Childbirth may be one of the most complex yet beautiful life events any woman would love to experience. It is a normal human biological function. Yet, it is also the most dreaded if not the most misunderstood occurrence for a soon-to-be mom.
Thanks to those horrible movies and television programs showing a woman screaming to death depicting the pain she has to endure while delivering her precious child. That must have been the scenario before Marie “Mickey” Mongan, M.Ed., M.Hy introduced HypnoBirthing. She was the founder of HypnoBirthing Institute. She is an award-winning hypnotherapist from Florida, U.S.A. Marie is also a fellow of the Harvard University Ford Foundation.
According to Mongan, a woman can bring her body in a state of deep relaxation through hypnosis wherein the body’s muscles can work naturally the way they are meant to function during childbirth.
So What is HypnoBirthing?
HypnoBirthing is gaining popularity nowadays as one of the natural childbirth techniques that involve deep relaxation and self-hypnosis to help expectant moms to move through the different stages of labor thus attaining her personal goal of a pain-free, no medication intervention childbirth that is possibly safe enough for both the mother and her baby.
HypnoBirthing combines education and learning to develop an open and positive mindset about motherhood. It teaches scientifically-proven techniques and what happens to a woman’s body as her body prepares for childbirth.
Also known as the Mongan-Method, HypnoBirthing assumes that the expectant pain mothers feel during child delivery is due to the anxiety of the unknown and the apprehension surrounding the event based from the negative stories she has heard or read. By releasing those fears and embracing the process, the theory involving HypnoBirthing states that women can endure and cope through the birthing process without the need for any pain medication.
The word “hypnobirthing,” which is a two-word combination of the words “hypnosis” and “birthing,” is a misnomer. Why? Yes, it involves hypnosis during childbirth – could be self-hypnosis or hypnosis through the help of a hypnotherapist. But no, it does not use dangling or swinging pocket watches and pendulums or clucking chickens such as what we are familiar with. No, the woman giving birth is not put in a deep sleep and has control over herself. On the other hand, HypnoBirthing allows you to remain alert and awake oblivious of what is going on in your surroundings.
The Science Behind HypnoBirthing
Expectant mothers usually associate pain during childbirth, and this fear during labor activates the so-called fight-or-flight mechanism of the body. It causes the stress hormone called catecholamines which slow down food digestion.
Eventually, it increases the function of the heart that pumps blood to the arms and legs, and ultimately depleting the flow of blood to the uterus that causes uterine discomfort and thereby hindering the labor process.
Based on the belief of Mongan, it is physically impossible for the body to relax and at the same time be in the state of fight-or-flight mode. By replacing anxiety with relaxation, a different set of chemicals come to play: labor hormones called prostaglandins, oxytocin, and endorphins combine to relax the muscles and create a sense of comfort.
In other words, the theory behind HypnoBirthing is that fear and tension cause most of the pain during childbirth, so controlling your feelings through a series of deep breathing and deep relaxation techniques will, in turn, reduce your sensation of pain.
Advocates of this method say that staying calm prevents your body from going into the panicky “fight-or-flight mode” that enables you to focus your energy on a faster, more relaxed, and more natural delivery. There is also a belief that staying calm during childbirth can help your body produce hormones like oxytocin which triggers contractions and endorphins which dull pain and elicit a pleasurable sensation.
How is HypnoBirthing Done?
You might think that HypnoBirthing is something new, but the ideas behind this technique date back to the 1940s. Dr. Grantley Dick-Read, the English obstetrician who founded the principles on National Childbirth Trust (NTC), published a book titled Childbirth Without Fear, which was initially titled Revelation of Childbirth.
As an advocate of natural childbirth, Dr. Dick-Read believed that the fear felt by the woman during birth had a direct impact on the degree of pain she experienced. He theorized that the negative emotions could filter blood away from the uterus, which, as a result, was left without oxygen and could not perform its function efficiently or without pain.
The award-winning US hypnotherapist Marie Mongan later applied this theory and created a self-hypnosis program which she named HypnoBirthing.
Couples who are expecting a brand- new life can create their birth plan as early as they wish. Some may opt for a hospital, birthing center or home setting with a doctor or a midwife, using pain relievers or not, trying for a vaginal delivery or a c-section. These are all to be considered and decided upon keeping in mind that where a baby is concerned, there are no guarantees, and the couples must be fully prepared to alter their birth plans if needed for the mother and baby’s safety.
The beautiful thing about HypnoBirthing is you can customize it to work for you. Whether it be at home or hospital, medicated or not, you can use the techniques to go through labor and delivery mentally prepared, confident, and in control.
Techniques for HypnoBirthing
A variety of HypnoBirthing techniques are available to everyone. You may choose to attend a private class, a one-on-one class or an online course. Be reminded that this isn’t cheap though. Some may opt to read books or get information from CDs and even podcasts.
The techniques involved in HypnoBirthing consist of the following; each one may or may not be a perfect fit for everyone.
