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Hypnobirthing: Does it Work?

By Sierra Black |

Does Hypnobirthing Work?Ready for a blissed out birth? A method of childbirth preparation called Hypnobirthing is garnering international attention for, purportedly, giving women the pain relief of an epidural without taking any actual drugs.


I’m totally the touch-feely, woo-woo type. I’ve spent more hours naked in the woods bonding with my inner child than I care to admit. For more than a decade, I’ve been training in mind-altering meditation techniques.

You had better believe I used them in labor.

I also, 30 hours into labor with my first child, had an epidural. With the second, all the pain relief I got came from my mad skills at self-hypnosis and a tub of warm water. The midwives would not even give me two Advil after I’d pushed out my 10.6 pound daughter.

Let me tell you: a steady drip of drugs to the spine is very different from deep relaxation exercises.

I’m all for Hypnobirthing, and Birthing in Awareness, or whatever path you want to take to a blissful birth experience. But I think any woman who goes into labor thinking her breathing exercises will take all the pain away is in for a rude awakening when the contractions start.

Childbirth is hard. It’s hard with drugs and hard without them; in a hospital or at home. I’d encourage any pregnant woman to lay hold of any safe tool that will make that passage easier for her. In that sense, Hypnobirthing and it’s ilk are a great tool: the side effects are nil, and for some women the benefit is huge.

Better yet, the tools you learn in these classes can also help you keep your cool when you’re going through the rough patches of parenting. There won’t be a friendly nurse with an IV there to back you up at 4 a.m. when your sick baby has been screaming for 8 hours, but you can always take a deep breath.

Did you birth in drug-free bliss using Hypnobirthing, or a similar technique? Would you try it with a future pregnancy?

Photo: lululemon athletica

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About Sierra Black


Sierra Black

Sierra Black lives, writes and raises her kids in the Boston area. She loves irreverence, hates housework and wants to be a writer and mom when she grows up. Read bio and latest posts → Read Sierra's latest posts →

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0 thoughts on “Hypnobirthing: Does it Work?

  1. Samantha says:

    I did the hypnobirthing and it was not at all pain free. I didn’t expect it to be, though. I knew that it would hurt less if my muscles were relaxed as opposed to tense so that’s all I expected. That and the tub made my 7 hour labor tolerable enough. If it had gone on for hours and hours I probably would’ve been in the “give me the drugs!” camp, so I got lucky.

  2. [...] Hypnobirthing. According to a recent article …. A method of childbirth preparation called Hypnobirthing is garnering international attention for, purportedly, giving women the pain relief of an epidural [...]

  3. Tanya says:

    I went through the hypnobirthing program. While in labor, I never actually went through any of the relaxation scripts my husband and I had practiced, but I used the breathing techniques and it did help some during the worst of the back labor. I practice Zen meditation off and on, and found that the hypnobirthing was a very different kind of practice, more focused on relaxation and positive birth affirmations than on observing the mind and the now.
    At no time was I free from pain, but what the hypnobirthing did do was to help me visualize what was going on physiologically (thus taking away fear of the unknown), and to regroup once in a while when things got too intense. My dear friends who attended the birth were surprised that I did not really yell or scream, but I explained that it actually helped more to use that energy to breathe instead. Score one more for hypnobirthing. I’ve since lent the book & CDs out to a pregnant friend to look over, and she believed it helped her to use just a few of the techniques she’d read.
    So yeah, I wouldn’t call it bliss, but it wasn’t so bad. And I would definitely use hypnobirthing again in the future. After having a posterior 9lb 3oz first baby drug-free in the water, I figure the next one would be a piece of cake. Riiiight. :)
    Oh, and the hypnobirthing CDs helped my husband relax as he was driving us to the birth center.

  4. JCF says:

    Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! I had two nearly (though not completely) pain-free births thanks to hypnobirthing. I didn’t go into it expecting it to be completely pain free, but it did help me to relax, not be scared, and trust the birth process. Obviously different people have different experiences, but it doesn’t hurt to try. What do you have to lose?

