Hypnobirthing: making an informed choice

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Aneka - A truly empowered mum


It’s important to appreciate that when people ask the question “what is hypnobirthing?”, it is like being asked “what is a hoover?”, when actually the question is most likely related to a vacuum cleaner. There are 1,000’s of vacuum cleaners, most of which are not made by Hoover. Yes they all clean your floor but in different ways and we each prefer one type over another.

This is now the same for hypnobirthing.

Where as at one time there was only one hypnobirthing programme, now there are many antenatal education programmes that use hypnosis techniques and they are not all the same.

Why is this so important? Because you can’t compare chocolate and roast beef if you are expecting them to be the same. The programmes that use hypnosis are not all the same.  By ‘not all the same’ I mean different, not to be confused with inferior vs better.

The name has become generic simply because the first course that became well known for using hypnosis was called HypnoBirthing.

Why does it matter? Because pretty much everyone I know who cares about birth uses the term ‘informed choice’. If women think they are always getting the same thing when they choose ‘hypnobirthing’ they are most definitely not making an ‘informed choice’.

Also, when studies are done under the name of ‘hypnobirthing’ the results are not about ‘hypnobirthing’ they are about the programme that was used. Good, bad or otherwise the results can’t be attributed to any programme other than the one that was part of the study.

The wonderful Dr. Joanna Martin, said something once that really struck a chord with me. She said it would be unethical for her to talk about a service she offered, that others also did in their own way, and not make sure that people knew that she was talking about her product. Her reason being. If someone bought into the fact that what she offered would be good for them, but went to a competitor with a completely different approach that didn’t work for them, then Joanna believes that their failure is her fault. Joanna’s approach may have totally resonated with them where as the approach of the competitor obviously didn’t. Still talking about different not better because we are all different and respond to things in our own unique way.

When I heard Joanna say this I wanted to jump up and down and say this is how I feel about the use of the word ‘hypnobirthing’. It is very misleading.

Here at The Wise Hippo we have our own unique approach to antenatal education and every other birth programme that is available will have theirs. Having different programmes is good for pregnant women because it provides variety and gives them choice.

Which brings me back to informed choice.

Because if everyone is lumped under the same umbrella how do people know what they are getting?

Let’s look at some different scenarios (please note these are generic examples and are not relating to any one programme or the approach of any individual ‘hypnobirthing’ instructors, other than when The Wise Hippo is mentioned).

Here at The Wise Hippo we don’t focus on one type of birth. We want women to consider our classes whether they want a natural birth, are considering using pain relieving drugs, if they are having a cesarean section or anything else in between.

If a Wise Hippo instructor is sharing our approach to a mum-to-be who is considering using pain relieving drugs, but wraps it in the term ‘hypnobirthing’, the mum-to-be will be thinking great I don’t have to give up my epidural if I prepare for my birth using ‘hypnobirthing’. She finds her local ‘hypnobirthing’ instructor but doesn’t realise they have a different approach to The Wise Hippo Instructor. Their main focus is a natural birth without drugs (I’m not saying they will send the mum wanting an epidural packing but their approach will not feel in sync with her needs). Not surprisingly she is going feel let down. It won’t be the fault of the instructor she’s booked with but the instructor who wasn’t clear about the fact that the approach she was talking about was The Wise Hippo Birthing programme.

If the same Wise Hippo instructor was talking to a woman who was really focussed on a natural birth without drugs she wouldn’t notice if she turned up at the other instructors door….

…as long as it all went to plan.

What if it didn’t? She was told by The Wise Hippo Instructor that she would learn how to have ‘the right birth on the day’ using ‘hypnobirthing’ and she didn’t get the natural birth without drugs she was hoping for. She’s going to be mad, right? However, it’s not the fault of the person who taught her but the original instructor who allowed her to think that ‘the right birth on the day’ approach was something that ‘hypnobirthing’ would teach her rather than The Wise Hippo Birthing Programme.

As antenatal educators we all need to take responsibility for the expectations we are laying on pregnant women and their partners. We need to make sure that when they choose ‘hypnobirthing’ they knows what that means. That there is a great variety of courses out there that use hypnosis techniques, each of which have their own unique approach to birth preparation.

This means that they can do their research, consider their options and find an antenatal education programme that feels right for them.

This is ‘hypnobirthing’ – making an informed choice

Dany Griffiths - Creative Director & Co-founder

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