Hypnobirthing: Calmer Natural Childbirth
What is hypnobirthing and is it right for you?
What Hypnobirthing Teaches continued...
Every day, they practiced affirmations like, "I relax and my baby relaxes," and "My baby is the perfect size for my body." Her husband later repeated those key phrases to her as he coached her during labor.
Wall says daily practice helped her eliminate distractions and reach a state of deep relaxation earlier each time.
She also learned to reject references to difficulty during childbirth, replacing the words "contraction" and "pain," with terms such as "surge" and "sensation" instead.
Other hypnobirthing courses teach similar techniques with some variations.
"Hypnobabies" trains mothers to self-hypnotize with their eyes completely open during the process, says Carol Thorpe, one of its hypnotherapist doulas. Thorpe says the course also provides comprehensive childbirth training beyond self-hypnosis.
Still other hypnobirthing methods allow for parents to take a whole course in one day, or entirely at home.
Diana Weihs, MD, Wall's delivering ob-gyn, estimates about 5% of her patients have used hypnobirthing.
"There's something that's gentler that is not there with the Bradley method," she says. "It's harder to watch Bradley patients, knowing that their pain management is not as effective," says Weihs, a fellow of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
She attributes the growing popularity of hypnobirthing partly to the method's openness to medical intervention when necessary, an attitude that she says is often lacking among Bradley patients.
Nurse-midwife Megan Sapp, CNM, FNP, says her Maryland-based practice sees about 40% of patients using hypnobirthing, another 40% using the Bradley method, and the rest using other methods including Lamaze, meditative calm birthing, Birthing from Within, and more.
Sapp tells WebMD that moms who use hypnobirthing tend to have shorter labors compared to other methods.
A 2006 review of five existing studies showed that women who used hypnobirthing techniques were about half as likely to use painkiller drugs, and about one-third as likely to use an epidural.
Regardless of the specific hypnobirthing program, there is always the possibility that things don't go as planned during labor, says David Keefe, MD, professor and chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at New York University's Langone Medical Center.
"It's very safe," he says. "However, the key to a successful natural childbirth is having the attitude that you're doing this for yourself, not to please anyone else, and if you can't continue with it for whatever reason, there is nothing wrong with quitting," says Keefe, who is a fellow of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Keefe says that expectant moms using hypnobirthing should choose a doctor who fully supports the method, and he recommends the delivery take place in a hospital with rapid access to emergency C-section facilities and a neonatal care unit in case of complications.
"This was by far the hardest thing I've ever done in my life," says Wall, who admits she did feel intense pain during childbirth, though it was not sharp. "But my experience was perfect. People see my son at the grocery store and say what a peaceful baby he is, and I feel hypnobirthing contributed that to him."