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Health & Pregnancy

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Hypnobirthing: Calmer Natural Childbirth

What is hypnobirthing and is it right for you?

What Hypnobirthing Teaches

"At my very first pregnancy appointment, I said ‘I want to do this without drugs,'" Wall recalls. But when she brought up the popular Bradley method, which focuses heavily on the support of a childbirth partner to help cope with pain, her doctor suggested hypnobirthing as an easier alternative.

Wall and her husband took Mongan's HypnoBirthing course, consisting of five classes, 2 1/2 hours each. Courses cost between $275 to $350, depending on location and provider.

With the help of a course book and hypnosis CDs, Wall and her husband learned breathing and visualization techniques. She was taught to envision an easy birth, with her cervix opening wide, allowing the baby to come out effortlessly.

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.

Calm Approach

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.

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