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Hypnosis in the Delivery Room


WebMD Health News

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, proponents say.

"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 process.

"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 the mom."

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