  5. Garry says:

    It is great to see that hypnobirthing went well for you, my sister used those techinques to give brth to her second child. She was lucky though that as a hypnotherapist I was able to give her a lot of support even when she was in labour. Needless to say I left the room as the actual birth was going to take place.

  6. Ri-chan says:

    I went in with my doctor knowing I wanted an epidural as soon as possible. Pain is not my friend O.o

  7. Erin says:

    For those of you who said it wasn’t pain free, but you expected pain. That was in some cases the problem. In class one it is taught that your expectations are your outcomes.

  8. e says:

    I’m with you Sierra. I have NO doubt that hypnobirthing helped me through 14 hours of labor, but it definitely wasn’t pain free. I agree with Tanya- hypnobirthing helped me to not be afraid, to trust my body, and to visualize what was happening.

    I ended up with a c-section, so I did have an epidural in the end. For me, the two didn’t really compare in terms of eliminating pain…

  9. Lucia says:

    Well I did it with the two labors that I had and no labor for me was not pain free. I didn’t feel pain with contractions, not a bit. I felt pain with dilation. In my case my first was a 36 hour induction that I got an epidural with and my fourth was a 24 hour back labor. Back labor was a breeze and it was intense (read blindingly painful) but I could rest between contractions and I got long rests until the last 2 hours when I went from 0-10 all at once. I do think that Hypnobirthing helped me cope, but more importantly I had REALLY active support from my partner. If I didn’t have him up with me all night apply counter pressure I’d have had alot more trouble coping. The risks of epidurals are so high, esp in establishing a breastfeeding relationship that it’s really worth it to go natural. Epidurals DO pass the the baby and it takes them a month or so to get it out of their systems. The difference in the alertness of my epi baby vs my spinal twins vs my natural baby was amazing. My last was far far more alert. Totally worth the day of backlabor!

  10. Mary V. says:

    Honestly, the way the book was written was so amazingly annoying to me that I didn’t use the technique. (Instead I mooed like Ina May suggested!) The texts of the meditations aroused my inner nitpicker, and the stunning heteronormativity of the text pissed me off too. Oh, and the accompanying videos of inert-looking women in hospital beds reminded me of my mother’s last days… So yeah, it didn’t do much for me! I got through drugfree labor fine without it, but I respect that each woman’s labor is different.

  11. [...] If you want to read about some women’s real experiences with hypnobirthing, I recommend you check it out. [...]

  12. Mama Hypno says:

    I used it for both of my births; both were different and I think I felt more discomfort the second time but I wouldn’t have done it any other way. It was very empowering and a learning experience to prepare me for what lay further down the road as a mom. After the first experience, I became a HypnoBirthing Instructor and now 8 years later I feel blessed and honored to assist couples learn the technique to welcome their babies!

  13. Sheridan says:

    I used Hypnobabies with my 3rd birth. It has more tools to use than HypnoBirthing (which I used with my 2nd birth) I found I had discomfort when I used HypnoBirthing, but was totally comfortable when I used Hypnobabies. I attribute it to having more tools. However it was INTENSE and I had to really focus to stay comfortable.
    I have actually gathered over 250 birth stories from moms using Hypnosis for birth at and I would say at least half are from moms who were completely comfortable and the other half felt some discomfort, but for most it was manageable!

  14. Jean says:

    Your midwives wouldn’t give you Advil after pushing out a 10lb baby? Yea, ok. That sounds really professional of them.

  15. Chris says:

    It would help if you actually researched the topic before you write a dismissive article about it. The course offered by the Mongan method does not promise a pain-free birth, or a blissed out experience. There are some New Agey aspects to the method, and some of the scripts are cringe-worthy, but the physiological basis is sound. As part of the course, we watched about a dozen videos of calm, relaxed births. This is for real, and is now being tested in a pilot by the UK National Health Service.

    BTW, my wife and I just completed the course, and are looking forward to the birth of our son using this method. We are not Hypnobirthing teachers, or in any way affiliated with the organization.

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