Pregnancy is supposed to be one of the most exciting times in life, but what’s not so great though? The morning sickness that famously comes along with it.
Around 8 out of every 10 women experience sickness during pregnancy – and it can occur at any time of day with debilitating effects for some women.
Most notably, Kate Middleton suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum – a severe form of morning sickness during all of her pregnancies, which even left her hospitalised while carrying Prince George.
During an appearance on her first podcast, Kate says she was "not the happiest of pregnant people" and that she tried "anything and everything" to cope with the illness, which led her to try hypnobirthing.
The royal told Happy Mum, Happy Baby host Giovanna Fletcher: "I saw the power of it really, the meditation and the deep breathing and things like that that they teach you in hypnobirthing, when I was really sick, and actually I realised that this was something I could take control of, I suppose, during labour. It was hugely powerful."
What is hypnobirthing?
Hypnobirthing is a meditative practice involves breathing and visualisation techniques to help manage the process of childbirth. Also known as ‘The Mongan Method’, a regular practice teaches expectant mothers how to use self-hypnosis techniques during tough times in pregnancy.
"It teaches you how to remain calm and relaxed, in mind and body, and helps women to understand how their body is designed to work perfectly in birth from a physiological and psychological perspective," says Siobhan Miller, Founder of The Positive Birth Company and author of the bestseller Hypnobirthing: Practical Ways to Make Your Birth Better.
"It seeks to educate women on how their body works on a muscular and hormonal level and helps them to understand how the mind and body are connected."
What are some of the benefits?
"There’s a huge number of benefits to hypnobirthing," says Miller. "It helps to reduce pain and aid relaxation, which reduces the need for unnecessary medical intervention – which can lead to birth trauma."
Miller says that one of the best things about the technique is that it empowers women with knowledge regarding their bodies and their options and can take away some of the intense fear around childbirth. "It’s good for everyone involved – mum, baby and the birth partner."
The technique can also help long after labour has passed too. "Hypnobirthing reduces the likelihood of postnatal anxiety or postnatal depression, as you’re statistically less likely to suffer if you’ve had a positive birth experience," she adds.
Can it be particularly good for mums who are suffering with sickness?
"Yes absolutely," says Miller. "Hypnobirthing helps you to achieve a relaxed and calm state of mind, which is particularly helpful for any woman who like Kate is experiencing negative effects in her pregnancy like sickness."
"The hypnobirthing tools are life skills, because they help with anxiety, insomnia and to reduce pain, partly through distraction and partly through relaxation of the body. So when it comes to things like nausea in pregnancy, hypnobirthing won’t reduce nausea – it won’t cure hyperemesis – but doing the breathing techniques means you’re focusing on the exercises. In doing this, you’re learning not to think about the sickness. This makes it easier to manage.
"Also, if you’re suffering with hyperemesis like Kate, you’ll be feeling really anxious. She might have been anxious about leaving the house because of the sickness, or feeling low and lethargic. The breathing techniques and exercises would have helped Kate to feel more calm and grounded, which would have made it easier to manage the sickness."
Are there any disadvantages?
Miller says that hypnobirthing can often be prohibitively expensive, so it’s a good idea to shop around for different quotes.
In Ireland, hypnobirthing may not be offered in your maternity hospital or unit but may be available privately.
How can I try it?
There are many reading materials and informative videos about hypnobirthing online, but if you want to give the technique a go, we suggest finding an accredited hypnobirthing teacher in your local area – your midwife may be able to help. Classes are usually taught in small groups but there are some teachers who offer one-to-one lessons too.
According to the HSE, hypnobirthing, yoga, acupuncture, and reflexology are all forms of alternative therapies that can be used during labour. However, you should talk to your midwife if you are considering any alternative method of pain relief. Click here for more info.