Kate Middleton said she used hypnobirthing techniques to get through labour — and she 'really quite enjoyed it'

Kensington Palace; Chris Jackson/Getty ImagesKate Middleton gave her first podcast interview on an episode of ‘Happy Mum, Happy Baby,’ where she reflected on her pregnancies.
  • In a new episode of the podcast “Happy Mum, Happy Baby,” Kate Middleton said she used hypnobirthing during the births of her three children.
  • “I realised that actually this was something that I could take control of during labour,” she said.
  • A midwife told Insider the practice can be helpful for some women if it helps relieve stress and tension, but should be approached with flexibility in order to not cause additional stress.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Kate Middleton fans have looked to the 38-year-old for fashion and relationship inspiration, and she now may be a trendsetter in the childbirth department too.

In a new episode of the podcast “Happy Mum, Happy Baby,” the Duchess of Cambridge told host Giovanna Fletcher that, compared to her pregnancies marred by severe morning sickness, she “really quite liked” labour, in large part thanks to hypnobirthing.

The childbirth technique involves using self-hypnosis and relaxation techniques in order to prepare for and reduce the experience of labour-related fear, anxiety, and pain, according to the Mayo Clinic.

“I didn’t ask [Prince William] about it, but it was just something I wanted to do for myself,” Middleton said on the podcast. “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 I realised that actually this was something that I could take control of during labour.”

While Middleton and many other women’s experiences with hypnobirthing are positive, a women’s health expert told Insider how the method is taught matters greatly and varies widely, and that for someone people, having too rigid an expectation about how birth will go can backfire.

In labourlaflor/Getty ImagesFor some women, making noise during birth can be ‘relaxing and productive,’ a midwife told Insider.

Anything that promotes mindfulness can improve the childbirth experience

Hypnobirthing is relatively understudied, and what research does exist is mixed. Plus, the practice is tough to study since how it’s taught can vary widely, though it usually involves music, visualisation, positive thinking, and “words to relax the body and control sensations during labour,” the Mayo clinic reports.

Lee Roosevelt, a certified nurse midwife and clinical assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Nursing, told Insider hypnobirthing can be beneficial if it reduces stress and tension, and therefore the stress hormone cortisol.

“If a person can move into a more relaxed and mindful state, they help suppress cortisol and allow oxytocin to flow more freely,” she said, referencing a hormone that can encourage contractions during labour.

“We have an abundance of research that shows the health benefits of mindfulness practice,” she added. “This absolutely applies to birth as well.”

An emerging childbirth practice also aimed at helping women manage pain in a medication-free way is virtual reality, which several small studies have shown may reduce women’s desire for pain meds. Unlike hypnobirthing, however, the method, which typically involves the mum-to-be watching and listening to soothing sights and sounds, is more about distraction than mindfulness.

For some, hypnobirthing can feel restrictive and wind up making labour even more stressful

On the other hand, Roosevelt said women’s expectations of what hypnobirthing is supposed to be like can make them feel like they’re failing if those expectations aren’t met, which can cause the stress they’re aiming to reduce. The method “measures success based on the idea that hypnosis will create a ‘painless’ birth, and that is just not the reality for most people, even the most practiced hypnobirthers,” she said.

Plus, if women are made to believe that, through hypnobirthing, they need to stay silent, they may become stressed and miss out on doing something – making noise – that works even better for them. “For many people, the use of sound and noise can be relaxing and productive for birth,” Roosevelt said.

She recommends women look for a hypnobirthing teacher who can bring in the mindfulness component of childbirth while still honouring that there are many great ways to give birth, including making loads of noise. “Some people roar a baby out, some breath it out,” she said.

Then, she said, mums-to-be can pick and choose what they want to take away – something they should be free to change throughout the labour. “Birth is an iterative process and it unfolds in ways we often can’t predict,” she said. “Our goal needs to be happiness and joy in the process.”

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