What Is Hypnobirthing? Is This Labor Pain Management For You?

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If you’re getting ready for childbirth, you may be researching natural techniques for pain management during labor. Hypnobirthing is one of your many options.

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The concept of hypnobirthing has been around for centuries. But as a more mainstream program for labor pain management, it’s a little newer on the scene. 

The main idea behind hypnobirthing is deep relaxation. The belief is that when a laboring woman is relaxed, her muscles will be too. Relaxed muscles will lessen labor pains, making them more manageable.

The practice of achieving this intense relaxation on command is called “self-hypnosis.” 

Hypnobirthing: What it is and what it’s not

You probably get the wrong idea when you read the word hypnosis.  Hypnobirthing doesn’t involve a magician “hypnotizing” people. Women in labor aren’t in a trance doing strange things they won’t remember later.

Instead, hypnobirthing refers to a series of steps a laboring woman takes to achieve deep relaxation. This process isn’t easy, especially in the throes of active labor. As such, expectant women are encouraged to practice and train for this process over time.

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How and where can you learn hypnobirthing?

Hypnobirthing” is a general term. It refers to the use of self-hypnosis strategies and tactics during childbirth. Anyone can use the term.

Keeping that in mind, it’s important to scrutinize any practitioner you choose to work with. Someone with thirty years of labor and delivery experience and your random 20-year-old neighbor with zero experience can both claim to be hypnobirthing experts.  Not all programs or promises are legitimate.

There are various institutions and centers that claim to have the best hypnobirthing practices. The Mongan Method, Hypnobubs, and HypnoBabies are some of the most popular. These sites can refer you to in-person practitioners that follow their program philosophies. They also offer online self-study courses.

Word of mouth and referrals from local moms and midwives can also be a great resource if you’re interested in hypnobirthing.

Does hypnobirthing work?

It depends who you ask. There’s definitely research supporting some effectiveness of natural pain management techniques, including hypnobirthing.

But, it also depends on how you define effectiveness.

Let’s take a 2015 clinical trial of self-hypnosis (i.e. hypnobirthing) for example. That trial found that hypnobirthing didn’t lower the use of epidurals in the women studied. It did, however, reduce their feelings of fear and anxiety. The women also reported positive feelings about their labors.

Of course, it’s hard to draw definite conclusions when it comes to trials with pregnant women. You see this same problem when trying to evaluate the effectiveness of labor-inducing tricks, like Midwives Brew. There are so many other variables at play.

The researchers themselves admit the topic needs further study. Plus, there’s the fact that many advocates of hypnobirthing also benefit from it financially as instructors, coaches, etc. In short, the jury’s still out.

What if I ultimately decide to get an epidural?

Even if you decide to get an epidural, it’s not a waste to learn natural pain management techniques. Labors can be unpredictable. Birth plans can and do change.

Sometimes there isn’t time for an epidural. Other times, you may have to wait longer than expected for an epidural. Even if you have an epidural, it may not be fully effective. Natural labor techniques can come in handy in these situations.

Definitely don’t view an epidural and natural pain management techniques as mutually exclusive. There’s room for both, if that’s the way you want to go.

In the end, only you can decide if hypnobirthing is the right approach to labor for you.

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