Why Hypnobirthing Matters is the second title in the Why It Matters series from independent publishers, Pinter & Martin. The aim of the series is to provide readers with concise, balanced and evidence-based introductions to just some of the subjects that parents will be faced with as they navigate the complex and, unfortunately, highly commercialised waters of modern parenting. This installment comes from cognitive behavioural hypnotherapist, hypnobirthing teacher and clinical aromatherapist, Katrina Berry, who has helped hundreds of couples achieve a calm, serene and comfortable birth with hypnobirthing. Although this pocket-sized guide might be small and succinct, its size pleasantly belies the gravity of its message.<br /><br />Why Hypnobirthing Matters begins by exploring the origins and rationale for using hypnosis for childbirth and rightfully starts with the pioneering work of British obstetrician Dr Grantly Dick-Read. The beauty of beginning the book here is that any reader still under the misconception that hypnobirthing is some hippy-dippy, look-into-my-eyes, kumbaya-singing mumbo-jumbo is immediately served the observations of a revered medical professional and is, hopefully, now on the beginnings of a journey that so many hypnobirthing couples have made before them, from sceptics to passionate advocates.<br /><br />Berry goes on to describe the beauty of the birthing body with the same enthusiasm and reverence you would expect from a passionate birth worker and self-confessed birth champion. Of course, despite the awe-inspiring capacity of the female body to give birth, we know that fear and negativity about childbirth continue to prevail in society at large. Berry rightfully attributes the origins of these fears to both the dramatised versions of childbirth that are prevalent in the media (including That-Docu-Series-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named) and, ever so sensitively, to ourselves. Women. We almost delight in sharing so-called ÔhorrorÕ stories, either of our own births or those of our mothers, relatives, friends or co-workers and, as a result, many of us only ever hear one side of the story. Thankfully, Berry has peppered the book with handfuls of the beautiful, positive birth reports (from mothers, fathers and midwives alike) that have come to characterise the hypnobirthing experience.<br /><br />One of the greatest accomplishments of the book though is perfectly articulating not what hypnobirthing is, but rather what it is not. To think hypnobirthing is about learning lots of new things before, or just for, the birth is to miss the point. It is simply about understanding normal birth, having that all-important Òa-ha!Ó moment, and then counter-balancing all of the negativity deep within our unconscious minds by replacing it with truth, trust and positivity. ÒTo understand your body is to appreciate it, and to appreciate it is to start to rebuild trust and confidence in your bodyÕs ability.Ó With that in mind, hypnobirthing is also not at all about having more control over your birth, but rather about surrendering and letting go. Or, as Berry says, to Ògracefully step out of the way and let [your body and your baby] get on with it.Ó<br /><br />I applaud the inclusion of dedicated chapters to fathers and midwives. It would be easy to assume that hypnobirthing diminishes the position of both in the womenÕs birth experience. In fact, itÕs quite the opposite as it gives them both unique and deeply important roles in supporting the mother, and makes a hypnobirthing partner and midwife valuable assets in the birthing room.<br /><br />ItÕs one of the closing sentiments of the book that delivers on the promise of its title. Hypnobirthing matters because birth matters. Our slow and steady decline from normal, physiological birth to disturbed, industrialised birthing practices is not only detrimental to the long-term emotional and physical wellbeing of an individual mother and child, it is also drastically altering the very fabric of our society and the human experience in deeply important ways, some of which we may not yet fully understand.<br /><br />ÒIf we want to make this world a more conscious, connected and caring place for us all we have to start with how we treat women during pregnancy. We also have to create the necessary changes in our current childbirth practices to allow more gentle births to take place. How these babies are welcomed creates their sense of safety, self-worth and belonging and their capacity to have healthy relationships that are based on love, empathy and trust.Ó<br />Ð Anna Verwaal, TEDxABQWomen, December 2012<br /><br />The beautiful side-effect of hypnobirthing is, of course, that it empowers couples with skills for finding calmness and balance not just in birth, but also in life. What a gift it is to the world that hypnobirthing might not just create a ripple effect of positive birth experiences, but an improved quality of life as well.