Can Your Ideas About Birth Determine How it Feels?

HypnoBirthing helps women view birth in a positive way.HypnoBirthing helps women view birth in a positive way.Can changing your *ideas* about birth actually change the way it feels? According to the philosophy behind HypnoBirthing, yes.

In a CNN story on HypnoBirthing, Joyce Poplar, a perinatal educator, tells us: "We really focus on relaxation, releasing all the fears that moms have when they're having birth. We're getting rid of the fears, memories, experiences, or the mistaken belief they might have had, so they can move forward with natural childbirth." According this story, HypnoBirthing is becoming more and more popular as women spread the news of their positive experiences to other expecting moms.

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I'm intrigued by HypnoBirthing, as I have seen videos of women laboring using the self-hypnosis techniques and they are quite adept at handling the pain. They seem relaxed and extremely focused. I've head stories from women who have given birth with and without the technique say that with HypnoBirhting the pain was not gone but it was workable. The feeling goes from being one that feels impossible or insurmountable to one that is possible.

So what do they do? From my understanding the moms work with instructors on a whole range of relaxation techniques and then in those relaxed states they work through scripts they've written to themselves emphasizing the power of birth. The language used in HypnoBirthing is completely different from the one you were raised with. There are no contractions, there are surges. You don't push a baby out, your breathe a baby out. Rather than telling yourself what not to do, there's an emphasis on what you can do. Part of the education involves reversing the scary, medical-emergency, *worst pain of your life,* split-you-open-Sins-Of-Eve-agony narrative that's so entrenched in our culture. Instead you learn about how birth is a normal physiological process. It's a bodily function. We are made to do this and it almost always works.

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During labor women visualize their bodies doing the awesome work of birth, rather than being torn asunder. They use the breaks between contractions to restore their energy and belief in their bodies. It does require lots of focus. And I imagine giving birth in a hospital with this method would require a labor partner who can help keep the focus for mom.

I use the word "pain" when I talk about birth. My concern is that I would paint too rosy a picture and women might then feel stranded if/when the first really tough contraction hits. But nevertheless, I think we could all use some deprogramming from the Very Scary Nightmare birth culture most of us have been brought up in. Hollywood hasn't helped much. But also, we're just not around the cycle of life. We don't know about birth. It's all very mysterious, so education about just how normal it is can help. I also think learning some relaxation techniques and emphasizing the importance of trust, confidence and focus (for not just mom but those around her!) is incredibly helpful. I think fear reduces pain but I know from personal experience that it doesn't necessarily take it away. If you become more familiar and comfortable with what happens in birth, however, I think you have more resources to devote to the business of working through the pain.

I have heard that HypnoBirthing is particularly good for women who have lots of anxiety about birth. And that it requires several classes and lots of practice so that you can access that relaxed, positive place rather quickly when you need to.

Any HypnoBirthers out there? Share your experiences on Babble.

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Ceridwen MorrisCeridwen Morris is a writer, mother and childbirth educator. She is co-author of It's All Your Fault and From the Hips as well as several screenplays (for Miramax and HBO). Ceridwen is on the board of The Childbirth Education Association of Metropolitan New York and teaches childbirth classes at Tribeca Parenting. She lives in New York City with her husband and two children.
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