013, with a newborn baby George; below, Meghan Markle and Jessica Alba also used hypnobirth­ing

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