Published Thu, 2011-03-31 16:31; updated 37 weeks ago.
It almost sounds like something from a hypnotist’s stage show.
But the power of hypnosis is working wonders for pregnant women in Wolverhampton, who have been taking control of their births while enjoying a pain-free experience.
The maternity unit at the Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals NHS Trust has been carrying out a hypnobirthing programme following requests from an increasing number of pregnant women attracted to the idea.
The programme, in which the mums-to-be are actually hypnotised by a trained practitioner, coincides with an increasing interest in hypnobirths as a means of ensuring pain and stress-free deliveries.
The NHS has just embarked on an 18-month study into the effectiveness of hypnobirthing, using more than 800 first-time mothers in a trial to be carried out in Lancashire.
But the value is already being felt in Wolverhampton, where more than 40 women have already given birth with the help of hypnosis since the Trust began running sessions in January 2010.
Pain relief not an issue for Wolverhampton hypnobirthing scheme
Specialist midwife facilitator Angela Lycett, who qualified as a hypnobirthing practitioner in September 2009, said: "At least 40 women on the programme have had their babies and only one who had a natural birth actually used pain relief.
"As most of these were first-time mums we would have expected quite a lot to have pain relief. Three had sections so needed epidurals, but they still had very calming experiences and felt in control.
"And they feel so great after they’ve given birth that they are able to go home sooner.
"We also found that breastfeeding rates have increased because, as the mums have had such a calming experience, they have very calm babies."
The hypnobirthing programme came about because of mounting interest from local pregnant women.
Added Angela: "Mums are hungry for knowledge and have access to computers, so they would find the Hypnobirthing UK website and find a practioner, even though the nearest one was in Stafford. It was also featured on the Richard and Judy television show.
"We saw there was an interest so my manager paid for me to be trained."
Hypnobirthing sessions challenge idea of painful births
Angela began by holding one-to-one sessions for a handful of pregnant women in community settings from the start of 2010, but after several weeks started running group sessions for four couples at a time.
But once the number of couples grew, she switched the sessions to larger facilities at New Cross Hospital in May.
The project, led by outpatient services matron Debra Hickman (pictured), has now been recognised by the Royal College of Midwives.
Angela admits there is some sceptimism among women when they start, particularly due to pre-conceived notions they may have about the birth process.
"When they come along to the first session we try to get rid of their pre-conceived ideas of birth, usually from TV shows such as Coronation Street and EastEnders, that it’s very painful and is going to hurt a lot.
"The body responds to expectation, so we start by putting them under and getting them to imagine they are sucking a lemon.
"Their body reacts to what a lemon tastes like, so they pull a face or their mouths water.
"They’re not in a hypnotic spell, they’re not out of it, but they are deeply relaxed and very responsive to what I’m saying and the imagery."
Pregnant women taught how to numb parts of their body through hypnosis
The two-hour sessions, which take place weekly over about four weeks, also involve teaching the women breathing techniques and relaxation.
"We then get them to numb a particular part of their body.
"I get them to imagine their hand is numb and then, when it feels numb, they get to touch their face so that goes numb as well.
"It’s learning about how to self-hypnotise so when they are in labour they can numb a part of their body."
It almost sounds too good to be true. And Angela admits: "Some of the women don’t believe me at all, until they are in labour.
"One woman was very sceptical but when it came to it even she didn’t know she was in labour."
Angela says interest in hypnobirthing is still growing, with further group sessions starting in March and April, as well as further one-to-ones, usually for women with separate issues such as a previous difficult birth.
Due for review October 2013