HypnoBirthing classes teach three breathing techniques:
- Relaxation Breathing– This is the relaxed breathing you’ll have for most of your birthing time. A simple relaxation technique where you inhale and exhale through your nose naturally. It is designed to help you enter into a relaxed state;
- “Up” or “Surge” Breathing– This breathing method involves inhaling gently through your nose as long as you can. Then, breathe out again through your nose directing the energy of the breath down;
- “Breathing/Bearing Down”– Also known as Birth Breathing/J Breathing, again, it is a quicker breath in and a longer breath out through the nose. It directs the breath down and out.
These methods of breathing may be combined with counting and seem to be very useful throughout labor. Slow, deep breaths can increase the supply of oxygen getting into your muscles which help them relax.
Counting while breathing helps to keep your mind occupied thereby focusing more on the process of childbirth. Always remember, there is no single right way for you to breathe. Do what works and feels best for you.
This technique involves the participation of your partner. Ask him to apply a light touch massage doing a pressure point technique on your back and the back of your legs. This method stimulates the metabolism that helps your body process adrenaline hormone and lactic acid, so you feel calm again.
Listening to a Meditative Recording/Music or Reading a Book
One way of teaching your body to relax on command is to have a stimulus or trigger. Some pregnant women claim that playing a piece of relaxing music would make it easier for their body to begin to tighten and loosen. Some would also practice daily affirmations like “My baby is the perfect size for my body” and “I relax, and my baby relaxes” to better prepare themselves mentally and physically for the ordeal.
It is like meditating or visualizing a peaceful scene that makes you feel calm and relaxed like waterfalls or a serene lake. For some people, they imagine themselves in the middle of the ocean and seeing “surges” or contractions similar to waves moving through their body and releasing the pain out through the vagina with each wave bringing you closer to your baby.
You may also use this technique to imagine your cervix softening and opening up like the petals of a flower, your body changing to guide your baby descending into the cervical canal and eventually coming out to meet you. It is picturing in your mind the feeling of holding your baby after they are born to help you to be well prepared and positive mentally and physically.
Use of Aromatherapy
The smell is a powerful sense and can bring up emotions and memories. When you’re practicing relaxation exercises during pregnancy, burn lavender oil, it will trigger a calming and soothing effect that will reduce fear and thereby releasing muscle tension.
Self-hypnosis in childbirth has been present for centuries according to experts. By filling the mind with positive thoughts and affirmations, and mentally practicing for birth, a woman can prepare to experience birth fully and without fear. However, only in the last three decades that classes have begun to develop under different programs such as The Mongan Method, Hypnobabies, and Hypbirth.
Despite the variety of programs available nowadays, the philosophy remains the same. Nature intended women give birth relatively easy and fast. Childbirth is a beautiful and natural process the female body innately knows how to carry out.
Is HypnoBirthing for Everyone?
Some people with fatal allergies to anesthetics undergo and recover from surgeries with hypnosis as their only anesthesia. If hypnosis can effectively remove pain for operations of all kinds, then it can work for childbirth.
All healthy, low-risk pregnant women, as well as women who need medical assistance because of exceptional circumstances, may choose to deliver their babies in a natural, calmer manner through a simple program of self-hypnosis and education.
These women learn to accept and see childbirth as a beautiful and normal physiological process. They learn to trust their bodies. They trust they know how to bring out their babies into this world in a relaxed and gentle way that nature intended it to be. So anyone open to learning and practicing relaxation is qualified to use this technique.
Pros and Cons of Choosing HypnoBirthing
- It can help you manage adrenaline. It is a hormone released by the body during stressful situations. Hypnobirthing should lead to more relaxed and comfortable childbirth. During a woman’s labor, oxytocin is released by the body to help in the progress of the delivery. Adrenaline could affect the production of oxytocin which results in prolonged labor. HypnoBirthing can reduce the release of adrenaline thereby making the labor shorter.
- It may remove or reduce the need for medical interventions and drugs. Those interventions may produce potential side effects for you or your baby.
- Hypnobirthing allows you to remain awake and alert throughout the whole process of childbirth.
- It can lower the chance of postpartum depression or also known as PPD. This is a complex mix of physical, emotional, and behavioral changes that happen to a woman after giving birth.
- HypnoBirthing provides better Apgar scores for babies. Apgar score is a system of assessing a newborn’s health. Often done by adding points for heart rate, respiratory effort, and other indicators, a score often represents the best possible condition for babies born with this method.
- It gives you the feeling of control during your birthing rather than relying heavily on your doctor or midwife.
- It can help your birth partner play a more active role during childbirth. Birth partners, especially the father provides loving support that creates quite an intimate and relaxed birthing experience.
- Most private health insurance providers do cover childbirth education classes worldwide.
- It does not guarantee a birth that is free from medical interventions or complications.
- It may require you to pay a fee to attend private classes.
- Some women find it harder to become hypnotized.
