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The Lowdown on Hypnosis for Birth

Quick poll: What image comes to mind when you hear the word “hypnosis”? A magician waving a pocket watch in front of someone clucking like a chicken? Us too — until we learned about hypnosis for birth. This childbirth education class is rising in popularity for first-time mothers looking to take more control of their birthing plans, seasoned moms one coconut-oil remedy away a completely chemical-free birth, and all moms in between. (And we’re not kidding about those coconut-oil remedies. Try it on diaper rash, and thank us later.)
 
Hypnosis for birth involves deep, self-induced meditation used to negate anxiety, fear, unnecessary outside stimuli and, for many moms, pain. Hypnosis, including hypnosis for birth, simulates your body’s natural anesthesia, lessening uncomfortable sensations and making you more open to suggestion. While there are many methods of hypnosis, two of the most common programs, HypnoBirthing and Hypnobabies Childbirth Hypnosis, use words such as “peace” or “relax” to trigger eyes-open hypnosis (meaning you can still walk and talk.) While hypnosis doesn’t guarantee a painless birth, many moms speak of pain-free deliveries.
 
“Hypnosis is about allowing yourself to focus on something, like your breath, and not pay attention to all the other things around you,” says Cheryl Johnson, owner of OmBalance, a wellness studio in Dallas focused on birth, prenatal and postnatal care. “We teach you how to focus so that your mind is in charge of your body.”
 
Class format for HypnoBirthing and Hypnobabies vary per instructor, but commonly include 5−6 weeks of classes in a small group setting lasting 2−3 hours. Curriculum differs per method, but all classes include a strong pillar of childbirth education, similar to Lamaze International or the Bradley Method. By learning both the science of pregnancy and the meditation and relaxation techniques of hypnosis, new moms and their partners gain the assurance to design a birth plan and select a birth team that work for them.
 
“The biggest gift couples get from these classes is that it gives the confidence to feel good about your labor choices,” says Johnson, who has been teaching HypnoBirthing to Dallas families for eight years. “Hypnosis for birth can put you in a position to make really informed decisions about your body and your baby.”
 
While hypnosis classes aren’t one-size-fits-all childbirth education, they can be especially beneficial for first-time moms who have fear and anxiety about childbirth, moms aiming for a vaginal birth after cesarean section or moms wanting a drug-free birth. And as with all childbirth education classes, this one requires a bit of homework. Classes give a mom all the necessary tools to rehearse birth hypnosis with her spouse, doula or someone on her birthing team, so delivery day goes as planned. Expecting moms use scripts or CDs to practice self-hypnosis and are encouraged to incorporate techniques into their daily routine.
 
Thanks to a revitalization of the natural birth movement, hypnosis is gaining popularity with moms wanting a drug-free birth, although Hypnobabies and HypnoBirthing classes are compatible with all types of births, including hospital deliveries with epidurals and C-sections.
 
“I love to get first-time mothers [in my classes] because so much of our program is about working through fear associated with childbirth,” says Dawn Green of Blessed Dawn Births. Green is a doula and Hypnobabies Childbirth Hypnosis instructor for families in Dallas-Fort Worth. “I also get a lot of moms that had rough births previously and want a natural or gentler birth for their next child. Hypnobabies works for anyone who is willing to put in the time.”
 
Regardless of their birthing choices, moms interested in hypnosis seem to share a common goal: They want to have a more comfortable birth and bring their new babies into a more serene world.
 
“We’re a culture so obsessed with the TV version of birth, with screaming and disaster, and in the end the baby comes, and it’s all OK,” Green says. “We need to show women that that’s not how birth is supposed to be. This type of [hypnosis for] birth is something parents can be in control of. It gives women a positive, powerful and joyful birth experience.”

Published October 2015