Hypnosis in the Delivery Room
It isn't for every woman, but "hypnobirthing" certainly
has its fans, including Carla Breakey, a 38-year-old home business owner from
Idaho. And rave reviews from women like Breakey are helping this method of
natural childbirth grow in popularity around the globe.
Breakey used hypnobirthing for two of her three children.
Hypnobirthing teaches women how to hypnotize themselves to manage their labor,
helping them to relax and let their bodies take over. The theory is that, in
the absence of fear and tension, severe pain does not have to accompany labor.
In this calm state, endorphins -- naturally occurring chemicals in the body
that can relieve pain -- replace the stress hormones that contribute to pain,
"I enjoyed the experience a lot more and was a lot more
present when I used hypnobirthing," Breakey tells WebMD. For her first
child, Breakey had a standard hospital birth with an epidural. That time, she
says, "I felt like I was fighting the labor, and after the epidural was
administered, I couldn't feel anything, which was scary."
That's why she, along with her husband, Jeff, decided to try
hypnobirthing for their second child. "I was very skeptical the first time,
but the experience was unbelievable. I was relaxed, and it really does help
with the pain," she says. "With hypnobirthing, I felt confident, and
when the contractions would come, they weren't scary at all."
And although some experts warn that undergoing any type of
drug-free childbirth requires a high level of determination and commitment,
proponents say hypnobirthing really can help ease women's fears about the birth
"Hypnobirthing is a childbirth process that includes a
major focus on many of the techniques used in hypnotherapy to relieve
fear," Pat Burrell, RN, a hypnobirthing therapist based in State College,
Pa., tells WebMD. "It integrates factual information on the childbirth
process along with hypnosis." Burrell is also an instructor with the
American Board of Hypnotherapy and an executive board member of the
Hypnobirthing Institute in Epsom, N.H.
"Other childbirth processes approach pain as a given and
try to find ways to deal with pain, from medication to massage, but
hypnobirthing teaches women to transform the sensation of pain so that it feels
like something else," she says. "The healthiest way to deliver a baby
is to be very relaxed and allow the body to do it. Once labor begins, it has
its own momentum and mom really doesn't need to do much of anything."
Hypnobirthing can also be used along with other birthing
processes ranging from Lamaze to pain-killing drugs, Burrell says.
Couples learn the technique by taking between four and six
classes, starting after the first trimester of pregnancy. "The partner is
the hypnotherapist and helps the woman get into a trance-like state, where she
is fully conscious of what her body is doing," Burrell explains. "She
is very relaxed, which provides a safe and healthy environment for the baby and