I just heard about Hypnobirthing. Do you think hypnosis can really help with labor pains?
You’re not alone. Most women dread labor. Some say it’s because we’ve been bombarded with negative images of childbirth. Whether it’s stories from well-meaning family and friends, or comic portrayals in TV or movies, the message comes through loud and clear — labor hurts.
Proponents of hypnobirthing say reprogramming that message in the subconscious mind is the first step toward having a comfortable labor and birth. Negative images are replaced by positive ones focused on success: “Labor brings you closer to your baby. It’s the first project you will do with your baby. It’s the most natural thing in the world — why should it hurt?”
Hypnobirthing, as a form of natural childbirth, adheres to the premise that labor is easier for women who are self-assured, relaxed and cooperative. The theory of natural childbirth is that fear and anxiety lead to tension, which in turn causes pain. That pain can slow the progress of labor, which may even intensify the pain of labor and delivery. Hypnobirthing aims to make labor easier by eliminating fear and tension. It’s part self-hypnosis, part relaxation (guided imagery and deep breathing) and plenty of information — all to help break the fear-tension-pain cycle.
The specifics of labor and delivery are reviewed so you know what to expect and just in case complications arise. Women are taught how the muscles of the uterus and pelvis work so they can visualize what’s happening. But again, things are presented in a positive light. Uterine contractions are called “uterine waves” or surges — preferring to focus on the energy and strength they create.
Expectant mothers are taught to equate uterine surges with normal muscular contractions. They learn to use discomfort as a signal or cue to go into a mild hypnotic state for the duration of the surge if they choose. With self-hypnosis, the mind instructs the body to relax and open — that it’s natural to open the door, the cervix, so the baby can come out.
Women practice with audio tapes containing positive affirmations that are meant to help them reach a deeply relaxed state. For example: “I am at peace with my body. I am at peace with my baby. My body is working to bring me closer to my baby.” These affirmations are then repeated by the partner or coach during labor to help trigger deep relaxation.
But it’s not for everyone — not all women are open to the mind-body connection. And to work well, it takes plenty of preparation on the part of the woman and her partner or coach. Hypnobirthing is usually taught as a series of five two-hour sessions with a certified hypnotherapist. It’s also a little more expensive than other childbirth preparation classes.
Hypnobirthing doesn’t necessarily mean your labor will be pain-free. Many women still need medication or an epidural for pain. Even so, the information and tools can help ease the process. And there’s another plus — the relaxation techniques will certainly come in handy as you try to manage the stresses of life as a new mom.