You might well wonder what is new about using hypnosis in childbirth. Nothing really.
Women have gone to hypnotherapists and learned techniques of self-hypnosis, but may worry whether they will be able to sustain the practice at the time. The worry causes tension and tension anywhere in the person causes muscles to tense and muscle tension is what leads to pain in childbirth.
Some women may undergo hypnosis and be ‘programmed’ with a post hypnotic suggestion to remain calm and relaxed or to feel no pain, but pain is the body’s way of saying something is wrong, so masking pain (even with drugs) adds to the guesswork of childbirth again causing anxiety, tension and subsequently pain.
Some women have a hypnotherapist come to the hospital with them and do hypno-anaesthesia. This of course comes at a price. To be personally attended by a hypnotherapist while you are in labour is a cost that few would contemplate despite the obvious benefits.
There is also the problem of availability. The hypnotherapist may not be able to attend or give the time when it is required. But HypnoBirthing® is different. It is different from several perspectives. Firstly, it isn’t just childbirth education – although it covers the physiological aspects of birthing. It isn’t about being hypnotised and experiencing trance states – although you do. It isn’t about pain relief – although it severs the connection between birth and suffering.
The concern for suffering and for safety in birthing is a real one. The drugs used in labour, although they are commonly administered, are not proven to be totally safe. The HypnoBirthing® Method was developed to teach the mother-to-be and her birth companion hypnosis techniques so that they can experience a birth free from harmful narcotics but also free from the harmful fear that causes pain and discomfort.
It is a philosophy that celebrates life – dramatically enhancing the bonding experience before, during and after the birth experience. It is also the practice of easier, safer, and more comfortable birthing.
How does it do all of this? In a series of usually four classes totalling about 10 hours, very small groups learn that when a woman is properly prepared for childbirth and when the mind and body are in harmony, nature can function in the same well-designed manner that it does with all other creatures. The mother, with the help of hypnosis, releases her prior programming about birth, and begins to trust her body, and work with it. She effectively frees herself from harmful emotions that lead to pain-causing fear and unyielding muscles.
Breathing techniques and visualisations are all part of what is learned along with profoundly moving bonding, touching the parents at deep levels of awareness. The best part though is not just the relief and empowerment that learning and participating in these techniques gives. And, although practising hypnosis and self-hypnosis does condition the mind to respond in particular ways, the best part is that the birth companion learns to do the hypnosis with the mother. So not only is he (or she) an emotional support but an integral part of the proceedings, giving the mother the added security of knowing that her hypnotist will be there for her exactly when needed. This of course enhances the experience for the father or the birth companion too making it so much more satisfying.
Many people worry that being in a trance and accessing the subconscious mind means they will be unconscious. Hypnosis is not a state of being unconscious, even though it is a way of accessing the unconscious for you. It is actually a state of heightened awareness of some aspect of what you are doing. With HypnoBirthing® the heightened aspect is relaxation, and with profound relaxation you can eliminate the tension causing pain and feel the sensations of the uterine surges in a different way and allow the mother to move in harmony with her birthing body and her baby, naturally and easily. The mother is fully aware and fully in control but having been trained to reach complete relaxation, is able to determine the degree and manner in which she feels.
The HypnoBirthing® concept is not new although it is new to Australia. It is based on the work of Dr Grantly Dick-Read who developed the concept of pain-free natural birthing in the 1920s. The philosophy of birthing as it existed thousands of years ago, has been revived by the HypnoBirthing® Institute, and its founder Marie Mongan. Marie is a distinguished hypno-therapist and educator. She pioneered anaesthesia-free birth in the 1950s and 1960s based on the techniques of Dr Grantly Dick-Read, and has been training people in her method since 1989. Her trained HypnoBirthing® practitioners are working throughout the USA, Canada, Europe, New Zealand and Australia.
Written by Fabian Louise Foley.
This HypnoBirthing article originally appeared in the NATURAL LIFE REVIEW June/July 2001 Issue.