The rates of medical intervention for childbirth in the U.S. are well over 50%. Epidural rates are closer to 75%. It is fairly clear that most women choose drugs for childbirth because they believe it has to be painful and too overwhelming for them to handle on their own.
Perhaps it is presumptuous to say that natural childbirth does not have to be painful, traumatic or feared. After all, I am a man. I cannot ever know what childbirth feels like.
I do know that my wife birthed relatively pain-free and with confidence in the warmth and comfort of our own home, without the use of any drugs or medical intervention. Certainly, we owe much to the skill and experience of our midwives. Additionally, my wife was very proactive during pregnancy in terms of nutrition and exercise. But one of the most meaningful birth preparation activities she engaged in was hypnosis.
Studies Support Hypnosis For Childbirth
Hypnosis for childbirth is a great way to release anxiety and birth more comfortably. It has been proven effective too. If you are interested, Centerpointe Holosync compared to Mindvalley OmHarmonics is a fantastic read, I’m confident in that recommendation.
For example, Mehl-Medrona L.E. (2004) found that women who used hypnosis during pregnancy had fewer uncomplicated births. Several other studies have shown birth hypnosis to reduce labor times significantly. In one British study, 70 hypnosis patients averaged 6 hour and 21 minutes of birthing time, compared to 70 control patients who averaged over 9 hours of birthing time.
Other studies have also shown birth hypnosis to reduce the need for pain medication or medical intervention.
Why Hypnosis Works
While hypnosis has often been mis-perceived as some sort of mind control, its effectiveness is based on a few important, but easy-to-understand principles I will spell out for you.
- Your Subconscious mind is powerful, and highly receptive when deeply relaxed. At the least hypnosis can be deeply relaxing. However, relaxation is not the main objective of hypnosis. Relaxation is more the means. It is in this deeply relaxed state you become more open to powerful suggestions, such as letting go of fears, birthing in less time, or feeling contractions as nothing more than pressure.
- Hypnosis breaks the fear-tension-pain cycle. Dr. Grantley Dick-Read in his book Childbirth Without Fear writes about the direct effect anxiety and fear has on the muscles. Fear causes a fight-or-flight response in which adrenaline flows, muscles tense and heart rate increases, all of which cause muscle tension. Such tension during birth is much of the cause of pain. Hypnosis deeply relaxes mind and body and reduces fear.
- Repetition is often the key to mastery. Sure, it is possible that a few hypnotherapy sessions can be effective. But the key is really repetition. After all, negative imagery (via television, movies and other negative birth stories) has repeatedly made its way into your subconscious. It is repetition of hypnosis as a skill that will effectively undo all of that negative imagery.
To be honest, hypnosis is not for everyone. One deciding factor in its effectiveness is the subject’s desire and belief that it will work. But be assured that hypnosis is safe, easy and in most cases enjoyable and relaxing. Furthermore, hypnosis should not be seen as some mysterious or alternative state of consciousness. We all experience a form of hypnosis on a daily basis, for example, when “zoning out” while doing the dishes, watching a movie, or even driving.
From Fear To Confidence
I watched my wife transform her birth from one built on fear to one built from empowerment. Her original plan was to birth in the hospital and “enjoy” any and every intervention to ensure that she would birth safely and not feel pain.
In her last trimester she shifted to a home birth. She birthed our first daughter in the comfort of our home. She birthed calmly. It was quite amazing watch her really. Our doula was even surprised when she found out my wife was fully dilated, since she was so calm and quiet at that time.
Hypnosis does not guarantee a pain free birth. It is, however, a useful tool, and one that can be used beyond birth, for many aspects of life.
[About the author: Jeremy Dyen is a musician, father and husband who blogs at StayAtHomePapa.com. He and his wife Madhavi are advocates of hypnosis and affirmations for mindset shifts about birth. They created the Birth Relaxation Kit, a birth hypnosis home program.]
Image: gabi_menashe at Flickr