Screaming agony or as much pain relief as possible are the two extremes facing pregnant mums.
Yet in an era of over-medicalised birth there is a small but growing group of women who are relying on what they describe as the most natural way to tackle labour.
They say hypnobirthing allowed them to enjoy giving birth without pain or drugs.
These mums are very clear it is not mumbo-jumbo or anything like most of us imagine when we think of being hypnotised.
This is a method where women learn deep relaxation in a very similar way to what everybody experiences the moments just before falling asleep or waking.
It is based on learning how the body functions then working with it.
Chris Ojari worked as a midwife in Sheffield and is now a hypnobirthing practitioner – as well as a mum-of-five all born using hypnosis techniques.
She runs classes at Hillsborough Leisure Centre as well as at the homes of mums-to-be across the city.
“It is basically a deep relaxation which works with the body.
“When somebody is worried or stressed their body moves blood away from non-essential parts such as the uterus, and muscles become unyielding and painful.
“Women these days need to learn a way to get into that really relaxed state.
“Girls in today’s society have been brought up to be afraid of childbirth. Most of us have at least some apprehension about birth – you would be unusual if you didn’t.
“The subconscious part of birth can let go of the scary parts. You are not in a trance but very much within your own body. I think the general population is quite sceptical but what I am doing is reuniting them with their natural instinctive way to give birth.”
There are lot of mums who swear by Chris’s methods but there are also plenty of men who have witnessed it in action – and gone on to spread the word.
Chris said: “The men often come to the first class with their arms folded wondering what it is all about but by the second or third one they are really into it.
“It is the men afterwards who say it was amazing that the woman was so calm during labour.”
So hypnobirthing sounds simple enough but can it really work?
Karen Entwisle relied on the techniques with her first daughter Sofia, who is almost a year old.
“What hypnobirthing did was give me the confidence to relax and give myself over to my body,” she said.
“My body was designed to do this so I stopped trying to control it. It was just so natural.
“My husband Phil was there and we just did it all, the three of us.”
Faye Davies is mum to four-month-old Grace and believes it is all about getting rid of the fear of childbirth.
“We grow up hearing horror stories and seeing it in the media and I wanted my birth with Grace to be different,” she said.
“It was amazing right from the start for all three of us.
“My husband learned on the course how to really help and Grace had a really calm entry into the world.
“I know my experience would have been completely different had I not had the hypnobirthing. I looked forward to the birth and was excited rather than apprehensive and scared.”
Sandra and Jeremy Marriott believe most people don’t realise there is an alternative to a standard birth.
Their daughter Freya, now two, was born into Jeremy’s arms.
“It was such a special time. People just don’t understand it really is just about relaxation and understanding your body and what it can do.”
Visit www.peacefulandcalmbirth.com for details.
I Virtually ‘Slept’ Through A Three-day Labour
Baby Emilia was born eight months ago – after a three-day labour which her mum Karen Beddall says she virtually ‘slept’ through and needed no pain relief.
Karen sums up her feelings about the birth: “Everyone finds it so amazing they just want to spread the word.
“When the contractions really kicked in I felt sensations but no pain.
“One midwife was so amazed she thanked me for sharing the experience with here because she said she felt privileged.
“I started hypnotherapy classes when I was seven months pregnant and I was definitely much more relaxed from that point. Up until then I was a first-time pregnant mum with a few anxieties.
“Because I had never been through birth I was scared it was going to hurt but as soon as I went on the course I realised there was no need to think about pain.
“You go with your body instead of against it.”
Her husband Matthew is so convinced by hypnobirthing, he has recommended it to male colleagues who are now doing the course with their pregnant wives.
“I was sceptical about the whole thing but that changed as soon as Chris talked us through it.
“It is nothing like I imagined with hypnosis, it is just really deep relaxation – how the body is designed.
“History tells us childbirth is a natural thing.
“In my mind it is going back to that instinct we have got which, perhaps, has been over-ridden by fear of pain.
“We are almost pre-programmed into thinking it is going to be painful and it doesn’t have to be.”