Both Hypnobirthing and Hypnobabies are programs designed to help women overcome the fear and anxiety they might have about giving birth, and to provide women and their birth partners with tools to use during labour for pain/fear management. They’re also just all-around good prenatal preparation as they teach you the stages of labour, nutrition during pregnancy, prenatal decisions you might have to make, etc. I highly recommend either one, especially if you are planning on having a natural birth. They both teach you relaxation techniques using breathing and visualization. Not only do these exercises help prepare you for labour, but they’re also useful during pregnancy. They can help you manage stress and even sleeplessness. I’ve dealt with insomnia for what seems like most of my life and I found that listening to the relaxation tracks from both programs helped me to get to sleep – no easy task when you are big and uncomfortable and experiencing heartburn before bed! I also used the breathing techniques any time I felt stressed out or anxious. These are skills that I’ll use for the rest of my life.
How the programs work:
On a daily basis you are exposed to hypnotic suggestions when you listen to the audio tracks provided. You practice breathing techniques as you listen, as well as positive visualizations for the birth. Throughout the track you listen to hypnotic suggestions about your pregnancy going well, about the birth going well, and in general it reinforces that birth is a natural, normal process. In addition, you and your birth partner practice together, with your birth partner reading a script or scripts along the same lines as the audio track. This is so that you also train yourself to relax in response to your birth partner’s voice and touch.
*Hypnobirthing/Hypnobabies are not like the form of hypnosis you see in performances where the participants seemingly perform embarrassing acts against their will. The Hypnobirthing/Hypnobabies programs involve self-hypnosis, where you freely and openly choose to embrace what you are hearing. You need an open, willing mind in order to succeed.
Our experience with Hypnobirthing:
We started out by choosing Hypnobirthing because we heard about it through our midwife. With midwifery care, they not only discuss how you are feeling bodily, but they also check in with your emotional wellbeing. It came up during an appointment that I had experienced panic attacks in the past and that I worried about anxiety during the birth and not having any coping mechanisms. So our midwife suggested Hypnobirthing, and in particular the Hypnobirthing instructor/doula that we ended up using (Pia Anderson for anyone in Ottawa). When we researched Hypnobirthing on the internet (as we do), we came across Hypnobabies. However, there were no Hypnobabies instructors in Ottawa. So we didn’t bother looking further into Hypnobabies at that time.
Our time with Pia was great and we really got a lot out of the Hypnobirthing classes. They were awesome as an all-around prenatal class. We really appreciated watching real hypnobirths at the beginning of each lesson and we also liked that if we had any questions at all, whether about Hypnobirthing or labour, we could turn to Pia and she was a wealth of information. However, we found that when it came to practicing Hypnobirthing ourselves on a daily basis, we found the Hypnobirthing program lacking. It seemed very disorganized, with no clear layout of steps. The book described many techniques but never explained how to implement them into a routine or daily practice. Indeed, aside from the Rainbow Relaxation exercise, it didn’t provide any scripts with which to practice the techniques! This meant that there was nothing for Steve to read out loud to me; instead there was only a general description of the technique. We found this very difficult and as a result we only ever practiced the same script, the Rainbow Relaxation script. As well, there were only two relaxation listening tracks for me to practice on my own, one of them the Rainbow Relaxation script again. Because I was so used to hearing the same thing, I found more and more that I started to tune out what I was hearing. Apparently this is still fine and the idea is that subconsciously you are still picking up the suggestions, but I found that I didn’t trust it and wanted to feel more proactive.
I also found that Hypnobirthing didn’t have any techniques for maintaining your hypnosis/relaxation while moving or with your eyes open. These two situations are touched on only briefly and are not a part of your daily practice. All the daily practice involves lying down, being limp with eyes closed, but we kept hearing how important it is to be able to move around during labour, should you feel the need to move around. I had no idea how I would maintain my relaxation in those instances. So we decided to look into Hypnobabies and supplement with that as well.
Our experience with Hypnobabies:
We ordered the self-study course since there are no Hypnobabies practitioners in Ottawa, and since we were already doing classes with Pia. So I can only speak to the self-study course. We found the Hypnobabies course much more extensive and organized. It is a 5-week program, with a detailed breakdown each week of what to practice daily/weekly and why. Each week had its own set of audio tracks, which built upon the techniques learned from the previous week. This meant that each week I felt like I was reinforcing the techniques, as well as building upon them. I was able to practice a lot on my own and felt I didn’t have to rely completely on Steve to read me scripts in order to relax. This proved useful during the actual birth since in the first stage of my labour he had a lot of running around to do in order to get everything ready for the birth.
There were also several scripts for Steve to practice with me, as well as an entire Birth Partner’s guide. The Hypnobabies program breaks up labour into stages and provides different techniques, audio tracks, and scripts for each stage. Steve felt like he had clear guidelines for what to do during the birth, which made both of us feel more confident as we got closer to the big day.
A big part of the Hypnobabies program is being able to maintain relaxation with your eyes open and while moving around. It teaches you how to maintain two levels of relaxation 1) where your body is limp and your eyes are closed 2) where you can move around with your eyes open. I felt this was important to practice and learn; certainly during my own experience I was able to maintain relaxation even after opening my eyes (to drink water in between surges mostly) and to move around (to change positions; I didn’t find I needed to walk around or do any significant moving around).
Bottom line: I recommend Hypnobabies over Hypnobirthing. I don’t regret that we did the Hypnobirthing because our classes with Pia, and her help during the birth, were worth it. But I am glad that we chose to practice the Hypnobabies as well. During the birth it was the Hypnobabies scripts that we used, as well as the eyes-open/moving around techniques. Overall both programs have a very similar approach, so Pia’s cues during the birth were still very applicable and helped immensely. I would still choose Hypnobirthing over other fear/pain management programs.
I hope this helps anyone trying to decide between the two programs! Does anyone else have experience with either one that they can share?