Mention childbirth to just about anyone – man or woman – and the first association you will probably conjure is “pain.” But according to practitioners of “hypnobirthing,” pain does not have to be part of the process at all. Hypnobirthing is an alternative birthing method based on the philosophy that giving birth is what a woman’s body was meant to do, and that it is possible to put yourself in a state of meditation and relaxation such that you do not experience childbirth as painful. Sound good so far? Read on:
Hypnobirthing uses centuries-old visualization and relaxation techniques to bring your mind into a state in which you are relaxed (but not asleep), similar to daydreaming, and you are able to allow your muscles to work slowly in concert with each other. When you are relaxed, your body releases endorphins that seemingly override the sensation of pain. Hypnobirthing also calls for slow, deep breathing – as opposed to the “huffing and puffing” that many women are taught in today’s childbirth classes – as well as creative visualization about the baby’s journey into the world.
Contrary to popular stereotypes, a person who is “hypnotized” is not unconscious or at the mercy of another person. Self-hypnosis is merely the act of entering a relaxed state of mind that you can come in and out of at will. Additionally, you cannot be forced to do anything or to say anything against your will while you are under hypnosis. The person who is helping you acts as a guide and coach while you prepare your mind and body for the big job it has to do.
To receive training and preparation in hypnobirthing, most expectant mothers take a series of classes beforehand and have someone work with them through childbirth. One popular method formally known as HypnoBirthing® was developed by hypnotherapist Marie Mongan, whose web site offers resources for finding hypnobirth practicioners here. Additionally, you can train yourself or reinforce what you have already learned with tapes and videos – such as these from New Way Childbirth – that teach expectant mothers how to learn relaxation and visualization techniques. Also, you can always talk to other moms who have been through the process on JustMommies community boards.
The benefits of hypnosis include fewer or no painkilling drugs and therefore fewer potential side effects on mother and baby, less fear and tension about the childbirth process, and a more relaxed mother who is in tune with her body. However, as with any childbirth, there’s no guarantee that the process will go exactly as planned. The meditation techniques may not work for everyone, and there may be complications during delivery that require the mother to need some sort of medical intervention.
Nevertheless, for moms who want a “natural” birth without pain medication and who want to experience all of the sensations of childbirth, hypnobirthing may be a good choice. Even the moms who plan to ask for pain medication may find some benefit in hypnobirthing techniques. If it helps you ease your way through labor and allows you to welcome your baby in a relaxed, confident way, it could be a useful tool for any expectant mother.