What is Hypnobirthing?

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© HypnoBirthing Institute

I’ve mentioned Hypnobirthing® a few times before, so I decided to dedicate a post to explain it to those who may not know about it.

When my wife signed up at our local birth center they informed us that we would need to take a birth education class. I can’t say that I was entirely excited because and I figured I knew everything I needed to know, but I want to be a supportive husband so I gave it a try. Then, my wife tells me that it’s called “Hypnobirthing” and I had mental images of creepy hypnotists telling us to do all sorts of strange things. I had fears for a moment that we had gone down some sort of dark, ultra-crunchy granola road. I remember the first evening as we drove to the birth center telling my wife something to the effect of, “I’m worried this is going to be some sort of hawkward (our code-word for super awkward) experience and I’m going to be really uncomfortable.” Being the wonderful woman she is, she assured me it would probably be okay, and by the end of our first class I realized my expectations were far from reality. So, what is this HypnoBirthing thing?

Hypnobirthing is:

  • A natural childbirth method enhanced by self-hypnosis
  • Family centered–The mother, father (or partner) and children are all included and encouraged to participate in the birthing experience
  • A method that teaches the woman that her body is not broken, but that in the majority of cases is capable of a natural birth without medical intervention
  • Focuses on positive thoughts and outcomes to overcome fear and pain (A major teaching of Hypnobirthing is that fear causes tension in the body which then causes pain. If one learns to release that fear, pain becomes a non-issue).

Hypnobirthing is not:

  • The hypnosis you see portrayed on TV and in movies–It is a method of self-hypnosis. You are in control of you body and thoughts at all times and are never asked to do anything that w0uld put you, your birthing partner, or your baby along a harmful path.
  • A path to forget the “pain” of birth–As stated above, the woman is very aware of what her body is doing and she has a memory of the entire experience.
  • Anti-hospital or doctors. Only 13% of Hypnobirthing woman birth outside of the hospital. (For more stats see: http://www.hypnobirthing.com/US_Outcomes_Summary_2010.pdf)

Having completed the classes a few weeks ago, I realize that the Hypnobirthing method is not far off the path of normalcy. It is actually how woman have birthed for centuries before modern medicine. It did not have a name, but many of the practices came from times of old. It is structured on the research and writings of Dr. Grantly Dick-Read, an early natural birth advocate.

I also love the positive focus of Hypnobirthing. My undergraduate degree is in music education and my principal instrument was voice. The positive focus and fear release go right in hand with my vocal training, so when I learned about the breathing methods and fear/tension release it made perfect sense. As a singer, if I have fear about a particular approaching passage (or for me, the dreaded high note) I would often tense up, making it much more difficult to be successful negotiating in the passage. I also know that if I was particularly tense, it actually would make singing painful and much more fatiguing. In contrast, if I was properly prepared and had any excessive tension in check, then I was much more successful.

We are taught in Hypnobirthing, that pain is the product of our fears. Everyone has seen that TV and movie scene where the laboring woman is screaming in pain and cursing and hitting her husband because, “You did this to me.” Women hear the birthing story of every person they know (usually unsolicited) and how painful, long, difficult, etc. it was for them. Women in American society are conditioned from an early age to fear birth, and it approaches (just like my high-notes) they become tense, their muscles constrict, blood flow is slowed, and they feel pain. The typical medical professional is not equipped to teach women to release those fears, but rather, is equipped to offer medication and other interventions to save them from the pain of childbirth. The medical professionals are only treating the symptom (pain), and not the root cause (fear).

I am very excited to share the results of our Hypnobirthing journey in the coming months. So far, it has been a very joyful experience. Are there any other Hypnobirthing parents out there? Please, share your experience or comments below or by send me an email and I’ll include you in an upcoming post. If you’re interested in Hypnobirthing classes, look here for a local practitioner.

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This YouTube video is an excellent example of Hypnobirthing at a birth center. Notice how calm and relaxed the mother is during the whole experience.