North mothers will be the first in the UK to benefit from an innovative birthing programme which uses self-hypnosis, relaxation and massage.
NHS Highland will become the first health board in the UK to provide the programme across its area.
The Wise Hippo scheme uses the techniques to help take the fear and anxiety out of giving birth so that parents-to-be look forward to the experience.
Couples in Caithness and Sutherland have benefited from the Wise Hippo project over the past two years, and NHS Highland has decided to make it available across its area.
Today 29 maternity professionals from all over the north will attend a training session in Inverness.
Helen Bryers, NHS Highland’s head of midwifery, said: “Our experience of the Wise Hippo programme has been extremely encouraging, with couples reporting that it’s made the process of being in labour and giving birth a more positive experience.
“Our birth statistics show us very positive results from women who attended the Wise Hippo programme in Sutherland.
“The number of straightforward births increased and this means that fewer women had caesarean sections and assisted births.
“Mums tell us that they are sleeping better and feel their anxiety levels are greatly reduced.”
Claire Armstrong, community midwife based at Lawson Memorial Hospital in Golspie, said: “The key to the Wise Hippo programme is relaxation, and this is brought about by a variety of tools to help birthing be less stressful.
“For labour, mums are taught to count down to their ‘relaxing place’, whether it’s a beach, granny’s sitting room or wherever brings back positive memories.
“And some mums can become so deeply relaxed they often look like they are asleep.
“We show birth videos during the course and people are blown away because the mums in them are actually smiling in labour. They look absolutely over the moon.”
Training will be delivered to NHS Highland professionals by Wise Hippo founders Dany Griffiths and Tamara Cianfine.