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Hypnosis for Childbirth: What Is It -- And Does It Work?

Posted on January 23rd, 2013 by | 5 views
By Kerry Tuschhoff, HCHI, CHt, CI

Mention the words “labor and delivery” to an expectant mom in her last trimester, and chances are good that her heart will begin to race and her mind flood 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, birth is a very fearful event. For “hypnomoms,” it is merely a challenge.

What is hypnosis, anyway?

These wise “hypnomoms” 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 creating 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, many misconceptions remain regarding hypnosis that can dissuade those contemplating this powerful tool.

Here are a few facts about what hypnosis can do:


  • All hypnosis is self-hypnosis; the hypnotherapist is only the guide. A person chooses to enter into a hypnotic state, stay in it and come out of it at will.
  • It is estimated that approximately 90 to 95 percent of the population can be hypnotized. Willingness, belief and motivation have great influence over hypnotizability.
  • During hypnosis you are neither asleep nor unconscious. You 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 oriented toward religion or spirituality at all. It is simply a way to direct your inner mind toward the positive.

So what about hypnosis for childbirth?

Hypnosis is used with great success in medical and dental procedures 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.

During labor, the more relaxation the mother experiences, the more comfort she will have. 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 bypassed with hypnosis, the inner mind can literally be reprogrammed to believe that birth will be comfortable, easy and joyous. It’s software for your mind!

Managing fears and expectations

In other cultures, childbirth is regarded as a natural, normal event in a woman's life. 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 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 those of 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, an 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, allowing 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. This is important, since any drugs taken by a laboring woman can be dangerous for her and especially her baby. She has total control over her body and is an active participant in her birth process. As labor progresses, she relaxes even more and 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 experiencing a minimum amount of pain…or none at all? They can, but there are many variables during labor and birth that can affect the outcome. Couples need to have a positive but realistic view of hypnosis for childbirth.

Pregnant women and their partners must take responsibility for the choices they make while in labor and how those choices can affect the dynamics and outcome. Many a wonderful birth has been thwarted by not realizing how to make positive, informed choices. These issues are easily addressed and learned in a good consumer-oriented childbirth class or by doing research beforehand.

Without a doubt, women using hypnosis are much calmer and more relaxed during labor, which automatically creates more comfort. They also benefit from powerful post-hypnotic suggestions to actually eliminate pain and fear.

How effective is this?

Statistics vary by program and method, 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, childbirth hypnosis instructors have backgrounds in both hypnotherapy and childbirth education and are 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 to mother and baby.
  • Shorter labors are likely based on decreased or eliminated resistance of the birthing muscles as a response to pain.
  • Mothers are awake and energized mother, based on total relaxation throughout the birthing process.
  • The birthing environment is calm and peaceful.
  • Hypnosis provides the ability to turn breech and posterior babies.
  • Hypnosis is associated with fewer interventions and complications during labor.
  • Babies sleep and nurse better because they have fewer drugs in their systems.

How to study: Where do you start?

Couples who are ready to begin their hypno-journey will benefit by researching all of their options to find a practitioner who allows them to achieve their goals.

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. Not all of them already have an effective program in place in their practice. A good childbirth hypnotherapist will offer at least four sessions in the office (six to seven are optimal), the last occurring one week before the estimated due date. You should receive at least one tape or CD to listen to at home by yourself and one or more cues for your birth companion 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. Some use and modify 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 modifying them to the needs of each woman. 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 and those who have specific deep-seated fears about childbirth.

To find a hypnotherapist in your area, 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.

You can seek out a hypnosis for childbirth class in your area. Some are taught at local hospitals and birth centers, and some are taught at the instructors’ homes. The backgrounds of the instructors can vary widely: hypnotherapist, nurse, doula, childbirth educator. Obviously, the more training and experience they have in the fields they are teaching, the better the class. To find a class, call local hospitals and physicians’ offices or do a search on the Internet for “hypnosis, childbirth, education.”

Screening potential instructors

You may want to ask prospective childbirth hypnosis instructors a few questions.

  • Do you have a background in hypnotherapy? A hypnotherapy background is helpful so that they will be able to help you with individual issues.
  • Do you have a background in childbirth education? This is also helpful to ensure that no other childbirth classes will be necessary, as they may differ greatly from the philosophy and teachings of the hypnotherapy class.
  • How long have you been teaching hypnosis for childbirth classes, and where do you teach the class?
  • How many classes do you teach, and how long is each one?
  • What materials do you provide with the class? Books, tapes, CDs, scripts and phone help are possibilities.
  • How much is the class fee, and is it a group class or private?
  • Do you attend births as a hypnodoula, and if so, how many have you attended? If not, have you trained any local doulas for this?
  • How many of your former students have been successful using their childbirth hypnosis course? This is something they should know.
  • Why did you become a childbirth hypnosis instructor? Hopefully they have a passion for childbirth and a love of natural, unmedicated birthing.

You can also choose a home study course, of which there are many. To find one, search on the Internet for “hypnosis, childbirth, home study.” An adequate home study program provides detailed information on hypnosis and how to use it during childbirth as well as hypno-tools for you to achieve your goals, including books, tapes, CDs, handouts and hypnosis scripts. Because you will be studying on your own, it is your responsibility to gain as much knowledge as possible, so choose well.

It is well worth the time to look into hypnosis for childbirth, both for yourself and for your baby. It is important to remember that many drugs given to a woman in labor reach the baby in adult doses in less than five minutes. Using hypnosis techniques can help avoid needing drugs. The deep relaxation has even helped many a nervous dad to cope with their children’s birth! The skills you will learn for relaxation and hypnosis will benefit you for the rest of your life.

Reprinted with permission from the author.
Kerry Tuschhoff, HCHI, CHt, is a certified hypnotherapist, childbirth educator and Director of Hypnobabies Network in Cypress, California. Kerry created the Hypnobabies Home Study Course for women who need self-study options for hypnotic childbirth. She is the author of Hypnobabies: Eyes Open Childbirth Hypnosis, The Birth Hypnosis Workbook for Professionals and The Hypno-Doula Training Workbook. She is an international conference speaker and lecturer and trains childbirth educators and hypnotherapists to become Hypnobabies Instructors. She can be reached at (877) 55-HYPNO, or at her Hypnobabies web site.

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