The impending birth of a child is both exciting and yet fraught with anxiety. Some mothers fear the pain of childbirth or how an epidural may affect their child during the birthing process. However, mothers who practice hypnobirthing often find these fears unfounded. In fact, they are more likely to have a shorter labor and less likely to use an epidural or need costly interventions, such as a C-section.
Of course, women who deliver vaginally also enjoy a shorter hospital stay and recover more quickly than those who require a C-section. Moreover, many hypnobirthers may even decide to deliver in the comfort of their own home. In addition to the many health benefits for both mother and child, hypnobirthing can significantly reduce the medical expense of labor as well.
What Is Hypnobirthing?
Hypnobirthing teaches soon-to-be mothers how to use self-hypnosis during labor in conjunction with relaxed breathing to allow for a natural delivery. With this process, the woman is in a deep, relaxed state during labor. She is conscious and can listen to others and accept direction, but her relaxed state helps her endure and even minimize the pain of childbirth. Most women who use hypnobirthing do not feel labor “pains,” but instead feel pressure that is mitigated with deep breathing and relaxing thoughts.
Some women are able to hypnotize themselves, while others rely on their partner. Still others use a doula, or birthing assistant, who is also qualified as a hypnotherapist to help them enter and maintain a peaceful hypnotic state during labor. The woman is also encouraged to make her physical environment relaxing by picking out soothing music and dimming the lights if she prefers.
Hypnobirthing was developed by Marie Mongan, a woman who gave birth to two of her four children in the 50s and 60s without anesthesia, which was unheard of at the time. Her goal was that women should trust their bodies and their innate wisdom when giving birth, and to relax so that childbirth becomes a wonderful experience for both mother and child and not something to dread.
Success of Hypnobirthing
Mothers who utilize hypnobirthing during labor and delivery tout impressive results. According to the official hypnobirthing website, statistics from 2005 to 2010 are as follows:
- 17% of mothers who used hypnobirthing delivered via C-section compared to 32% of women who labored in a traditional manner.
- 9.5% of hypnobirthing mothers gave birth at home versus 1% of all other mothers.
- 23% of mothers who used hypnobirthing and delivered vaginally used an epidural compared to the national average of 71%.
I used hypnobirthing when I had my first child and would highly recommend it to all expecting mothers. I was induced at 16 days overdue and had a long labor (21 hours). With hypnobirthing, I was able to dilate all the way to 10 cm without an epidural. I didn’t feel any pain, just intense pressure on my pelvic bones.
Since my hypnobirthing instructor was also a doula, I hired her to work with me throughout my labor. For example, whenever I would feel a strong contraction, she would calmly coach me through my breathing, which helped me endure the pressure I was feeling. But when my baby’s heart rate dropped dangerously low during each push, the decision was made to have a C-section. However, because I had not had an epidural, I was able to have a spinal block, which blocked the pain of the C-section entirely.
Even celebrities have experienced the advantages and are endorsing hypnobirthing. For example, Jessica Alba, as stated in US Weekly, recommended hypnobirthing because it “just makes you chill.” Other celebrities who recommend it include Tiffani Thiessen of Saved by the Bell and Busy Phillips, an actress on Cougar Town.
Who Is Hypnobirthing Best Suited for?
Any woman can choose to use hypnobirthing. Some women who have had a difficult labor choose this method to avoid a similar bad experience and it is also recommended for women who previously gave birth via C-section.
Women who choose hypnobirthing can still use the traditional OB/GYN and hospital setting, though many choose to use a midwife and give birth in a birthing center or in their home. But regardless of the setting, women who use hypnobirthing strive to get through labor without medication, so as to experience a natural and healthy birth for themselves and their babies.
How to Learn Hypnobirthing
Hypnobirthing classes are typically 2.5 hours long and run for 5 weeks, during which time the mother and her birthing coach practice relaxation techniques, including gentle touch massage and limiting negative thoughts. The woman learns and practices deep breathing and how to achieve a hypnotic state, and is taught to change her vocabulary regarding labor.
For example, instead of talking about labor “pain,” she talks about labor “pressure.” Instead of the word “contractions,” she uses the term “surges.” Just by changing the vocabulary, a woman can think about and thereby experience labor differently.
The class also teaches couples about the physical changes that occur during labor and about the baby’s experience. In addition, they learn how to care for the child immediately after birth.
Materials often include a book, four CDs, and a binder of information, and classes range from $275 to $350 per couple. Some portion of this cost may be covered by insurance and some people can pay for the class out of their flexible spending account (FSA).
There are few disadvantages to hypnobirthing as the financial expense may be recouped through a shorter hospital stay and the experience of a natural, drug-free childbirth is often beneficial for both mother and child.
If you’re pregnant, don’t be intimidated by birthing “horror” stories that some mothers seem to enjoy sharing. Labor and delivery do not have to be agony. Through hypnobirthing, you can achieve a deep state of relaxation in which you are aware of your surroundings, what is happening to your body, and what you need to do to facilitate the labor. But the pain is muted.
Know that it is possible to give birth without medication. Many women have successfully done it multiple times and are grateful to have been fully “present” through one of the most important events of their life.
Have you ever experienced hypnobirthing? Would you recommend it to other expecting mothers?
(photo credit: Shutterstock)