We have completed 5 weeks (12 hours) of hypnobirthing class, we have read the book, and we have practiced relaxation and hypnosis exercises every day for the past 5 weeks. Although I won’t really know how effective it is until after I experience birth, I really liked the concept and I’m glad we did it.
Hypnobirthing is about being deeply relaxed so that your body can open up and do what it needs to do for a smooth labour and birth. When you are scared or in pain, it is really hard to relax. Hypnobirthing trains you to relax in spite of the situation.
Hypnobirthing is also about self-hypnosis and positive affirmations that help you unlearn negative expectations about labour and birth (like the screaming in pain images we see in movies and the traumatizing birth stories we hear from friends). In turn, it trains you to expect a positive birth experience. We’ve all heard it before – it’s the power of positive thinking. There is also some science behind the whole mind over matter thing.
Here are some of my likes and dislikes from the course:
- Strong focus on the demedicalization of childbirth (e.g. affirmation: “I turn my birth over to nature”)
- Gives power and control back to the birthing woman’s body (“I turn my birthing over to my baby and my body”)
- Relaxation feels good and is good for the baby
- Birthing partner is treated as just as important to the experience as the birthing person. Birthing partner could be your partner, baby’s other parent, a friend or other family member, or a doula. Birthing partner is strongly encouraged to attend the classes with you and is also expected to work through the emotional as well as technical aspects of birthing with you.
- Great for the relationship between parents – focus on bonding, support, communication, and even light touch massage!
- Great for the relationship between parents and baby – focus on bonding in utero, hypnobirthing strategies for successful breastfeeding and maximizing oxytocin-led bonding post-birth
- Learned about the technical aspects of birth without making it medical. We learned about the different bands of muscles in the uterus and how, if we let them, they work in harmony to get baby out (some hypnobirthing moms don’t even push – the muscles do all the work naturally). We also learned how deep inhales can lift the uterus off of the cervix, allowing the cervix to open with ease. And, we learned about the sympathetic nervous system and the science behind why relaxation works.
- The class is useful to those planning all kinds of births, from elective C-sections to home water births. In fact, we were the only ones in the class planning a home birth, and one of two couples using a midwife. The hospital birthers there were taking the course to help them get over their fear of a painful birth. However, there is definitely a bias in favour of unmedicated births (to let your body do what it needs to do). This is something to keep in mind if you don’t want to be made to feel “less than” for being open to an epidural.
- Takes a holistic approach to health and birthing. We drank raspberry leaf tea during during our classes, and the book we received talks about nutrition, exercise, and relaxation as factors that work in harmony to give you the birth you desire.
- Learned good positions for labouring and birthing (and for turning a breach baby). The hypnobirthing preference is to be in whatever position allows you to go completely limp and be deeply relaxed – usually side lying or lying propped up on your back. The ultimate message, though, is to listen to your body. If you feel like your baby and your body could benefit from movement (like bouncing on the birthing ball or walking laps), that is encouraged.
- My favourite hypnosis exercise is the sensation valve. In your minds eye you see yourself in a room that represents your subconscious. In the room there is a large dial that controls a valve to your sensations. When the dial is in the “on” position, you sense everything – all sights, sounds, and pain. When the dial is in the “off” position, you are so deeply within yourself that you don’t sense anything going on around you (including physical sensations). There is also a “selective” setting on the dial that allows you to be aware of select things – you might hear your birth companion talking to you, but you don’t feel anything below the waist. In your mind’s eye, you visualize yourself in this room in your subconscious, turning the dial to whatever setting you want. This one really worked for me, but there are lots of deep relaxation exercises to choose from. You and your birth partner are encouraged to practice the ones that you like, and then your birth partner can read the favourite scripts on birthing day that will put you into these states of hypnosis.
- Our instructor was very friendly and clearly morally supportive of two mom families, but was still somewhere in the middle of the learning curve on using inclusive language. She used “moms and dads” ALL THE TIME, like “this one is just for the moms,” or “dads, read this aloud.” She also told a story about how crazy it was that a straight couple she knew got pregnant using a syringe. We looked at each other like, “not that crazy…”
- Sometimes felt a little hokey…
If you are thinking of trying hypnobirthing, consider:
- Do you like the instructor? Can you get any reviews on the instructors you have available to you? Some are more “hippy” about it, and others are more “here is the science behind it”. Find one with a perspective that you will respond better to.
- Can you put the classes through your insurance? Because our instructor was a naturopath and the classes were invoiced as “naturopathic services”, I was able to get reimbursed through my insurance.
- Do you think you might want an unmedicated birth? If you absolutely know that you want an epidural (or an elective c-section), hypnobirthing could still work to reduce your fear around birthing, but you won’t be able to use the bulk of the training in your birth.
- Especially if you are planning a hospital birth, make sure your OB, midwife, and/or nurses are supportive of hypnobirthing. Deep relaxation during labour and birth is best achieved with fewer vaginal checks, less invasive fetal monitoring, a quiet environment, and perhaps dimmed lighting. Supportive hospital staff can make or break this kind of environment for you.
- On the “sometimes feels a little hokey” point I made above, I’m a researcher by training, brought up in an environment valuing scientific method and empirical support for theories. Thus, when we watched peaceful birth videos (there were a lot of them), I couldn’t help but wonder what statistics they had on the success of hypnobirthing. Did they just hand pick the videos of the world’s most peaceful, easy births, and fail to represent the thousands more hypnobirthing moms who had terrible and painful births? Answer: even if they did hand pick a biased sample of videos to show us, that is the point of hypnobirthing. It’s like a placebo effect. You train yourself to expect the best possible birth, and then you let go of fear, and then your body works better during birth. I had to make myself let go of my natural skepticism in order to let hypnobirthing work, if it was going to work at all. So if you are skeptical like me, be aware that you will need to set that skepticism aside for it to work. Also, our instructor actually told us that among the hypnobirthing moms she has doula’d for, approximately 9/10 have had these peaceful, euphoric, easy births.
I recommend hypnobirthing classes. I am excitedly looking forward to birth. Now let’s see if I can take it one step further and get that orgasmic birth I keep hearing about…