All you need to know about hypnobirthing


Have you heard about hypnobirthing and are you keen to find out more? We speak with Katharine Graves, the founder of KG Hypnobirthing and the Hypnobirthing Association, who tells you all you need to know

“What is hypnobirthing?  What do you do? How does it work?”

These are the three questions I am most often asked.  They appear very simple and straightforward and are what anyone would want to know but for me, they are the hardest to answer.

Hypnobirthing is a set of techniques taught alongside a thorough antenatal education programme that goes into the science of a labouring woman’s body and how best to support you as you give birth.

What is hypnobirthing?

Hypnobirthing is an antenatal education course that supports women in understanding your body and what your body and baby need during labour and birth.  Our bodies respond best to a particular ambiance and set up, much like mammals, and if we can support a woman’s body to remain in a calm state, we allow you to produce the hormones you need that make birth a much more positive, easier and calm experience.

Hypnobirthing provides an in-depth understanding of what your body is doing, what it needs and how best to support you in achieving a birth that is manageable naturally.

Steeped in science, KG Hypnobirthing explains and demonstrates the type of techniques that allow a mother to experience the birth she wants, with confidence. These techniques carry you through and support you in terms of releasing the necessary hormones to reduce your pain.

We also approach pain in a different way, in how we can work with your pain; we view it as positive and use the techniques to manage your pain levels. Not only that, but we are all for informed choice, and understanding pain management, birth positions, birth choices and how they impact on mum and baby and allow you to feel like you’re in control – something that many women wish to remain an agent of.

KG Hypnobirthing is a complete antenatal training programme.  It is simple, logical and profound.  Perhaps the most surprising word I used is ‘logical’.  People are sometimes put off by the word ‘hypno’ and imagine they are going to meet tree-hugging hippies sitting cross-legged on beanbags and chanting.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  At every step of the way in hypnobirthing, we give you sound logic to back up what you learn about how your body and hormones work and we give you the tools to have the best birth for you.   Hypnobirthing is the only thing that I know of that really makes a difference to a woman’s experience of birth.

Fathers come to the course full of scepticism, as do some mothers.  And why shouldn’t they be sceptical?  Scepticism is entirely justified.  Until they come, they don’t know how complete and profound the course is.  When presented with logic, sometimes more logic that is found anywhere else, you can almost feel them breathing a palpable sigh of relief.  By the time they leave they are the staunchest advocates of hypnobirthing and extol its virtues to every expectant couple they meet.

The best way to answer the question is to read the birth stories of the many women and their partners who have benefitted from a hypnobirthing course, and from the many midwives who understand the difference it makes.

‘Your course was really informative, balanced, and in my view had the right mix of science, experience, common sense and wisdom. So thank you very much for that. We left the seminar inspired and happy.’

What do you do?  The simple answer is that we do breathing exercises, visualisations and relaxations but these have been available for pregnant women for over 60 years in many forms.  They are good but they don’t have the same effect that hypnobirthing does. So what is different?  I believe there are four things:

1) Fear.  The father of natural childbirth in modern times, Grantly Dick Read, developed the principle that the whole problem is fear.  Fear causes tension.  When we are tense, our muscles don’t work so well.  When your muscles are not working efficiently and easily when giving birth, you will experience pain.  In our society everyone ‘knows’ that birth is painful.  Most people’s only experience of birth comes from the television or the movies, where birth is always portrayed as a traumatic and painful experience.  So however much a pregnant woman is looking forward to having her baby, there is the fear at the back of her mind that it will be a painful experience, because that is how she has been programmed.

However much she practices relaxations, that fear will still be there.  In the story of The Princess and the Pea, however many mattresses were placed on top of the pea, the princess could still not sleep comfortably because the pea was always there.  Fear is similar.  Until you remove the fear, the cause of the pain remains.  Hypnobirthing does effective work to release the fear so that a woman can enjoy a positive pregnancy and her body can work efficiently and easily when giving birth.

2) Fathers.  The father or birth companion is extremely important.  Without exception all authorities state that the best way of giving birth is with the support of a known and trusted midwife.  The caricature of the father at a birth shows him feeling frightened, not understanding what is going on, holding her hand and wishing he could help but not knowing what to do, and feeling responsible for seeing his wife in pain.  All fathers come to a hypnobirthing class saying they want information and knowledge, so a hypnobirthing father is well informed, he has practised with his partner in the weeks before the birth and he knows how to support her.  He is a massive asset in the birthing room, and he provides the continuity that is not available in any other way.

3) Practice.  The practice that a woman or a couple do before the birth is vital.  All the best birth reports I receive tell me that the couple practised together regularly.  We only ask the couple to do 15 minutes a day, to ask more would be unrealistic in their busy and interesting lives, and the practice is simple and clearly defined.  It is like learning to play a musical instrument.  If you go to the lessons regularly you will progress, but if you do the practice in between, you will progress much faster.  With hypnobirthing this is important.

4) Relaxation.  The relaxations we do in hypnobirthing are deeper and more focussed than you might find elsewhere.  They are extremely effective and, when practised regularly, have a cumulative effect ready for when you give birth.

How Does it Work?   Hypnobirthing works effectively, gently and naturally.  It is a grass roots revolution that started with mothers, was taken up by midwives and has permeated the whole of the country and the NHS.  The reason that it has had such a profound effect so quickly is that it works.

As one midwife said, ‘I’ve never seen anything like it.  It’s how every birth should be.’

Bio: Katharine Graves is the founder of KG Hypnobirthing and the Hypnobirthing Association.  She teaches Hypnobirthing to parents to be and trains people to become Hypnobirthing Practitioners with her RCM Accredited KG Hypnobirthing Teacher Training course.  For more information please visit

My story by Sam

Sam, 44, was left so traumatised by her home birth with her first son that she had PND, flashbacks and felt like running away. Her home birth had been badly managed by a midwife and she had been left in terrible pain.

She said: ‘Afterwards I thought: never again. But it’s only thanks to hypnobirthing I overcame my fear.’

Sam and her husband had always wanted four kids but Sam refused to even consider another pregnancy – unless she could feel more confident about the birth.

Over the next couple of years, she was adamant she couldn’t go ahead, until she began to explore the idea of hypnobirthing. That was when Sam came across Katharine Graves, who explained the hypnobirthing techniques she teaches in hospitals. The chat instilled so much confidence into Sam that she decided to take the plunge and try for another baby.  She fell pregnant a few months later and then enrolled onto a hypnobirthing course.

Incredibly, Sam went on to have three more babies, all born at home without pain relief, and all of them happy births using hypnobirthing as taught by KG.

Sam said: ‘It really did change my life. I learned a skill and could use it over and over again. My three subsequent births were completely different to my first and I was able to focus and feel in control of what was happening, even if I had to allow and ‘let go.’ I feel so passionately about this course and want to tell women everywhere about it.’