Let’s face it: No matter how many birth plan variations you create, the reality is that you have little control over how (not to mention when) labor and delivery goes down. A myriad of different situations could arise, each presenting with their own set of variables. What you can do in preparation for D-day, however, is just that — prepare. You can take classes, read books, skim articles, and work with experts, such as birth doulas. Another option: HypnoBirthing, a childbirth course that is becoming increasingly popular, especially among millennial moms.
Though the concept of HypnoBirthing has been around since its discovery by Marie Mongan in the late 1980s, like most things that become “trends,” its popularity spawned by a number of celebrities now touting its benefits, including Gisele Bundchen and Kate Middleton. Rumor has it, Meghan Markle also plans to practice HypnoBirthing when she goes into labor with the newest member of the British royal family. So, what's with all the hype? Through a series of childbirth education courses, moms-to-be are essentially instructed on how to stay in control of their body and mind through self-hypnosis, allowing the birthing process to happen more comfortably.
Okay, sure, it sounds a little strange -- but thousands of women swear by the technique. Want to learn more? Here, we spoke to experts about the Hypnobirthing experience.
What exactly is HypnoBirthing?
Though often considered to be an element of hypnotism, where the mind is completely taken over, this is not the case with HypnoBirthing. “Contrary to what you may have seen in stage hypnosis, HypnoBirthing is very simply a method of deep relaxation so that the body is loose and limp, offering no resistance to the muscles as our body opens up to birth,” explains Carol Yeh-Garner, San Diego-based HypnoBirthing teacher. Going into labor with tools to help guide your thoughts and relax your body allows for a calmer and more comfortable birth, she explains.
And although HypnoBirthing is intended to help women have a more relaxing birthing experience, it is not designed only for those planning to have a natural childbirth. “The main objective is to give women techniques they can access during labor and delivery to provide them with confidence in the face of fear, while at the same time assuring them that they can trust their body to take over,” adds Deborah Binun, a psychotherapist, HypnoBirthing practitioner, and founder of Birth Free. “The fact that many do end up with a natural birth is merely a testimony to the success of these techniques.”
The elements of HypnoBirthing
The core essentials to HypnoBirthing involve three main elements: relaxation, pain management, and mental preparation.
Relaxation: As Binun explains, HypnoBirthing involves a variety of exercises and techniques to help condition the body to relax leading up to the birth so that on the day of, relaxation comes much more naturally. “When uterine muscles are soft and supple, they can function more quickly and easily,” she says. “Since tension causes pain, the more relaxed one is, the more comfortable birth will be.”
Pain management: Due to the deeply relaxed state women find themselves in, Binun has found that some women who practice HypnoBirthing report feeling nothing more than pressure as the only indicator of contractions. “Others do feel some pain and therefore pain management techniques are taught, similar to those used by doctors and dentists to successfully perform surgery without an anesthetic,” she explains. These techniques involve breathing exercises, which Binun says can be 200 times more effective than morphine, thanks to the body’s natural release of endorphins.
Mental preparation: “This is literally like spring cleaning the mind of all the negative beliefs and connotations associated with birth from stories, films, past experiences, etc.,” says Binun. “Using guided visualizations, it can be beneficial to imagine a smooth, peaceful birthing from beginning to end, similar to what sportsman or marathon runners do when they visualize crossing the finish line.”
Okay, but is it actually effective?
Is HypnoBirthing a complete cure-all for labor and delivery pains? Absolutely not. However, many moms do find relief from practicing it. “Though HypnoBirthing has sometimes been accused of giving women unrealistic expectations of the specific outcome or circumstances of their birth, I feel this is really down to the individual teacher to correct any misconceptions,” says Binan. “Women have been inundated with negative images of birth and are conditioned to believe that the birthing process needs to be painful, but with HypnoBirthing, they are able to release their fears about labor, delivery, and the postpartum period that follows.”
When it comes the birthing experience, I think we can all agree that anything that can provide added comfort and decrease stress is worth a shot. It doesn’t come with any risks — it’s merely a set of tools that can be practiced, or not used at all. If you’re interested in HypnoBirthing, inform your family doctor or obstetrician and seek out a trained practitioner.