How long should a hypnobirthing course be?
By Sophie Fletcher, Clinical Hypnotherapist and Doula
There has long been a debate on the web about hypnobirthing and how long a hypnobirthing course should be – how many classes and over what period of time you should attend. I’ve taught several different methods, including Mongan and Leclaire methods, Mongan teaches over a 5 sessions, LeClaire a day, and others over a weekend.
Having taught all these methods if I’m honest I’ve seen absolutely no difference in outcomes however many sessions and over which amount of time. I’m very careful about recording my outcomes as well. There is no evidence at all to show that a hypnobirthing course over 5 sessions is better than a day or a weekend; when I stopped teaching the same course over a weekend and spread it over the 5 sessions I had the same outcomes. In fact many women would only really start focussing on the birth quite late in their pregnancy, and it wasn’t uncommon for someone to go into labour before the hypnobirthing course had finished if they were doing it over 5 weeks. Now that I teach a day class I get people attending the class the week before they are due and go on to have a great birth experience. It can be a lightbulb moment for women and they can change their thoughts about birth,in a way that will impact positively on their experience, in less than an hour sometimes.
When we founded Mindful Mamma the aim was to create a hypnobirthing course, which was effective, short and affordable. You can read about our ethos here. Both Mia and myself have had 16 years of experience as hypnobirthing practitioners, Mia is also a clinical psychologist and I’m a hypnotherapist. The shortest we could condense, what we considered, the requisite learning into was 6 hours.
Going to a class taught by experienced practitioners, either trained in psychological techniques or as Midwives or NCT teachers makes an enormous difference. I am constantly blown away by feedback from clients who say that their practitioner moved them and their partner forward preparing for the birth in ways they couldn’t have imagined. I think that skilled practitioner is able to do this quickly even in a group situation.
The secret in a good hypnobirth is not coming back each week, the secret is taking responsibility for what you have learned and applying it yourself by practicing every day. When I used to teach a hypnobirthing course (Mongan) over 5 weeks I found that many women didn’t always practice everyday, they waited until the next session and weren’t taking ownership of what they were learning. In fact the person that taught me HypnoBirthing was ruthless and would threaten to throw people of the course saying “you’re wasting your money, your time, my time and taking up a place of a couple that really want to do this”.
So why and how can you learn effectively with a shorter hypnobirthing course?
Pavlov’s dog the earliest experiment in body conditioning is an example of how simple it is. The researchers would play a metronome and feed a dog, until that dog would salivate at hearing the metronome even if the food wasn’t there. If you are taught simple easy to use techniques you can confidently do this at home. For example burning lavender each time you listen to your relaxation mp3, means that after doing this regularly your body will relax just to the smell of lavender without the mp3 even being on. We even embed direction on using the techniques into the mp3 we give out in the class so that when you listen to it, you are learning the techniques unconsciously as well as consciously.
You can continue to learn after the hypnobirthing course as well; we have a book list written by mums for mums that will teach you about birth in a positive way. Again you make the choice to pick up or read a book on that list. Reading it yourself is important. If I were to read the outline the book or read excerpts in a class for you, it would not necessarily have the same impact, and the unconscious process that you experience would be different.
As an experienced hypnotherapist I know that I can make great changes in my clients whether it’s anxiety, phobias, or confidence by teaching them to take ownership of the changes they wish to see. I always teach them self-hypnosis and other cognitive exercises, as I know that being an active participant is the greatest tool in change and achieving what you’ve chosen to achieve. As a hypnotherapist I rarely see a client for longer than 4 sessions (four hours) and I like to inspire change from within them rather than my clients being dependent on me to do it with them or for them.
Whether you do a hypnobirthing course 5 sessions, over a weekend or a day, the emphasis should be on practice and simplicity. You should feel confident enough to adapt those techniques because you understand the basics of how they work. In this way I know that Mindful Mamma is empowering women and their birthing partners to take responsibility and to make their own choices. How do I know? Because of the feedback I get from them.
Occasionally there is someone on the class that I think would benefit from longer contact time, but they have an option to come and see me privately which some do, but for no more than a couple of sessions. Personally I feel that the option of doing a class, then further work on a private basis if I needed it is a great one and means that someone can engage as much or as little with it as they wish.
So if you are looking for a hypnobirthing class and it includes the following then it sounds about right, irrespective of length.
Any hypnobirthing course should be long enough to include the following
- How your hormones respond to external environments, (people and places), and internal environments (thoughts)
- Understanding choice and confident questioning
- How your birthing partner can support you using hypnosis
- The techniques themselves
- A hypnosis fear release