What do you think of when you think of hypnosis? Swinging shiny objects, snapping fingers, people slumped in their chairs, a low-rent comedian making people quack like ducks? I'm willing to bet whatever comes to mind is absolutely nothing like the true experience of using childbirth hypnosis. I know, as I've used it personally for my two births, as well as supported many doula clients as they have used it to successfully achieve easier, more comfortable birth experiences.
The type of childbirth hypnosis I recommend is a self-study, self-hypnosis program that allows women to stay fully awake and aware, as well as move around as they please, often while actually enjoying their experience. While the effects are amazing, the process is pretty straightforward. It requires a six week regimen of listening to hypnosis tracks consistently and as directed in order to fully harness the power of the mind-body connection. You are essentially training yourself to easily enter a deep state of relaxation, while reprogramming your mind to eliminate fear, as well as expect and achieve an easier, more comfortable experience. While it sounds wild, this program truly has the ability to change how your body will experience the sensations of birth, through the use of specialized hypnotic induction and post-hypnotic suggestion techniques. All it requires is an open mind, repetition, and (like birth) a willingness to let go and surrender to the process.
What it isn't? Here are the 5 most common myths I come across about childbirth hypnosis:
1) You'll be out of control
A lot of people equate hypnosis with mind control. While it does harness the incredible power of the mind, with self-hypnosis you are the one in control. You are fully awake and aware, and completely able to move around as you wish while in hypnosis.
2) You'll be in a trance/out of it/won't remember your experience
While the word hypnosis is based on the Greek work "hupnos", meaning sleep, childbirth self-hypnosis is actually more of a state of self-focus. The term hypnotism stems from the work of James Braid in the 1800's, when hypnotic induction often began with the hypnotist's attempt to fatigue the eye muscles of the subject in order to get them into hypnosis. Hypnobabies instead relies on the use of music using “Theta binaural beats”, along with a "finger drop" self induction technique to help you guide yourself into hypnosis. It's pretty much basic operant conditioning, and over time you begin to associate the music, the finger drop visualization, the woman's voice on the recordings, and the cue words used (such as 'peace' and 'release') with entering hypnosis. While you will likely be very focused inward, birth tends to have that effect on you anyway. You won't be out of it, you'll be in it.
3) It is BS/nonsense/won't work
It's not BS. It really does work. I know it works because it worked for me, and I've seen it work for clients I've supported. I have also read countless unsolicited positive birth stories and seen videos of others using the techniques successfully. Does it work well for everyone? No. It seems to depend largely on how well the program is followed as well as overall mindset and acceptance of the suggestions, but sometimes for unknown reasons it just doesn't seem to be as effective. While it works better for some than others, you really can't know unless you try, how well it will work for you.
4) It's easy to achieve by just reading a book/attending a class/getting very relaxed
I said this program is straight forward, but it's not necessarily easy. It's not difficult to do, but it is a significant time commitment to follow the program as directed, listening to two somewhat lengthy hypnosis tracks per day, one of which requires you to be in a relaxed, fully supported position, and not doing anything else. Effective childbirth hypnosis requires diligent practice and repetition, and is not something you are easily able to achieve simply by reading a book, attending a class, or getting into a state of deep relaxation. However, the payoff is worth it.
5) Your birth will be predictable/super easy/100% comfortable
Birth, even while using hypnosis is still completely unpredictable. There can still be unforeseen complications that may come up, you may still find your birth to be challenging, and you may still experience discomfort. While some people report 100% comfortable births, I think that is a small minority. What most do say is that it was MUCH easier, and MUCH MORE comfortable than prior birthing experiences, or what they expected or imagined it could be. While I recommend it to every family interested in an unmedicated, low intervention birth- in my experience it is one (very worthwhile) tool in your toolbox, but it isn't everything. It can be used with or without a trained Hypno-doula (such as myself) to help support you and keep you focused, and can also be used in conjunction with other various coping techniques such as hydrotherapy, movement, position changes, counter pressure, acupressure, etc.
And that's my take on childbirth hypnosis in a nut shell. I'm truly fascinated by it, passionate about it, and I love sharing my experience and knowledge on birth hypnosis with others so that they too can experience an easier, more comfortable birth. So let me know if you have any questions!
Written by Angie Traska of Align Doula Services, providing intuitive, attentive doula support that aligns with you. Looking for doula support or lactation counseling in the Madison area? Contact me here.