Childbirth is no easy task.  An endurance event of Olympian merit, women the world over push, pant and squeeze plump babies through an unsuitably small exit.
There are ladies who tackle the job with stoic acceptance, others that scream obscenities at unsuspecting birth partners and some who suffer from a very real fear of childbirth.
Known as tokophobia, women will dread and sometimes avoid childbirth despite wanting a child.  Phobic avoidance of pregnancy may date from adolescence (primary tokophobia), be secondary to a traumatic delivery (secondary tokophobia) or be a symptom of prenatal depression (tokophobia as a symptom of depression).
 Research published in the British Journal of Obstertrics and Gynaecology  showed that women who were frightened of giving birth had longer labours, and were more likely to need clinical intervention. It is estimated that 1 in 5 women have severe fear of childbirth.  That’s a relatively high number.
There are a number of reasons why women may develop a fear of childbirth. This research shows that women with fear of childbirth are more likely to need obstetric intervention and this needs to be explored further so that obstetricians and midwives can provide the appropriate support and advice.
A distressing psychological disorder, recognition of the condition and a close liaison between psychologist, obstetrician and midwife is crucial to offer the support and care needed.  However, with NHS resources more strapped than ever, women are receiving even less antenatal education and in particular very little support for their emotional wellbeing during pregnancy and childbirth.
As a result women are finding other methods to help them cope physically and mentally with childbirth. Self-hypnosis is becoming the most practical way for women to help themselves.
A detailed survey presented to the World Congress of Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Andrology (A Retrospective Study On the Psychomatic and Pharmacological Outcomes of women using Natal Hypnotherapy CD’s During Pregnancy) showed some interesting results: of the 1250 women, including 853 first time mothers, who learnt self hypnosis as part of their birth preparation, a staggering 89% said using the techniques had enabled them to overcome any fears connected with giving birth; 72% reported feeling calm during the birth with 61% feeling able to manage the pain in labour. Only 15% required a caesarean compared with the national rate of almost 25%. Overall, 95% of women felt they had benefited from learning self-hypnosis as a way to help them have a more positive birth experience.
The Natal Hypnotherapy Programme cited in this study was developed by Maggie Howell, who had used hypnotherapy for the birth of her own children. It may offer a simple, realistic and affordable tool for obstetric staff to provide some needed support to patients fearful of childbirth.
The Newcastle Upon Tyne NHS are now offering Natal Hypnotherapy workshops to pregnant women, and the NHS is funding the largest known trial on the use of hypnosis for birth (Self-hypnosis for Intrapartum Pain Management)
Self help methods such as hypnosis provide a low cost, safe and practical antidote to the fear based, drug-dependent labour management culture that has developed in the UK over the last fifty years.
Natal Hypnotherapy workshops are available throughout the UK from licensed Natal Hypnotherapy practitioners, and CD’s and books on the subject are available from
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