The Wairarapa District Health Board is the first board in New Zealand to offer a hypnobirthing programme that will prepare women for a positive birth experience and reduce caesarean rates.

The five-week antenatal course will be offered free of charge to women who previously birthed by caesarean section, and their partners.

Couples will learn practical and empowering techniques for a positive approach to labour and achieving a stress-free birth.

Wairarapa DHB midwife Carole Wheeler is Wairarapa's only registered practitioner for hypnobirthing.


She said woman who had a traumatic experience with a previous birth which resulted in a caesarean could be frightened about their next birthing experience.

"Women and their partners learn to use breathing and deep relaxation techniques, light touch massage, fear release and positive affirmations.

"The course includes a lot of anatomy and physiology of how the body works and how deep relaxation and breathing can shorten labour and lessen the need for pain relief."

Mrs Wheeler has taught hypnobirthing privately over the past three years, with positive results and feedback from the parents she has worked with.

"The best time for starting is about 28 weeks because that gives women and their partners or supporters time to practise techniques before the birth, leading to a more relaxed and enjoyable pregnancy."

The hospital's Maternity, Quality and Safety programme supports the HypnoBirthing programme, which is also designed to reduce the caesarean rate locally.

Caesarean section rates have increased over the past five years at Wairarapa Hospital, with one in three women giving birth through a caesarean last year. The national caesarean rate is 25 per cent.

The course will teach couples to create a positive and calm environment to maximise the chances of a successful natural birth.

It will also help create a positive experience for both father and mother should a repeat caesarean section ultimately be necessary.

Marijke Bell, from Martinborough, had known her delivery would be a caesarean as her baby was breech.

She and husband Ed practised hypnobirthing techniques such as music, deep breathing and different body positions during the labour which they say helped them enormously.

"It was a team effort," she said.

"I had trust in myself and my body and I knew I could handle whatever was coming. It didn't scare me and I felt very relaxed."

The first of five hypnobirthing courses led by Mrs Wheeler this year will start April 13.

There is a maximum of five places for couples. For more information women can contact their midwives.