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Hypnosis for Labor

Mind Over Matter

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Updated June 01, 2012

Hypnosis is a form of deep relaxation.

Hypnosis is a form of deep relaxation.

Photo © Jyn - Fotolia.com
When you say the word hypnosis most people think of a hypnotic trance where the woman is completely asleep or unaware of what is going on with her body while she gives birth. This is far from the truth.

"(Most people believe) that it is some New Age-y bizarre class where the mom goes into a TV trance at the beginning of labor and comes out after the baby is born. It's so much simpler and normal than that. So many clients have noted how the techniques learned in class can be used in all sorts of life situations, well beyond the birth of the baby," explains Kristen Olberz, RN, HBCE, an educator and labor and delivery nurse.

The techniques used were frequently mind numbing and altering, and that's if you were awake. Much of the work behind hypnobirth started with her births and her research into Dr. Grantley Dick-Read's birth philosophy of birth without fear. This total relaxation of the body can help alleviate fear, tension and therefore pain. Many childbirth classes believe in the same theory on this level, called the Pain-Tension-Fear Cycle.

This is achieved through learning relaxation techniques and cues to help bring the mother to a state of complete relaxation so that she can relax and be aware of what is going on around her without the fear and pain so common in labor today.

Small classes can be very helpful in education in general. This also applies to hypnosis classes. Olberz says, "I'm usually just teaching two or three couples at a time, so they often end up being private classes. I teach classes at (the hospital) every other month to couples birthing there."

Childbirth education classes, whether hypnosis based or not, are often though of only for mothers who are having vaginal, unmedicated births. This is absolutely a falsehood. Childbirth education has been shown to reduce the length of labor, the fear and actually give you a lot of helpful information. Hypnobirthing classes are no different.

"I've found that anyone interested and willing can do Hypnobirthing, whether high risk or not," Olberz assures us. "If practiced properly, the class really increases trust in one's body/birthing/baby, therefore reducing number of high risk cases. I really come from the angle that anyone, whether they plan on an epidural or a cesarean or a completely unmedicated birth, can apply the techniques and have a more relaxed, pleasant experience. On the other hand, hypnosis has been found to reduce need for medical interventions/pain medications/complications and babies tend to be much more social, better eaters/sleepers, better weight-gainers, etc., so I also very enthusiastically share those aspects with students."

Meredith, a first time mom on her preparation: "There are guided relaxations that you go through, and tapes to listen to help you relax. I was scared to death of this birthing experience, but after preparing with the hypnobirthing techniques, I am actually looking forward to the birth."

"I've had one couple who did end up having a cesarean related to malpresentation, but she stated that being able to relax through all of the activity leading to the surgery made a huge difference. Afterward, she took no pain medications," Olberz explains.

So, how do the moms feel about hypnosis for labor?

"The staff was surprised- Active labor lasted less than 2 hours. Pretty rare for a first time birth. They all thought it was because I was so relaxed due to my attitude throughout the pregnancy and labor and as a result of the techniques. The (hypnosis) did not take away the pain but it did enable me to approach the birth as a joyous event to be experienced and celebrated," remembers Miiki. "This was the hardest and biggest thing I have ever done! Having our very beautiful little girl is the most wonderful perfect feeling in the world"

"(Hypnosis) was a great option for me. It taught me all about the process of labor and birth. I gave me confidence in not only my ability to birth my child but in my ability to make the decisions that I would need to make during that process," Amanda states. "I highly recommend it for everyone, no matter what their circumstances they are facing."

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