Hypnobirthing: Does it work?

Childbirth is a time for excitement, celebration, joy and – pain! Did you know that 61% of moms-to-be opt for an epidural during delivery?

For most of their lives women have been inundated with negative stories of other women’s birth experiences. They have been conditioned to believe that excruciating pain is associated with labour, and because of this, women today have an unprecedented fear of giving birth. But, it doesn’t have to be this way.

There’s been a big surge in interest in hypnobirthing over the last couple of years – This could be due to the fact that celebrities such as Kate Middleton, Jessica Alba, and Pink, all used hypnosis in their birth preparation.

Although relatively new in South Africa, this increasingly popular mind-body technique among parents seeking a natural birthing experience with less pain, are used by thousands of women in the UK and the USA.

The British Medical Association approved hypnotherapy as a valid medical treatment and effective form of pain management during childbirth in 1955. The American Medical Association approved hypnotherapy in 1958. Hypnosis is so widely accepted in America among physicians, psychologists and dentists, that it is considered mainstream.

What is hypnobirthing?
Nature intended for women to give birth relatively easily, but Western culture teaches us that childbirth is an agonising experience to be dreaded.

Fear during labour activates our primal “fight or flight” mechanism, causing stress hormones to slow down digestion, make the heart speed up, force blood to the arms and the legs, and ultimately deplete blood flow to the uterus, creating uterine pain and hindering the labour process. Extreme fear causes the body to become tense, and that tension prohibits the body from performing a normal physiological function. The result is exactly what moms-to-be fear the most – long painful birthing or unnecessary intervention.

Hypnobirthing is based on the belief that childbirth doesn’t have to be a painful, scary ordeal to be endured.

It’s really all about the natural birth process. Hypnobirthing involves teaching the technique of self-hypnosis. Through self-hypnosis you will move into a deeply relaxed state. By replacing fear with relaxation, a different set of chemicals come into play. Whilst breathing deeply and rhythmically, the flow of oxygen to the blood is increased.

This will help to keep you and your baby calm and will stimulate the production of oxytocin – the hormone responsible for contractions. Hypnosis will also make use of the body’s own chemicals – endorphins – to block pain.

So, by using hypnosis, you will be able to tap into the brain to release the natural “pain killers” as needed! When the mom-to-be is free from fear, her body functions more efficiently.

Does this mean that you will start clucking like a chicken after a sinister man swinging a pocket watch told you to feel sleepy? Not at all. You are fully awake and in control during the experience. This is “focused relaxing” where the subconscious mind is open to suggestion. This technique teaches you how to release all prior programming about birth and how to trust your body and work with it. It allows you to let go of fear and other negative emotions. Your body is free to tap into its own natural instincts and to function as it is designed to do in childbirth.

What are the pros of hypnobirthing?

• Reduces pain and the length of labour.
• Reduces the need for medical intervention.
• Increases your chances of a faster recovery.
• Makes babies calmer at birth.
• Fewer cases of post-natal depression.
• Babies are more alert and have a higher Apgar score.
• Highly beneficial for relaxing moms during C-sections as well.

What are the cons?

• It takes practise, preparation and dedication.
• Birth is unpredictable; you may not get to use the technique as planned.

A course in hypnobirthing consists of regular sessions that can either be held in a group, or privately. You will be provided with a booklet, CD’s and course materials. Dr. Douglas Dumbrill, a gynaecologist at the Vincent Pallotti Hospital in Cape Town, supports any technique that makes labour manageable. Dumbrill confirms that many moms who engage in hypnobirthing are generally very happy with the result.

Science shows that mind over matter can work when it comes to easing labour pains. As an expecting mom you have many decisions to make for your birthing experience. Have you made your choice yet?

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