- Some women find visualization and the power of suggestions a little more difficult
Classes like HypnoBirthing and Hypnobabies are alternative programs that promise to relieve pain during labor and childbirth. They teach pregnant women to use hypnotic techniques to make the experience of birth relaxed, meditative, and worthwhile. When used in delivery, hypnosis is typically self-induced and involves entering a state of deep relaxation coupled with intense concentration.
Hypnobabies is another program that uses a similar technique but with some modifications. They train mothers to self-hypnotize with their eyes completely open during the process. The “eyes-open” childbirth hypnosis keeps the hypno-moms deeply hypnotized while walking, talking, and changing position, being mobile as they can be during delivery.
This program teaches a real, medical-grade hypnotic technique that creates an automatically peaceful, relaxing and more comfortable pregnancy, a calm and more confident Birth Partner or companion, and a smoother, much more comfortable natural childbirth for the Hypno-mom.
Both programs offer classes that help deprogram and remove negative thoughts. They replace them with positive ideas related to labor. Also, they teach you techniques such as relaxing breathing, visualization, and affirmations.
Famous Celebrities Who Have Experienced HypnoBirthing
Reports have it that the Duchess of Cambridge is an advocate and used HypnoBirthing for all three of the royal births. After five-hour labor at St. Mary’s Hospital in London, UK, for their third child, the royal couple Kate Middleton and husband Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, posed on the steps of the hospital to greet well-wishers who gathered to welcome the arrival of the newest member of the Royal Family.
People close to actress Jessica Alba revealed that she is a big fan of HypnoBirthing classes. She admitted it helped her to chill or relax in preparation for the birth of her second baby. When asked what she could say about this method, she said she would recommend the technique to other soon-to-be moms as a way to feel confident before the big day.
The celebrity mother of six beautiful children, Angelina Jolie, tried the HypnoBirthing method when she gave birth to her twins, Vivienne and Knox, via cesarean section or c-section.
This famous model opted to give birth at home in her bathtub without any painful experience. She stated that “the labor was more like meditation. I did yoga breathing and was very focused.”
This celebrity decided to let nature take its course with a little help from HypnoBirthing.
An actress of American television’s “Saved by the Bell” and “90210”, Tiffani Thiessen has also announced she will prepare for a hypnobirth.
Other celebrities who have used this technique include Pamela Anderson, Demi Moore, Cindy Crawford, and Miranda Kerr.
How is HypnoBirthing Different From Other Natural Childbirth Preparation Methods
Other natural childbirth methods include Lamaze and the Bradley method.
The Lamaze technique or the psychoprophylactic method, began as a childbirth preparation technique in the 1950s pioneered by Dr. Fernand Lamaze. It is based on his findings in the Soviet Union as an alternative for the use of medical interventions during childbirth.
One of the first natural approaches available, this method is popular for its breathing instruction which is shorter and faster. The rhythmic breathing patterns help women turn their attention away from their contractions. Lamaze became unpopular because some moms experienced hyperventilation which is a no-no in birthing.
The pros of this method include its affordability and naturally-minded nature. Meanwhile, its cons include its limitations in time, its opportunity for exhibiting hyperventilation, and it’s unnatural characteristic.
Popularized by Dr. Robert A. Bradley, this method emphasizes the father or partner as the birthing coach rather than a doula. It gives the father or birth partner defined roles throughout his wife’s pregnancy and delivery. In this method, mothers are encouraged to trust their body and focus on diet and exercise throughout pregnancy.
The pros of this method include its replicability and naturally-minded nature. Meanwhile, it being out-fashioned, outdated, and too long are just some of this method’s cons.
Unlike other childbirth methods that teach expectant moms how to cope with and manage pain, HypnoBirthing is on the premise that childbirth doesn’t necessarily need to be painful if the mother is properly prepared and relaxed.
When women understand that fear-induced constrictor hormones cause pain, they learn to let go of their fear. Hence, they produce endorphins instead, the feel-good hormones. They are then able to have different expectations. From painful and prolonged labor and replace them with hopes of a more comfortable birthing.
Based on the observations made by Megan Sapp, CNM, FNP, from her private practice as a nurse and midwife, 40% of expecting mothers practiced HypnoBirthing. 40% followed the Bradley method. While the remaining 20% advocated other methods of natural birthing like Lamaze or Meditative Calm Birthing.
The popularity of HypnoBirthing technique over Bradley method is partly due to its receptiveness to necessary medical intervention, an attitude that Bradley patients do not have. There seems to be something gentler that is not there in the Bradley method.
Is HypnoBirthing Worth a Try?
I say definitely “YES” it is worth a try. Giving birth to your child shouldn’t be an agony. It is a natural process that the female human body is ready.
Through HypnoBirthing, you can achieve a deep state of relaxation. Your endorphins, the body’s natural relaxant, replace the stress hormone or adrenaline that prevents the muscles of the body from functioning. Your mind is still aware of your surroundings, what is happening to your body, as well as processing the knowledge you need to acquire to facilitate both labor and childbirth eliminating the use of pharmacological agents for pain management.