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Calm and control in the birthing suite

13 January 2022

Hypnobirthing is a modern practice that helps mothers and their birthing partners remain calm and in control during delivery of their baby.

Techniques learned prior to birth can reduce intervention in the delivery suite and result in a positive birthing experience for everyone.

What is hypnobirthing

Hypnobirthing is about achieving a calm state of mind and relaxation so that the stress hormones in the female body are replaced by endorphins. This natural hormone assists during birth to ease tension and pain and can allow the body to relax and open up. Often, hypnobirthing is associated with a natural, drug free birth. However, hypnobirthing is largely about parents being calm and in a heightened state of awareness, so that they can make informed decisions during labour, including if they need to deviate from their birth plan.

As an obstetrician and gynaecologist at St John of God Murdoch Hospital Dr Liza Fowler said hypnobirthing education clearly had a positive impact before parents entered the birthing suite.

“Hypnobirthing has a number of benefits for parents, centred around thoroughly preparing women and their birthing partners for what to expect throughout late-stage pregnancy and birth,” she said.

“The biggest benefit is a positive mindset towards birth and not fearing the process.

“Parents who have undertaken hypnobirthing education appear to be in greater control as they can draw on the techniques they have learned to stay calm.”

Birth partners playing a role during labour

Dr Fowler said hypnobirthing benefits did not just extend to the mother.

“Hypnobirthing really is about the birthing partner too. It gives them methods and tools to assist the birthing woman during labour in a positive way,” she said.

“Importantly, it means the birthing partner is part of the process and the decision making, and they feel useful and empowered.

“Together, the parents are a united team who are fully informed about labour.”

Dr Fowler said this assisted the birthing team to communicate to parents in the birthing suite.

“When the parents are familiar with some of the terms being used and understand many aspects of birth, it is easier for us to explain things during labour,” she said.

“We do tend to find parents who have undertaken hypnobirthing education are calmer and more focused.

“This aids the natural labour process and usually less pain relief is needed.”

Deviating from the birth plan

With many parents entering the delivery suite with a clear birth plan in mind, Dr Fowler said hypnobirthing was often beneficial in situations where intervention was needed.

“Deviating from a preferred birth plan is always difficult. From a clinical standpoint is it important to explain to parents the reasons for recommending intervention, while still respecting the parents' rights to decline that intervention,” she said.

“The safety of mother and baby are our top priority. If parents are able to use their hypnobirthing tools to remain calm and measured, it can be much easier to communicate with them as important decisions need to be made.

“Depending on the hypnobirthing educator and their teachings, parents can sometimes have a very high expectation of having a natural, drug-free birth.

“Unfortunately for some parents this leads to a sense of failure if this is not achieved or if pain relief is required.”

Manager Midwifery Services at St John of God Murdoch Hospital Sue Bradshaw said all women who had not been able to follow their original birth plan were offered support.

“For these women we ensure they are thoroughly supported, both clinically to deal with any physical impacts, as well as emotionally,” she said.

“We can offer Pastoral Services support and referrals to our outreach program Raphael Services, which supports parents through the emotional challenges of early parenthood.”

The medical information in this article is of a general educational nature only. It should not be relied on to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or as a substitute for the specific advice of a health professional. 

Liza Fowler
Dr Liza Fowler - Obstetrician and gynaecologist

Liza Fowler is a specialist obstetrician and gynaecologist with 18+ years of experience in the private and public sectors, in both South Africa and Australia.

Liza’s sub-speciality interests include high risk pregnancy and birth (including VBAC – vaginal birth after caesarean), colposcopy, polycystic ovarian syndrome and recurrent miscarriages.

Known and loved by patients for her calm and caring demeanour, Liza enjoys the extra care she can offer in private practice.