No More Pain: Hypnosis for Childbirth

Looking for a noninvasive birthing tool? Consider hypnosis to decrease anxiety and pain during childbirth. Learn from a licensed hypnotherapist how this increasingly accepted practice can help minimize pain during natural childbirth.

For some women, childbirth is a very fearful event, but it needn’t be. As a natural childbirth and hypnosis instructor, I’ve seen how hypnosis can help moms-to-be let go of their fear and minimize pain. In my experience, when women employ these techniques during labor and delivery, childbirth merely becomes a challenge.

In the recent past, hypnosis conjured up images of stage hypnotists mesmerizing people into embarrassing situations. But now hypnosis is commonly used for therapeutic purposes in many areas of medicine, dentistry, and personal therapy sessions.

The Facts

  • All hypnosis is self-hypnosis; the hypnotherapist is only the guide. A person chooses to enter into a hypnotic state, stay in, and come out at will.
  • Approximately 90 to 95 percent of the population can be hypnotized. Willingness, belief, and motivation have great influence over “hypnotizability.”
  • During hypnosis you are neither asleep nor unconscious and will always come out when you wish.
  • Stronger-minded and stronger-willed people are easier to hypnotize—not the other way around, as is usually assumed.
  • You cannot be made to divulge information or do anything against your will while in hypnosis.
  • Hypnosis is not satanic or religion-oriented; it is just a way to redirect your thoughts.

How Hypnosis Helps Childbirth

Hypnosis is used in medical and dental practices with great success by patients with life-threatening allergies to anesthetics, allowing them to undergo surgeries with no drugs or pain. As hypnotherapists, we can help train the mind to experience discomfort as only pressure, and we can achieve the same result with childbirth hypnosis. In fact, you can learn deep physical relaxation and practice it daily in preparation for your birth using guided visualizations followed by positive hypnotic suggestions. If your critical conscious mind can be bypassed with hypnosis, your inner mind can literally be reprogrammed to believe that birth will be comfortable, easy, and joyous.

Overcoming Fear

In some cultures, childbirth is regarded as a natural, normal event in a woman’s life. Birthing women are given support from other women, and children are often present to witness the event; in this way, birth is celebrated and honored. Young girls then grow up with the belief system that birth is a positive event, and their expectations of childbirth reflect this attitude. As a result, their births are similar to their predecessors’: free of pain and fear.

In Western culture, the opposite is often true. For generations, women have been taught that delivering a baby means hours of painfully agonizing work. Most of us have heard stories from well-meaning friends and family that send shivers up our spines, and so the legacy continues. I like to remind my clients that we often experience pain in childbirth, in part because we expect to!

Fear in labor can create tension, which creates pain, then more fear, and the cycle continues. Fear and anxiety can also create adrenaline production in the body, causing the labor to become dysfunctional—a common reason for Cesarean-section surgery. Freedom from fear can make a huge difference in the birthing experience.

Hypnosis can help you create your own natural anesthesia whenever and wherever you need it. Women who use hypnosis during labor have more control over their bodies and are active participants in the birthing process. As labor progresses, they’ll relax even more, trusting in their bodies’ natural abilities.

Too Good to Be True?

Can you give birth without experiencing extreme pain? You can, but there are many variables in labor and birth that can affect the outcome, and as a couple, you need to have a positive but realistic view of hypnosis for childbirth. Each pregnant woman and her partner must take responsibility for the choices they make while in labor and how they can affect the dynamics and outcome. These issues are usually covered in a good, consumer-oriented, hypnosis-for-childbirth class.

How effective is hypnobirthing? Statistics vary by the program and method, depending on the length and number of hypnosis sessions, the materials used in each, and the skill of the hypnotherapist or teacher, as well as the dedication and compliance to the program of each birthing couple. Ideally, hypnosis-for-childbirth instructors should have backgrounds in both hypnotherapy and childbirth education, and be able to address each woman’s personal needs.

Benefits of Using Hypnosis for Childbirth

  • Fewer drugs or no drugs at all mean less risk of side effects to mother and baby.
  • Resistance of the birthing muscles as a response to pain is minimized or eliminated, allowing for shorter labors.
  • Relaxation throughout the birthing process results in an awake, energized mother.
  • The birthing environment is more calm and peaceful.
  • Breech and posterior babies can be turned using hypnosis.
  • There can be fewer interventions and complications during labor.
  • Babies may be better sleepers and nursers due to fewer drugs in their systems.

How to Study: Where Do You Start?

Research all options to find a hypnobirthing program that allows you to achieve your goal. Here’s how to begin:

Seek out a qualified hypnotherapist for office sessions.

Interview hypnotherapists before working with one and ask what type of program they have for childbirth using hypnosis, as not all of them already have an effective program in their practice. A good program will include at least four sessions in the office (six to seven are optimal), with the last session one week before the estimated due date. It should also include at least one tape or CD to listen to at home by yourself, and one or more cues for the birth companion to practice that help you relax and go deeper into hypnosis.

Many hypnotherapists have developed their own effective childbirth hypnosis programs, and some will use and modify programs such as Gerald Kein’s Painless Childbirth Program. The attraction to this kind of program is that it allows hypnotherapists to adapt the program to fit the needs of their own practice, creating their own scripts and tapes from the original program sessions, and fully modify them to the needs of each woman’s needs. This helps tremendously with women who have personal issues that need to be resolved, such as VBAC moms, those who have had a past negative birth experience, or those who have specific fears about childbirth.

Choose a home study course.

To find one, do a search on the Internet for: “hypnosis, childbirth, home study.” An adequate home study program will have detailed information on hypnosis and how to use it in childbirth, and hypno-tools for you to achieve your goals: books, CDs, tapes, or DVDs, handouts, hypnosis scripts. As you will be studying on your own, it is your responsibility to gain as much knowledge as possible, so choose well.

A popular self-study program is called New Way Childbirth, which uses audio and video materials for all three trimesters of pregnancy, bonding, and labor and delivery.

Take a hypnosis-for-childbirth class in your area.

Classes may be taught at hospitals, birth centers, and instructors’ homes. The instructors’ backgrounds can vary widely: hypnotherapist, nurse, doula, or childbirth educator. The more training and experience they have in the fields they are teaching, the better. It will benefit you to interview them before signing up for a class.

To locate a class, call local hospitals and physicians’ offices, or do a search on the Internet for: “hypnosis, childbirth, education.”

Ask the Right Questions

Use this set of questions as a guide when interviewing potential hypnotherapy instructors:

Do they have a background in hypnotherapy?

Do they have a background in childbirth education?

How long they have been teaching hypnosis for childbirth classes and where do they teach the class?

How many classes do they teach and how long is each one?

What materials do they provide with the class (books, DVDs, CDs, scripts, phone help, etc.)?

How much is the class fee, and is it a group class or private?

Do they attend births as a hypnodoula, and if so, how many have they attended? If not, have they trained any local doulas for this?

How many of their former students have been successful using their childbirth hypnosis course?

Why did they became childbirth hypnosis instructors? Look for someone with a passion for natural, comfortable birthing!

Hypnosis for childbirth is clearly an option to consider, both for yourself and your baby. Hypnosis techniques have even helped nervous dads cope with their children’s births! In addition, the relaxation skills you’ll learn will benefit you for the rest of your life.

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