Meghan Markle is rumoured to be the latest celebrity learning the birth preparation technique that teaches expectant parents to cope with labour through deep breathing, relaxation and positive mantras.
Hypnobirthing has had a lot of attention in recent years, with Giovanna Fletcher and Kate Middleton among those who have used the method while giving birth. And with more NHS hospitals now offering hypnobirthing to expectant parents, its popularity could continue to rise.
By practising the technique regularly during pregnancy, the idea is that the person giving birth will be able to put themselves into a state of self-hypnosis during labour which will help them have a calmer experience.
But why is hypnobirthing gaining ground among expectant parents – and is it only for the rich and famous?
Which? Birth Choice – free and independent information and advice on making decisions for every stage of pregnancy and birth.
‘Hypnobirthing can make you feel safer in birth’
Hypnobirthing is usually contemplated by those who want to try to have a natural birth. Harry Kane famously credited the method for allowing his fiancée Kate Goodland to have ‘an amazing water birth with no pain relief at all’ when she gave birth to the couple’s daughter last year.
Some believe that Meghan Markle, who is known for her love of yoga and is rumoured to want as natural a birth as possible, could be practising hypnobirthing for very similar reasons.
But many involved in hypnobirthing are keen to broaden the public’s perception of the method.
‘Hypnobirthing isn’t a style of birth, it’s a toolkit of techniques that can help you feel a bit safer through your birth experience, whatever happens on the day,’ Sakina Ballard, a hypnobirthing instructor in south London, explains.
‘In my classes, we look at how you can use the toolkit whether you have a home birth, emergency c-section, water birth or choose to have an elective c-section. It’s not about avoiding pain relief – it’s having the tools to physically ground yourself that makes a difference.’
- What is hypnobirthing? Find out more about the birth preparation method and how it can be used in different birth settings.
How much does hypnobirthing training cost?
Hypnobirthing is mainly taught by private instructors holding group classes or one-to-one lessons for expectant parents. Prices vary, but a private hypnobirthing course is often several hundred pounds.
In some areas, parents can access hypnobirthing classes through the NHS, as more and more Trusts are training midwives in the method and offering it as part of their free antenatal classes. Look up your local maternity unit to find out if it has midwives trained in hypnobirthing.
If you want to try hypnobirthing but can’t access lessons through the NHS, it can feel like a challenging expense. Recent Which? research found that more than half of new parents are stressed about their finances after having a baby, with mums significantly more likely to be worried than dads.
One way to cut the cost of learning hypnobirthing is to use books or online videos. For some parents, this is enough to learn the method, although many do find that they are able to learn the technique more efficiently face-to-face with a hypnobirthing instructor.
Growing interest in hypnobirthing
While there are no official figures on how many people use hypnobirthing, Google data reveals a very clear growing interest: online searches for hypnobirthing in the UK have more than doubled in the past 10 years.
Instructor Sakina thinks hypnobirthing is becoming more popular largely through word-of-mouth. Parents who’ve had good experiences with hypnobirthing pass on the message to other expectant parents, and often become instructors themselves, creating a snowball effect of both supply and demand.
Ester, who gave birth to her daughter in 2018, agrees: ‘I was very scared of giving birth and learnt hypnobirthing as a way to try to feel more confident. It really worked, I had a more empowering birth experience than I thought was possible. If anyone asks me for advice now I tell them to try hypnobirthing.’
- Find hypnobirthing classes: how to locate instructors in your area, and what to bear in mind when choosing a teacher.
Does hypnobirthing always work?
Although hypnobirthing is growing in popularity, not everyone finds that it works well for them. Alicia says practising hypnobirthing helped her feel positive about birth before it happened, but it was a different story on the day she went into labour: ‘I was left to labour in a busy maternity triage for hours, and when I finally did get a room, there wasn’t a midwife available to support me. It all made me feel really disheartened and desperate and as a result, I couldn’t use the hypnobirthing techniques I had practised for.’ Read Alicia’s birth story in full.
Sakina says that Alicia’s experience highlights an important point about hypnobirthing – it can’t be a substitute for the maternity care that parents need during birth: ‘Hypnobirthing isn’t the answer to all external factors, but rather something which can help you if you are able to connect with it. You need to have care and support first in order to be able to use hypnobirthing tools in birth.’
- Your rights during pregnancy and birth: read more about your rights to respectful maternity care, and what to do if you’re unhappy with the care you receive.
Preparing for birth
Learning hypnobirthing is one way to help you feel ready for labour and birth, and it can be used alongside other preparation methods.
Writing a birth plan can help those caring for you know what matters the most to you during birth. If you’re not sure about what you’d like or you feel very anxious about giving birth, talking to your midwife can be a great starting point.
Having an informed and supportive birth partner can also make a big difference to your experience. Whether you want to have your partner, mum, a good friend or a doula with you, let them know your preferences when it comes to things like pain relief and creating the right atmosphere in the room, so they can support you in the best way possible. A doula is a non-medical companion who supports a birthing person by providing continuous care before, during, or after childbirth in the form of information, physical support, and emotional support.
To explore your birth options in more detail, Which? Birth Choice has information about all NHS maternity units in the UK – including birth statistics for each hospital and information about facilities and equipment available.
You can also use our Birth Choice tool to explore whether giving birth at home, in a birth centre or in a labour ward might be the right option for you.