Before I became a mom, a coworker of mine had a baby and told us about her unmedicated birth experience using childbirth hypnosis. She shared some of the details with the other women on my team and me, like how she had printed out signs in her birthing suite to communicate with the staff about words that were off-limits. For example, saying the word “pain” could be a trigger to take her out of the hypno-state.
Even though I was intrigued at the time, I quickly determined it was not something I’d consider in for my own future birthing experience because I knew I had a low pain tolerance and most likely would be yelling, “epidural NOW!” However, in hindsight, I wonder whether I should have dismissed the practice so quickly. I love yoga and have experienced healing through mindfulness meditation. Childbirth hypnosis was actually something I could have used to feel more informed and more in control when my own first birth story took a surprising turn.
A cornerstone of childbirth hypnosis practices is changing our societal perception that childbirth is scary and painful. It focuses on feeling calm, joyful, and empowered during your birth experience. To learn more, I spoke with two doulas: a certified HypnoBirthing® instructor who used hypno for her own births, and a mom who delivered both her babies using childbirth hypnosis. Let’s dive in to learn more and see if childbirth hypnosis could be right for your birth plan and preparation.
What exactly is “childbirth hypnosis”?
A surprising thing I learned through my research is that a hypnotic state actually happens to us multiple times a day. “Zoning out” while driving, working, watching TV, etc. are all states of hypnosis. Hypnosis is not mind-control by someone else; rather, it’s a state of focused concentration where the body and mind relax together.
Hypnosis during childbirth can be achieved through practice learned from a certified instructor via an in-person multi-week course or via listening and practicing a self-guided course — HypnoBirthing® (The Mongan Method) and Hypnobabies® were used by the moms I spoke to for this article.
How does childbirth hypnosis differ from Lamaze or other birth preparation classes?
“What differs HypnoBirthing from standard Lamaze classes is the focus on the mind and body connection,” said Robin Ross, a certified HypnoBirthing® instructor, doula, and mom of three. “Basically, it’s using mind over matter. Women and their partners learn different techniques weekly that they can utilize anytime in their life to reduce anxiety, but our emphasis is on using these techniques to get through the birth,” Ross said.
Doula Missy Alfando, DC, describes the difference as “a refocusing.” She says, “It’s refocusing on things that make you feel calm and peaceful, not the pain. It’s also learning (and having your partner learn) affirmations to help you through the birth experience.”
What makes a successful childbirth hypnosis birth experience?
Get your partner in on the prep. Like any birth plan, your partner can help advocate for your wishes as the birth progresses or if unforeseen circumstances arise. Additionally, they can use the specific language and affirmations from the practice to support you when you’re going through labor.
“My husband was very engaged in the process because he had been involved in the prep,” shared Kelly Cropp, financial advisor and mom of two who used Hypnobabies for both of her births. “We listened to a session every night and had the best sleep ever after that. We’ve joked that we need to start doing Hypnobabies again just for better sleep.”
Having a supportive facility and staff is also important. Ross suggested looking for a hospital that offers birthing tubs or who have active midwifery practices for deliveries that are usually more open to childbirth hypnosis practices.
How do I know if childbirth hypnosis is right for me?
“Our media does a good job making childbirth look loud, angry, and painful,” said Cropp. “So, I was looking for something that could help me create a positive, calming, and loving way to introduce my baby into the world. I felt strongly that my body was made to have a baby and could do it unmedicated. My mom had very positive experiences having babies, so I felt it was not something to be scared of.”
Is childbirth hypnosis still an option if I want a medicated birth?
Childbirth hypnosis’ principles about releasing fears and feeling empowered can be beneficial to anyone, even those wanting a medicated birth.
“It is not a ‘hippie’ type of class, ” says Ross. “I have many medical professionals even take my class, and they all learn something new. I think anyone can benefit from taking this class even if their goals are to have pain medication. Hypno helps empower birthing families regardless of the birth outcome.”
“Even if you’re thinking about having a medicated birth, it can get you in the proper mindset to appreciate your body and the process it goes through to deliver your baby. It likely will make those several hours before you go to the hospital much more comfortable and may even give you much better possible delivery outcomes because you helped your body relax,” Cropp said.
OK, but can childbirth hypnosis really avoid the pains of labor and pushing out a baby?
“I had two babies with Hypnobabies,” says Cropp. “The audio guides were incredibly good at helping relax me and reminding me and my body that this was what we were supposed to do. I don’t know if I could completely say that I was giving myself anesthesia like it trains you to, but it definitely allowed me to appreciate what my body was doing, why it was doing it, and most importantly, that everything was going to be fine when my baby was born.”
It definitely allowed me to appreciate what my body was doing, why it was doing it and most importantly, that everything was going to be fine when my baby was born.
“The funny part is that there was a whole pushing-baby-out section. With my first baby, we got through the entire section, and she wasn’t out yet, so that felt a little deflating. But we just put it on again and pushed some more. With my second, it’s like he literally came out on cue right when the guide said he would!
So regardless of whether it worked to eliminate all pain, it did give me a positive mindset throughout my birth and delivery, which made for a wonderful experience for us.”
Plus, she told me, she’d absolutely do it again.