HypnoBirthing: What is it and
how does it work?
by Kerry Tuschhoff
Mention Labor and Delivery to an expectant mom in her last trimester, and chances are good that her heart will begin to race, her mind floods with concern and in some cases, panic. She knows that the day is coming when a force much bigger than herself will take over and her body will govern itself completely. For some women, this is a very fearful event, but for hypnomoms, it is merely a challenge.
These wise women use hypnosis to eliminate pain and fear from the birthing experience. In the past, the word "hypnosis" conjured up images of stage hypnotists re-creating Elvis, or mesmerizing others into embarrassing situations. Now it is common for hypnosis to be used therapeutically in many areas of medicine, dental anesthesia and personal therapy sessions. Even so, there are many misconceptions regarding hypnosis that can dissuade those contemplating this powerful tool. Here are a few 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 90-95% 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 at all, just a way to direct your inner mind toward the positive.
What about Hypnosis for Childbirth?
Hypnosis is used in medical and dental hypnosis with great success by patients who have life-threatening allergies to anesthetics, allowing them to undergo surgeries with no drugs and no pain. We know therefore that the mind can be trained to experience discomfort as only pressure, and that is what is achieved in childbirth hypnosis as well. In addition, with labor, the more relaxation the mother experiences, the more comfort she will have, and the depth of relaxation necessary can easily be achieved with hypnosis, as physical relaxation is learned and practiced daily in preparation for birth using guided visualizations followed by positive hypnotic suggestions. When the critical conscious mind is by-passed with hypnosis, the inner mind can literally be reprogrammed to believe that birth will be comfortable, easy and joyous. Software for your mind!
Fear and Expectation
In other cultures, childbirth is regarded as a natural, normal event in a woman's life. The 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; without pain and fear. They have a positive expectation of childbirth. In our culture, it is very much the opposite. For many generations we have been told that delivering a baby is many hours of painfully agonizing work, to be faced with fear and trepidation. We have heard stories from well-meaning friends and family that send shivers up our spines, and so the legacy continues. We experience pain in childbirth, in part because we very much expect to!
When learning about how the mind controls the body, the expectant couple is taught to surround themselves with only positive people and messages, to create a positive view of childbirth and the expectation that their birthing with be the beautiful, peaceful experience that they want. Fear Clearing Sessions are integral to this process, as they allow each person to address fears they have, work through possible solutions and then release them. 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 for childbirth teaches a woman how to enter into self-hypnosis instantly, and create her own natural anesthesia whenever and wherever she needs it. This is important as any drugs taken by a laboring woman can be dangerous for her, and especially her baby. She has total control over her body, and is an active participant in her birth process. As labor progresses, she relaxes even more, goes deeper inside herself, trusting in her body's natural ability to give birth with ease and comfort. Her mind is programmed to give her exactly what she needs.
Too good to be true?
Can women give birth without experiencing pain? They can, but there are many variables in labor and birth that can affect the outcome, and couples 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. Many a wonderful birth has been thwarted by not realizing how to make positive, informed choices, and yet these issues are easily addressed and learned in a good consumer oriented childbirth class, or by doing research.
Without a doubt, women using hypnosis are much calmer and more relaxed during labor, which automatically creates more comfort, as well as having *powerful* post-hypnotic suggestions to actually eliminate pain and fear. How effective is this? Statistics will vary by the program and method chosen, 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 will have backgrounds in both hypnotherapy and childbirth education, and be able to address each woman's personal needs. With adequate preparation and trust in the natural process of birth, most women can have much more relaxed and comfortable births, with many actually free of pain.
Benefits of using hypnosis for childbirth:
- Fewer drugs or no drugs at all means less risk of side effects on mother and baby.
- Shorter labors - resistance of the birthing muscles as a response to pain is minimized or eliminated.
- An awake, energized mother, due to total relaxation throughout the birthing process.
- A calm, peaceful birthing environment.
- Breech and posterior babies can be turned using hypnosis.
- Fewer interventions and complications during labor.
- Babies who are better sleepers and nursers
due to fewer drugs in their systems.
How to study: Where do you start?
There are choices open to couples who are ready to begin their hypno-journey, and it will benefit each one to research all of their options to find one that allows them to achieve their goal. They include:
- Seek out a qualified Hypnotherapist in your area for office sessions. You will want to make sure to interview them beforehand and ask what type of program they have for childbirth using hypnosis, as not all of them already have an effective program in place in their practice. A good one will include at *least* 4 sessions in the office, (6-7 are optimal) with the last one done 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 learn and practice that helps you to relax and go deeper into hypnosis. Many hypnotherapists have developed their own childbirth hypnosis programs that are very effective, and some will use and modify already existing ones, such as Gerald Kein's Painless Childbirth Program. The attraction to this kind of program is that it allows the hypnotherapist 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 deep-seated fears about childbirth.
- You can choose a home study course, of
which there are many. To find one, you
can 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,
tapes, CD’s, handouts, hypnosis
scripts. As you will be studying on your
own, it is your responsibility to gain
as much knowledge as possible, so choose
The most popular self-study program is called New Way Childbirth, which uses audio and video tapes, and includes materials for all 3 trimesters of pregnancy, bonding and labor/delivery.
From their website:
"The New Way Childbirth TM program is an invaluable tool for an expectant mother who wants to bond prenatally with her baby and prepare for childbirth. The patients who have used this program have experienced significant reductions in the duration of labor and the intensity of pain. It is sure to be the hallmark by which every other prenatal program is measured."
Dr. Louis Stolis
- You can seek out a hypnosis for childbirth
class in your area. Some are taught at
local hospitals and birth centers, and
some are taught at the instructors homes.
The backgrounds of the instructors can
vary widely from stay at home mom to hypnotherapist
to childbirth educator. Obviously, the
more training and experience they have
in the fields they are teaching, the better
and it will benefit you to interview them
before signing up for a class. To get
more information a class, you can do a
search on the Internet for: hypnosis,childbirth,education.
You may want to ask a prospective childbirth hypnosis instructor the following when you contact them:
- If they have a background in hypnotherapy. (this is helpful)
- If they have a background in childbirth education. (also helpful)
- How long they have been teaching hypnosis for childbirth classes, and where they teach the class. (home, hospital, etc.)
- How many classes do they teach and how long is each one.
- What materials do they provide with the class. (books, tapes, CD's, 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. (they should know)
- Ask them about why they became a childbirth hypnosis instructor. Hopefully they have a passion for childbirth and a love of natural, comfortable birthing!
It is well worth the time to look into hypnosis for childbirth as an option, both for yourself and for your baby. It is important to remember that many drugs given to a woman in labor reach the baby in less than 5 minutes, in an adult dose, so using hypnosis techniques can help avoid them. The deep relaxation has even helped many a nervous dad to cope as they prepare for their child’s birth! In addition, the skills you will learn for relaxation and hypnosis will benefit you for the rest of your life.
Kerry Tuschhoff has taught natural childbirth since 1989 and is Operations Director of Hypnobabies Network in Cypress, Ca.
More Information about Hypnobirthing: