Hypnosis for Childbirth: What Is It and Does It Work?
by Kerry Tuschhoff, HCHI, CHt, CI
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 hypno-moms, 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 procedures 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 birth will 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. 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, yet these issues are easily addressed and learned in a good consumer oriented childbirth class such as Hypnobabies, 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. It is important to know that the childbirth hypnosis program you choose to use will directly affect your success in having a comfortable birth, so educate yourself before choosing.
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:
Choice # 1: You can seek out a Childbirth Hypnosis class in your area. Some are taught at local birth centers, holistic offices or the instructor's homes. The backgrounds of our Hypnobabies Instructors always include hypnosis training and childbirth education, both necessary for excellent results. You can find a Hypnobabies Instructor by visiting www.hypnobabies.com and look under Professional listings.
You may want to ask a prospective instructor the following when you contact them:
- If they have a background in hypnotherapy. (Some instructors are certified or clinical hypnotherapists. This is helpful as they will be able to help you with individual issues)
- What their background is in childbirth education: midwifery, doula training, childbirth teacher, nursing etc. (A childbirth training background is necessary so that all of your pregnancy and childbirth questions and concerns can be addressed adequately in class.)
- How long they have been teaching Childbirth Hypnosis classes, and where they teach the class?
- How many classes do they teach and how long is each one?
- What materials do they provide with the class? (Books, scripts and CDs or tapes)
- How much is the class fee, and is it a group class or private?
- Do they attend births as a Hypno-doula, and if so, how many have they attended? If not, have they trained any local doulas for this?
- Ask them about why they became a Childbirth Hypnosis instructor. Hopefully they have a passion for working with pregnant couples and a love of natural, unmedicated birthing!
Choice # 2: 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 well.
Of course, we think our Hypnobabies Home Study Course is the best one available, since it is so detailed and successful, so please visit us at www.hypnobabies.com to learn more about it.
Choice # 3: 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, since 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 partner 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 expectant mother. 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.
To find a hypnotherapist in your area, you can look in your phone book under "hypnosis" or "hypnotherapy", or contact the International Medical and Dental Hypnotherapy Association for a referral at (248) 549-5594 or (800) 257-5467.
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 most drugs are given in an adult dose to women in labor and will reach her baby in less than 5 minutes with effects ranging from respiratory depression to breastfeeding problems, and using hypnosis techniques can greatly help to avoid them. The deep relaxation learned in a our Childbirth Hypnosis classes 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 hypno-anesthesia will benefit you for the rest of your life.
Kerry Tuschhoff, HCHI, CHt, CI is a Certified Hypnotherapist, Childbirth Educator, and Founder of Hypnobabies Network in Cypress, CA. She teaches Hypnobabies Childbirth classes, Hypnobabies Instructor Training Courses, Hypno-Doula Workshops, Pregnancy Nutrition and Breastfeeding workshops, Birth Hypnosis Specialty Courses and gives seminars in her community on natural pregnancy and childbirth options.
Kerry also created the Hypnobabies Home Study Course for women who need self-study options for hypnotic childbirth, and is the author of Hypnobabies, Eyes Open Childbirth Hypnosis, Pregnancy Hypnosis the Hypnobabies Way, The Introduction to Childbirth Hypnosis Workbook for Professionals, and The Hypno-Doula Training Workbook. The foremost expert in Hypnosis for Childbirth, she is also an international conference speaker and lecturer.
Kerry can be reached at: 714-952-2229
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