Birth hypnosis, HypnoBirthing, Hypnobabies, Hypbirth, the Birth Relaxation Kit...
If you're at all part of the birth world, you've probably heard of one or more of these terms. I've had four pregnancies, four labors, and four babies all using some kind of hypnosis.
Basic idea of hypnosis for childbirth (in my words): the mind is extremely powerful and malleable. Through deep relaxation, conscious breathing, and visualization, you can reprogram yourself to respond positively to the sensations of labor.
How and when I listened to the hypnosis recordings:
For my first baby, I listened to the two hypnosis tracks provided with Marie Mongan's Hypnobirthing book. I listened to one track every day for the last two months of pregnancy. I didn't have an mp3 player at the time, so I listened on my stereo system. I turned the track on early in my labor when I started having contractions. Once I was up and moving around the house, I turned it off.
For babies #2 and #3, I used the Hypnobabies Self-Study Program. You're supposed to listen to one of the hypnosis tracks, along with the birth affirmations track, daily starting at around 30 weeks. I ended up skipping the affirmations most days. I was busy enough with little children that I didn't have time for two sessions. I put the tracks on my mp3 player when I lay down in bed at night and usually "slept" through most of them, waking up at the end of the track. I listened for a few hours early on in both labors. But once things really started cooking, I was no longer interested. Well, more like I was too occupied with labor to focus on anything else!
For baby #4, I used the Birth Relaxation Kit, a complete birth hypnosis program. Like with my last two babies, I listened at night when going to bed. I listened a bit during early labor, but not once the work started in earnest.
I'd consider using hypnosis in labor a small added bonus. For me, the real value of hypnosis came during pregnancy. The daily deep relaxation was priceless, especially when I was dealing with severe sleep issues and the typical worries of pregnancy (will the baby be okay? what if _____ happens?).
Does birth hypnosis work?
I'd answer with a qualified yes. Some hypnosis programs emphasize having a comfortable, pain-free birth. I was always a bit hesitant with those promises. I totally believe that some women do have pain-free, comfortable births through hypnosis. But I was also wary of trying to force my experience into a box (and then being disappointed when it didn't fit).
Rather than aiming for being pain-free or even comfortable, I wanted to embrace all the sensations of labor without judgement, to work through the process without fear, to feel everything and to fight nothing.
I don't know why some poeple can do hypnosis programs and feel no pain ("I only felt pressure," they often say, "really intense pressure but no pain"). Or why others like me feel all the sensations--good and bad, pain and pleasure, pressure and power. I theorize that it depends on where the hypnosis affects the nervous system.
Some women truly can "anesthetize" themselves and eliminate feelings
of pain entirely. (I still wonder how they can do it, honestly, since
there is no way I can imagine feeling the sensations of labor without
pain being one of them.) But for them, hypnosis works here to filter, or
perhaps the better word is "alter," the sensations of labor so that
they are not experienced as pain or discomfort once they reach the
brain. Like this:
For me, hypnosis doesn't control the sensations going into the brain. I feel and experience everything. The hypnosis kicks in at the other end, where the brain reacts and sends out signals. The hypnosis helps me experience labor without fighting or struggling against it. So instead of controlling what I feel, hypnosis helps me control how I react and interpret what I'm feeling. Like this:
Mothers using birth hypnosis
are often, but not always, outwardly calm. I tend to remain quiet and focused during active labor,
although I'm more vocal when I'm pushing. I don't think you need to act calm or quiet to be effectively hypnotized. Remember that hypnosis is really just very deep relaxation and meditation.You can be up, moving, and talking and still be in a hypnotic state.
Stay tuned for my thoughts on the Birth Relaxation Kit...
In the meantime, I want to hear about your experiences using birth hypnosis. Please share!