Hypnosis in childbirth, often known as HypnoBirthing, is one tool you can use to lessen pain perception and let your oxytocin flow. Adriana Lozada breaks down the origin of this tool, and how you can practice it ahead of giving birth.
Are you planning on using hypnosis during your birth? Or if you already tried it, how did it work for you? Share your plans or experience with us on Instagram @birthfulpodcast.
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- Social Justice Mindfulness Resources from the Center for Child & Family Well-Being
All You Need to Know about HypnoBirthing
I’m Adriana Lozada and you’re listening to Birthful, and today, just like every other week, I’m on my own, taking 10 minutes or so to talk to you one on one about a topic that I want to dive deeper into. This week, it’s HypnoBirthing. HypnoBirthing is not about someone swinging a pocket watch in front of you, but rather a helpful tool that can diminish pain, lessen anxiety, make you feel more in control, and even shorten labor.
So, today I wanted to talk about HypnoBirthing and what you need to know about that, because it comes up on the podcast a lot, the HypnoBirthing, and the thing is HypnoBirthing is actually a brand name. What we’re talking about is self-hypnosis and then HypnoBirthing would be hypnosis or self-hypnosis for birth, right? And there are actually two big programs, or more known brands of self-hypnosis for birth, and that would be HypnoBirthing and Hypnobabies. HypnoBirthing was created by Marie Mongan and she’s got a book. It’s called HypnoBirthing: The Mongan Method. What they teach you is a childbirth education class anchored in these techniques that are based using self-hypnosis for pain management.
So, that’s really the goal. Self-hypnosis for pain management. But HypnoBirthing goes a little deeper in really trying to get into avoiding pain altogether for labor. And so, they don’t even talk about pain. They talk about intensity. And they don’t talk about contractions, they talk about surges. And so, there’s this… There could be a high expectation of what your birth should be like, and if you get to a point where you’re not calm, and collected, and just breathing nicely, then you might think this is not working for me, or I’m not good at it. I’m failing. And frankly, birth can be so intense and like a thunderstorm that by the time it gets really, really, really intense, you might be needing to really vocalize and not be calm, right? There’s power in that.
So, that’s the thought on HypnoBirthing, and then Hypnobabies was created by Kerry Tuschhoff, who used to be a HypnoBirthing instructor, and she created a different program based on traditional hypnosis methods, and they also have more variety in their scripts. So then, why does self-hypnosis for childbirth work, right? Like what’s the point of it? There isn’t specific research on self-hypnosis during childbirth using the Hypnobabies or HypnoBirthing methods, like that’s super specific. However, there’s ample research of the benefits of self-hypnosis for pain relief during healthcare.
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Lozada: So, we piggyback off that. First of all, it works on the fear-tension-pain cycle. It helps break that up. And that’s a… The fear-tension-pain cycle was something that Dr. Grantley Dick-Read came up with. In his book, Childbirth Without Fear, that’s where he brings up this fear-tension-pain cycle that when you’re afraid, you tense up. When you’re tense, you have more pain. And if you have more pain, you get more fear. And so forth.
And so, if you can remain calm and sort of get you out of that loop, that’s why self-hypnosis can work, because it helps you stay calm. So, that’s one part of it. The related part is that it calms down your nervous system, right? You’re talking deep breaths, you’re focusing on staying relaxed, which is ideally what you need for childbirth, because you need to release oxytocin and not adrenaline, and oxytocin is what creates the contractions, so you want surges of oxytocin. You want it to really work, flow nicely in your body.
What is oxytocin? Well, oxytocin is the hormone of love. This is the hormone that flows through all our bodies anytime we have a connection or empathy, and it’s there during sex, it’s there when you are connecting with your good friends, and it’s there during labor. It’s there when you’re breastfeeding. So, for labor specifically, it has… Aside from making you feel really good, and that’s what helps balance along with endorphins, helps balance out and allow you to cope with the sensations of birth, what it also does is oxytocin is what creates the contractions.
