When Colchester Hospital University NHS Trust in Essex began offering hypnobirthing classes in 2012, it was running one class a month, teaching about 48 women a year. After steady increases in 2013 and 2014, the trust made the decision to offer the course for free. They now run 10 hypnobirthing classes and ourses a month and predict they will instruct between 720 and 960 women in hypnobirthing in 2015.
Almost 25% of women who give birth at the hospital and birthing units in the Colchester trust took hypnobirthing classes prior to delivery and almost one in six of the trust's midwives are trained hypnobirthing instructors.
Hypnobirthing is where water-birthing was 20 years ago. Back then it was considered a bit weird and there was a lot of scepticism from the medical community. But now every trust in the country does water births. Give it 10 years and hypnobirthing will be standard antenatal practice. It'll be mainstream."
At Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals NHS Trust the numbers are less dramatic, with about 5% of mothers using hypnobirthing, but the trust has seen a threefold increase in the number of women taking classes in the past five years.
Couples at hypnobirthing classes, which are subsidised by some NHS trusts and cost about £300 for five sessions from a private teacher, are taught visualisation, deep relaxation, and breathing techniques, as well as self-hypnosis techniques.
Rachel Chilver, 35, first encountered hypnobirthing classes while doing research when pregnant with her first child and despite being "quite sceptical" decided to take the course at Colchester hospital.
Chilver, a performing arts lecturer from the town, said hypnobirthing made the process of giving birth to her daughter, Winnie, now six months old, "absolutely amazing".
"Hypnobirthing works on the premise that it's unnatural to have pain [in labour] in the first place. The root of the problem is fear because everybody 'knows' that birth is painful so people have a bad experience and they pass it round. If you're in my world you frequently get reports of women saying birth was the most empowering and wonderful experience and no drugs were needed," said Graves.
She calls the growth in hypnobirthing in the UK a revolution and said it has grown so rapidly primarily because of Britain's "strong, independent midwifery profession" and word-of-mouth advertising.
However, the biggest study into the subject, a randomised trial of 680 pregnant women in the UK known as the SHIP trial, reported that self-hypnosis made no difference to either the method of birth – normal, instrumental or caesarian – or to the use of analgesic treatment between the group who were taught self-hypnosis techniques and the control group, though the hypnosis group did report a reduction in anxiety about birth.
Gail Johnson, education adviser at the Royal College of Midwives, said women should not be spooked by the method. "It's not 'one, two, three, go into a trance and wake up with a baby'. The hypnobirthing process is not necessarily about hypnosis, it's often about focusing on something other than the pain of labour and that's not something that's particularly new. Source: The Guardian