A lot of mothers will admit they don’t look back on the process of labour too fondly.
But the Duchess of Cambridge has revealed that for all three of her births she used a self-hypnosis technique that meant she ‘actually really quite liked labour’.
Hypnobirthing uses controlled breathing, visualisation and meditation to keep women relaxed during birth, and minimise pain. It has become increasingly popular among mothers-to-be seeking a drug-free birth.
The Duchess made her revelation on the Happy Mum, Happy Baby podcast, hosted by author Giovanna Fletcher, the wife of McFly musician Tom. The interview was done as part of the Duchess’s Five Big Questions on the Under Fives survey, which aims ‘to give every child the best start in life’.
The Duchess said there was nothing ‘hippy dippy’ about hypnobirthing. ‘I’m not going to say William was standing there chanting sweet nothings at me,’ she said. ‘He definitely wasn’t! I didn’t even ask him about it. It was just something I wanted to do for myself.’
So, does it work? Here, two mothers share their views...
After the Duchess of Cambridge (pictured cradling George) said she used hypnobirthing to help her overcome morning sickness, the Daily Mail asks whether it could help you
HYPNO HEAVEN: I took myself to a sun drenched beach in the Seychelles
Eimear, 38, said the method left her feeling 'grounded and calm' during delivery
Eimear, 38, is a writer and mother of Ruadhán, four, and Donnacha, two. She says:
Standing on a deserted, sun-drenched beach in the Seychelles, I inhaled, then exhaled deeply, focusing intently on the rhythmic crashing of waves on the sandy shore in front of me.
In reality I was more than 5,000 miles away, in a birthing pool at my local hospital in the rural Scottish Borders.
However, through the power of hypnobirthing — and specifically the visualisation skills I’d learned at private classes in the lead-up to my due date — I was able to take my mind to a place where I felt relaxed, safe and able to cope with the pain of my contractions.
For me, it was the tiny island in the Indian Ocean where my husband Malcolm and I had gone on our ‘babymoon’ — our last holiday as a couple before our baby arrived — a few months before.
It’s fair to say that for the most part I’m the least ‘woo woo’ person you’re likely to meet. I’ll take a painkiller over a crystal any day, and worship at the altar of modern medicine. The moment I found out I was expecting, I knew I wanted a hospital birth, with drugs and an operating theatre within easy reach. So it was with more than a drop of scepticism that I signed up for a course of weekly group hypnobirthing classes at around five months.
They promised to impart techniques including controlled breathing and achieving a deep state of relaxation through meditation, with the aim of having an ‘active’ — that is, not lying on your back — labour and, ideally, a ‘normal’ delivery.
Friends had recommended them but I wasn’t convinced that the mind could really triumph over the pain of labour. The idea of being ‘relaxed’ made me scoff.
Fast forward to May 2015, and as the first contraction hit me like a sledgehammer, I silently whispered a prayer of thanks for the skills I had in my mental armoury.
Deep, rhythmic breathing helped me manage the pain at home for three hours before we went to hospital, where, to my delight, I was already 9cm dilated.
Fast and furious it may have been, but I felt in control.
Eimear is pictured above with her two sons Ruadhan and Donnacha. She used hypnobirthing in both deliveries
By staying on top of feelings of fear and anxiety, I stopped stress hormones affecting the production of oxytocin, a chemical that progresses labour, and I moved to the final stage quickly and with just a few puffs of gas and air.
When it was decided by an obstetrician that I required a forceps delivery — thanks to a combination of a big baby and narrow pelvis — I still didn’t lose faith in hypnobirthing.
I know that for some women, unexpectedly having a ‘medicalised’ birth can trigger feelings of failure. But hypnobirthing gave me a way to contribute.
Breathing through the spinal block being administered, I visualised myself with my baby in my arms while theatre staff prepped me ‘down below’ — and I truly believe that using my mind helped me feel involved in my son’s birth.
Despite things not going to plan, hypnobirthing meant I felt nothing but joy when Ruadhán, all 9lb 1oz of him, was laid on my chest. And needless to say, when I was pregnant again in 2017, I did a refresher hypnobirthing course and felt absolutely confident the skills could help me achieve the normal delivery I wanted.
They didn’t let me down. After a seven-hour labour — most of which I spent on that lovely beach — my second son Donnacha (pictured left) was born.
It was the most peaceful moment. I was in such a deep meditative state that I barely felt any pain and despite the fact he weighed a healthy 9lb 5oz, I needed just one small stitch. I walked back to the postnatal ward a few hours later to tuck into fish and chips for lunch.
Using hypnobirthing can never guarantee a perfect birth, if such a thing even exists.
However, having used it through two very different deliveries, in both it kept me grounded and calm, and gave me a sense of ownership over my labour. I hope Kate looks back and feels the same way.
HYPNO HELL: Positive thoughts can't do much when you're in such pain
Lynn, 41, said she wouldn't try it again
Lynn, 41, is a stay-at-home mum to Eric, four. She says:
Listening to the Duchess of Cambridge describe her three birth experiences, I couldn’t help but feel wistful.
Her account of an easy and stress-free labour, all thanks to the skills she’d learnt in hypnobirthing classes, was exactly what I’d imagined for myself before giving birth. Unfortunately, it was far from the labour I got.sonos sonos One (Gen 2) - Voice Controlled Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa Built-in - Black read more
It was my first