It is common for women to feel worried about labor and childbirth. They can be anxious about the pain they have to go through, the safety of their child, and whether interventions would be needed. Some women experience fear in a way that it overshadows the joy of pregnancy and already affects their daily functioning. Fear of childbirth (FOC) may even have a negative obstetric outcome. This is why relaxation tools, such as hypnobirthing, have become popular for pregnant women.
Hypnobirthing: What It Is
Hypnobirthing is a method that aims to reduce anxiety, pain, and fear during childbirth. It involves deep relaxation, positive affirmations and suggestions, visualization, guided meditation, and calm breathing techniques. The affirmations may include phrases like “I trust in my body and my baby to help me” or “I can give birth to my baby.”
University of South Australia professor of midwifery Mary Steen said that even Duchess of Cambridge Catherine “Kate” Middleton has used hypnobirthing techniques to help her get through hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), a pregnancy complication that is characterized by severe vomiting, nausea, and possibly dehydration.
In the Happy Mum, Happy Baby podcast, the British royal said she saw the power of hypnobirthing. She narrated how she was “really sick” when she was pregnant and she wasn’t eating the foods that she should have been eating. Even the Duke of Cambridge himself “didn’t feel he could do much to help” and it was not easy for everyone in the family to see her suffering without being able to do anything about the situation. Soon, she realized the power of mind over the body. “I realized this was something I could take control of during labor,” she recalls her experience. “It was hugely powerful,” she continued, referring to the deep breathing and meditation.
The Relaxation and Calmness in Hypnobirthing
Originally, hypnobirthing was established in the US by highly-awarded hypnotherapist Marie Mongan, M.Ed. M.Hy. She was also the founder of the HypnoBirthing Institute. With her counseling background and skills as a Master Hypnotherapist, she developed the program for her daughter who wanted to have a child. Soon, thousands of parents and their babies joined the program.
The purpose of hypnobirthing is to teach women to induce a state of mind that is self-hypnotic where she would focus her attention inwards and concentrate deeply. There would be less peripheral awareness but she could still respond to affirmations and suggestions.
Mind and Body Connection
Steen said that a woman who is afraid would be physically tensed, be rigid, and produce the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. This is why her perception of pain would likewise increase and consequently affect her labor. Hypnobirthing counteracts those effects. It helps women secrete endorphins and oxytocin hormones to help them remain relaxed and calm so that they can proceed as normal.
Some women who have undergone hypnobirthing said they feel like they are drifting into a deeply relaxed and calm state or in a “trance” but they are not sleeping. In a book titled Childbirth without Fear by British obstetrician Grantly Dick-Read, he said that women who have faith in their natural ability to deliver their child and remain in a calm state were able to give birth with less pain compared to those who are not in a calm mindset.
Dr. Rick-Read coined the term “Fear-Tension-Pain syndrome” to show how it causes the blood to flow away from the organs, such as the uterus, into the large muscle groups found in the legs. Relaxation with hypnosis can prevent such things from happening.
Portland Providence Medical Center labor and delivery nurse Kristen Olberz, R.N., C.H., H.B.C.E. said via parenting platform Parents.com that she has witnessed more than 1,500 births and approximately 300 of them used the hypnobirthing method. She noticed how moms feel empowered and safe when they are fully supported. She believes that delivering a baby is “sacred” and “raw” but it cannot be fully appreciated and realized when chaos and terror dominate the mind of the woman.
Women who go into labor with working knowledge and tangible tools of what their body is capable of doing feel prepared and can meet the turns “with grace.” This means that if medical intervention is needed, the father and the mother can still use the comfort and relaxation techniques they learned to be present and stay calm when it becomes emotionally challenging. They are likely to exude a “quiet strength.”
No Hypnobirthing Side Effects
The common myth about using hypnosis is that it is a form of brainwashing or mind control, and that someone who has been hypnotized will have no free will and cannot usually perform the usual functions and tasks if they are hypnotized. However, hypnobirthing experts believe that the use of hypnosis is a natural form of pain management and there are no potential side effects to the mother and the baby compared to using medications. It likewise provides relief, relaxation, and comfort during labor. It trains the mind to remain awake and alert and decreases fear and stress during childbirth.
Maternal Mortality and Hypnobirthing: Statistics
Childbirth and pregnancy are dangerous for some women. Our World in Data, a scientific online publication that focuses on large global problems, shared the number of maternal deaths by region in 2015 as follows: North America (580), Europe and Central Asia (1,800), Middle East and North Africa (8,000), Latin America and Caribbean (7,300), East Asia and Pacific (18,000), South Asia (66,000), and Sub-Saharan Africa (201,000). The maternal death referred to in these statistics means the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy.
Although the risk of a woman dying in childbirth has significantly declined globally, inequality in health is still large in many countries. Having a healthy pregnancy will lessen the chance of any pregnancy complications or even prevent these complications altogether.
Hypnobirthing platform Hypnobirthing Hub shares that more than 85% of women who have taken hypnobirthing courses have birthed easily and naturally. Most of them said they were entirely comfortable throughout the process and did not even consider asking for pain medication. Moreover, 94% of them were more relaxed while they are pregnant, 89% of them overcame their anxiety and fears, 90% said they were confident of having a natural birth, and 91% were exciting about giving birth. Women are also less likely to have an emergency c-section with hypnobirthing.
Mums-to-be can take advantage of hypnobirthing to have a more comfortable and efficient birthing experience.