The last time I saw a hypnotist he was sticking people to chairs and encouraging them to eat raw onions in front of an audience in the student union bar. Pauline Taylor is not that kind of hypnotist.
Taylor decided to train in this discipline after her dentist used hypnosis on her to lessen discomfort and anxiety during treatment. She now uses it to help couples struggling with "unexplained infertility" – one of only two hypnofertility therapists in Scotland.
According to Taylor and other practitioners of hypnotherapy, stress can be a major factor when it comes to an inability to conceive, as it can suppress the luteinizing hormone, the hormone responsible for ovulation, and prevent the implantation of a fertilised egg. Taylor claims that hypnosis for fertility has been shown to increase conception by 30 per cent and to double the rate of success of IVF treatment.
When I meet Taylor at her private practice I was struck by all the bonnie babies gummily grinning from frames in her hallway, the happy products, she tells me, of her many satisfied clients.
As I am not currently trying to conceive we agree that my session will just involve some general relaxing hypnosis designed to calm the mind, which, were I to visit her for another appointment, would set the groundwork for a deeper, more focused session. I take a seat in a comfy chair, put my feet up and relax under a warm blanket while Taylor instructs me to listen to the sound of her voice and let any other sounds wash over me.
Like many hypnosis virgins I had been expecting to "go under", whereas I actually feel completely lucid throughout. My session lasts for half an hour, during which time Taylor guides me through a top-to-toe relaxation using repetition of key words and a monotonous tone to hypnotise me. It feels similar to a guided meditation, although I am not expected to focus solely on my breathing or banish all conscious thoughts, something I've always found difficult to achieve. At the end of our session I'd be happy to just stay in my chair and take a nap, despite the fact that Taylor has "unhypnotised" me. It's not often one feels comfortable enough to take a snooze in a stranger's house in the middle of the day.
Taylor gives me a CD to listen to at home so I can achieve the same state at home, any time I need to de-stress. For clients who conceive Taylor also offers her "hypnobirthing" skills – now that's what I call comprehensive after-care.
• HypnoFertility, 0131-620 1080, visit www.hypnofertilityedinburgh.co.uk
• A Hypno-Fertility session costs 60