There are many ways to manage labor pain, like taking a birthing class, or using positive pregnancy affirmations. And increasingly, hypnobirth is a popular pain management option for expectant mamas.
What is a Hypnobirth?
Hypnobirth is the technical term for hypnosis during labor. And no, it doesn’t involve chanting while waving pocket watches. The practice has been around for over a century, but has recently become more popular.
Hypnotherapist Marie Mongan introduced the phrase in her 1989 book, Hypnobirthing: A Celebration of Life.
Mamas use relaxation, focusing, and breathing techniques to alleviate fear and anxiety during birth. However the idea has been around for much longer than that (source).
Is Hypnobirth the Same as Hypnobirthing?
Hypnobirth is when you use hypnosis techniques during labor (mind over matter). Hypnobirthing is a brand name and class that teaches this technique.
Benefits of Hypnobirth
While it won’t guarantee a perfect, pain-free labor, hypnobirth can provide some impressive benefits. Moms who had a hypnobirth were less likely to have post traumatic stress after baby was born. By improving the birth experience they were able to have a more empowered birth. This improves health outcomes for mama and baby both physically and emotionally.
After hypnobirthing classes, moms reported being calmer and more confident about their upcoming birth. Researchers also found hypnobirth moms had a more satisfying birth experience compared to the control group.
Even if birth doesn’t go as planned, hypnobirth techniques can help. The C-section rate of women who used hypnobirth was 17%, compared to the US national average of 32% (source).
More Peace, Less Pain
Women who give birth with a supportive partner frequently have better health and emotional outcomes. The same is true for hypnobirth. Laboring women had significantly less pain when their partners played an active role in encouraging self-hypnosis during labor (source).
Even compared against typical breathing coaching, hypnobirth trained women had better outcomes (source, source, source, source). Several studies have found hypnobirth trained women:
- Had Shorter labor (over 3 hours less than the control group)
- Needed less pain medication
- Had newborns with higher APGAR scores
- Were less likely to need induced
- Had reduced complications for both mom and baby
- Were less likely to need surgery and interventions
- Left the hospital earlier
- Had significantly better birth outcomes
- Had a more positive birth experience
A Dose of Reality
Learning from hypnobirth experts can help ease fears over having a natural birth. Moms in one hypnobirth class noted how negative examples from TV (especially reality shows) made them scared to face give birth. Apparently screaming women and panicked healthcare providers isn’t very reassuring.
However, once the women went through the class, their fears were alleviated. Hypnobirthing techniques can give women the mental and physical boost they need to push through.
Hypnobirth Outside of the Delivery Room
These techniques don’t just work during labor and delivery. Women who went to hypnobirth classes reported using the skills in other situations. They had less anxiety at the dentist or while trying to breastfeed.
Does Hypnobirth Work?
Nothing in life is guaranteed, but hypnobirth has a long track record of improving birth outcomes. Even if labor isn’t completely pain free, hypnobirth helps reduce pain and complications.
How Hypnobirth Works
Hypnobirth is a holistic approach that focuses on multiple factors for a calm, confident delivery. Women are taught how their bodies work during labor, positive thinking skills, and controlled breathing.
Breathing properly helps the body go into a parasympathetic state to relax the body (out of fight or flight mode). There are several different techniques that can help at different stages of labor and during different situations.
Here’s a video that walks you through two hypnobirth breathing techniques.
Mindset is the most important part of the hypnobirth practice. Since our brain controls what happens in the rest of our body, power over the mind helps give us power over the body. This doesn’t work so well if we’re panicking and thinking about pain, fear, and everything that could go wrong.
Hypnobirth techniques help women shift their mindset to positive thinking and language. So the thought “these contractions are painful,” can turn into “I’m feeling a surge of pressure.” Positive thinking helps eliminate fear based language that makes the body go into fear mode and leads to pain (source).
Similar to avoiding fear based terms and thoughts, hypnobirth also uses positive affirmations. Repeating positive phrases, “like I’m totally relaxed,” gets both the body and mind in a good place for a better birth.
It’s important to repeat positive affirmations constantly and consistently throughout pregnancy. This practice trains the brain and body for an empowered labor.
Listening to affirmations on a CD or your phone is an easy and effective way
relaxation, visualization, meditative practice, attention to nutrition and positive body toning.
Another powerful mental technique used by hypnobirthers is visualization. Some women picture a mental image of a flower blossoming as baby makes their way down the birth canal. There are also more in depth visualizations to walk through.
One hypnobirth visualization coaches women to envision themselves in a hot air balloon. After they imagine themselves emptying a chest full of their fears and inhibitions, the balloon can soar. This is just one example of how mental visualization helps our body release what’s holding our body back.
How to Have a Hypnobirth
The best option is to take a class. The more you dive into hypnobirthing, the more you find there is to learn. It helps to have a qualified instructor take your hand and show you the ropes. Even if you’re a seasoned mama and this isn’t your first time at the rodeo.
Most hypnobirth classes encourage women to start classes in the second trimester. The earlier you start, the more practice your brain gets using the techniques. Eventually it becomes second nature, but the process does take some time (source).
Here are some of the most popular hypnobirth courses. You can often find a local group, or there are classes online.
This hypnobirthing home study course is a comprehensive hypnobirth course to prepare moms for their best birth experience. Along with hypnobirth techniques, this method includes natural birth options and how to navigate interventions. Founded by a certified clinical hypnotherapist and pregnancy and birth counselor, it’s more comprehensive than many HypnoBirthing courses.
HypnoBirthing (the Mongan method)
Originally started by counselor and hypnotherapist Marie Mongan, HypnoBirthing is one of the most established hypnobirth courses. The program is split into five classes, each several hours long. The classes are based on the work of Dr. Grantly Dick-Read, an English obstetrician, and Marie Mongan.
Unlike the HypnoBirthing program, HypnoBabies is based off of hypnotherapist Gerald Kein’s work. It focuses on deep hypnosis techniques instead of simple relaxation, breathing, and guided visualization. Hypnobabies uses medical grade hypnosis techniques to retrain the subconscious brain. This 6 week program can be done online or in person with certified instructors.
Can you Learn How to Have a Hypnobirth Without a Class?
As the saying goes, “We don’t know what we don’t know.” Self-study can be a good way to learn hypnobirth, but it might not be as thorough as a course. Taking a class from a certified professional is a comprehensive way to ensure you’re getting the best and most up to date instruction.
If you want to learn more about hypnobirth techniques, here are some popular books and resources on the subject.
The Bottom Line on Hypnobirth
Hypnobirth is a simple and proven way to have a more positive birth experience. No matter the circumstances, and even if the birth plan gets off course, most moms can benefit from a hypnobirth.