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7 Myths About HypnoBirthing

By Maressa Brown / Source: The Stir

The idea of having a calm, relaxing experience during childbirth remains to be one met with a lot of skepticism. But one technique promises and has delivered exactly that.

Birthing with hypnosis, or the trademarked program HypnoBirthing (also referred to as The Mongan Method), is a technique that aims to help women use deep relaxation, breathing, and self-hypnosis to experience birth in way that's very different from the panicky, painful process we've been told is the only way to go. But it's not.

"Painful childbirth is primarily a western culture phenomenon," explains clinical hypnotherapist Colin Christopher. "Cultures in South Africa deliver their babies quickly and easily with minimal pain. The difference is in how western culture is raised to believe through media and through education in the medical community that pain is inevitable. The perception that there will be pain results in pain, and this perception can and has to be retrained."

That's why HypnoBirth aims to the fear factor away and focus on calming the mind and body. Here, the truth about all the biggest myths about the birthing method ...

Myth: Hypnosis must mean you're too "out of it" to really be in control of your actions during labor.

Reality: "The name turns people off sometimes, and they think that you're under somebody else's control, that you don't have control over how you behave in labor," explains midwife Andrea Diamond, CNM, MS, founder of Brooklyn Homebirth in New York. "That's one of the biggest misconceptions. It's really about deep relaxation and being able to get yourself into such a natural, relaxed state that outside stimuli don't interfere with your relaxation, and you also get rid of any fear, which causes tension, which causes pain." And doing that is a lot harder than getting "hypnotized," as we tend to think of it. "Unfortunately, it is not as easy as just watching a swaying pocket watch, and then, snapping your fingers to come out of it," notes HypnoBirthing expert and board-certified nurse midwife Mary Williams, CNM, APNP. "Hypnobirthing takes practice!"

Myth: You can just decide that you're having a HypnoBirth and have that experience with minimal preparation in the months ahead.

Reality: The HypnoBirthing program is actually a course you sign up for, taught in five 2.5-hour sessions. You can also prepare one-on-one with a health care provider who is trained in birthing with hypnosis. But either way, it takes some time to prepare before the birth. In fact, you can start as soon as 13 weeks along. "The earlier you can start the HypnoBirthing process, the more successful you will be," says Williams.

Myth: HypnoBirth promises a "pain-free" -- or even pleasurable -- labor.

Reality: "Pain is a very relative sensation," explains Williams. "And we have no real way to compare pain from one person to another, nor should we. Every person’s pain is different much the same way that every woman’s labor is different." Plus, HypnoBirthing is less about having no pain and more about getting to a place mentally wherein it's easier to endure. Still, that's not to say that it's not a powerful way to do that. A comprehensive review of 13 controlled studies featured in Clinical Psychology Review found that hypnosis was more effective than standard medical care, supportive counseling, and traditional childbirth education classes when it comes to quashing labor and childbirth pain.

Sign up for free updatesMyth: If so many moms say labor was the worst pain imaginable, it must be impossible to have a peaceful birth experience.

Reality: While many women do experience pain with childbirth, experts on birthing with hypnosis say no two labors are alike, and it helps to surround yourself with positive people, if you're interested in HypnoBirthing. "There will always be people out there who want to tell you their horror stories about their birth experiences," admits Williams. "But those types of stories breed fear. And fear, along with the catecholamines, [hormones] that fear produces are counter-productive to good hypnosis, and can ultimately lead to a slower labor." Her advice: "Surround yourself with other hynobirthing moms and politely decline to hear other women’s birth stories unless they are positive, motivating and uplifting."

Myth: You have to actively 'push' to deliver the baby.

Reality: In HypnoBirthing, being told to "push" is actually replaced with the expression "breathing the baby down." When you do this, you are trying to follow to your body's natural expulsive reflex, explains Diamond. "If you envision yourself pushing, you'll probably feel that all your muscles tense up, including your vaginal muscles, and so, with HypnoBirthing, everything is nice and loose and relaxed, and that lends itself to less, maybe no tearing. The baby gets more oxygen, because you're not holding your breath and pushing down." And research proves it: A study conducted in 1957 showed that "when women were allowed to push without straining, better progress and greater ease [that] has to be witnessed to be believed" and less damage to the vagina. A 2006 study from the University of Texas South Western Medical Center came to the same conclusion.

Myth: It's not possible to practice HypnoBirth to deliver your first baby.

Reality: "Some practitioners have said a first-time mom can't 'breathe her baby down,' [but] that's definitely a misconception," says Diamond. "I've seen it happen with my own eyes!"

Myth: You have to a HypnoBirthing expert by your side, or even have a homebirth, to have a birth with hypnosis.

Reality: "The HypnoBirthing course stresses that women find a practitioner who understands what it is you want in a birth and that if you're not happy with anything they are trying to force you to do, that you are open to finding another practitioner who is going to work with you," explains Diamond. "But it's not required that you hook up with someone who is a HypnoBirthing practitioner." In other words, you can tell your obstetrician or midwife that you're interested in laboring this way and ask that they cooperate as you use self-hypnosis techniques. You can also lean on your partner for support during the birth. "A partner can help a woman get into a deeper state of relaxation with verbal cues and touch," says Diamond. "They can also act as an advocate to help her maintain her wishes."

Related Article: How to Change Your Life With Hypnosis

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