Definitely, you need oxytocin going through your veins, and oxytocin and adrenaline are kind of nemesis, so that’s why you want the opposite. And why HypnoBirthing or self-hypnosis works, because you are helping yourself get into that very calm, non-adrenaline inducing state. And then it also helps you get out of your thinking brain, because any type of self-hypnosis and meditation, that all helps you go into deeper brainwaves, and those are things we do every day. When we sleep, we go unconscious or subconscious, we go into those delta and theta brain waves, and when we’re in sort of that aha moment, or very relaxed, or in prayer, or Shavasana, when you know your brain is very focused but calm in meditation, right? That’s that alpha brainwave.
So, when you get deeper and deeper into the birth process and deeper and deeper into closer to transition, and pushing states, all of that, your brain actually requires you to go into deeper brainwaves, and that’s what we call labor land. You need to go internal.
So, if you practice going into those deeper brainwaves, the more you practice, the easier it will be for you to do it when you are in labor. And that is like the big umbrella of theory of why the self-hypnosis for birth works. Now, when does it not work? It doesn’t work if you don’t practice it. It’s gonna be something in your toolbox that is gonna let you down, right? It’s gonna be a broken tool. So, you do need to practice it ahead of time. The more you practice it, the better it’ll serve you. And then it’s not gonna work if that’s the only tool in your toolbox. You need to have other options in case something happens with labor that you’re not able to access that deeper brainwave or that calm.
You know, if you find that for some reason you have persistent back labor, and so the pain is too intense and you can’t get to that calm space, because there’s no break in between contractions, then you need to have other coping mechanisms. So, those are cases where it wouldn’t work. Other techniques that work very similarly, that you might be thinking already you know where I’m going with this, is if you do guided visualizations or meditation, because that’s also helping you get into those deeper brainwaves. It’s helping you calm your nervous system, help you break the fear-tension-pain cycle. The guided visualizations and the self-hypnosis have an end goal. You are visualizing an outcome or you’re connecting with your baby where meditation is more about just focusing on your breath and being calm, but it still works.
Now, if you think that, “Oh, I’ve tried meditation and that doesn’t work for me,” or, “Labor’s gonna be too intense and I can’t just reach to that calm state,” my thoughts on that are not to worry too much about it because this physiological process can happen automatically, right? Like our physiological processes happen the best when we don’t mess with them. We blink, we breathe, we digest. We can stop blinking, we can hold our breath, we can mess with our digestion if we go on a trip, for example. But you know, at some point your body takes over, and also your body works best, does that physiology best if you’re not trying to control it. And you are gonna go into labor land.
In my experience with clients that have used HypnoBirthing, what I’ve seen is if they don’t practice it, then the tool is not there, and eventually they get into labor land and we cope with other mechanisms, but if they do practice it, and it doesn’t have to be HypnoBirthing exclusively. It could just be meditating on a daily basis. You know, twice a day for three minutes. You don’t have to be that involved. I have seen them better stay on top of contractions and keep their focus because they did do that practice.
Are you planning on using hypnosis during your birth? Or if you already tried it, how did it work for you? Share your plans or experience with us on Instagram @BirthfulPodcast. And for more in-depth discussion, listen to our full Birthful episode on self-hypnosis for pain management. The link is in the show notes.
Birthful was created by me, Adriana Lozada, and is a production of Lantigua Williams & Co. The show’s senior producer is Paulina Velasco. Virginia Lora is the managing producer. Cedric Wilson is our lead producer. Carolina Rodriguez mixed this episode. Thank you for listening and for sharing Birthful. Be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Spotify, and everywhere you listen. Come back next week for more ways to inform your intuition.
Lozada, Adriana, host. “All You Need to Know about HypnoBirthing.” Birthful, Lantigua Williams & Co., October 20, 2020. Birthful.com.
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