What is Hypnobirthing and What Are the Possible Benefits?
Hypnobirthing is a therapy that seeks to face childbirth with more confidence and, consequently, experience less pain and discomfort during the process. It uses various techniques of conscious hypnosis to achieve this goal.
The aim is to allow the mother to enjoy the process of giving birth. It seeks to increase the power of the mind over the body, so that it’s possible to experience childbirth with positive feelings.
This type of therapy emerged in the 1940s but became popular in the United States in the 1980s. It’s intended as an alternative to painful or traumatic childbirth. Hypnobirthing draws on basic breathing and meditation techniques.
Fear of childbirth
Most women have some degree of fear of childbirth. This is because, throughout history, emphasis has been placed on the physical pain and discomfort experienced during childbirth. Religions, movies, and literature have all emphasized this perspective.
Traditionally, childbirth is associated with pain and suffering. The contractions that occur during childbirth are commonly referred to as labor pains. This, in itself, conditions the experience.
Fear activates the sympathetic system and triggers an alert mechanism that prepares the body for flight. This leads to a reduction in blood and oxygen supply to the uterus. When this occurs, contractions are less effective, and there is a greater sensation of pain.
Fear also reduces the production of the hormone oxytocin, which influences contractions. Altogether this leads to increased tension in the body and this, in turn, increases the pain.
Fear is a factor that hinders labor.
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What is hypnobirthing?
Hypnobirthing is a childbirth preparation therapy aimed at replacing fears with reassurance and confidence. It seeks to bring the mother to a state of relaxation in which she can construct a positive vision of the act of giving birth.
This type of therapy is based on the idea that the ailments suffered during childbirth are the result of the fear, anxiety, and tension with which this experience is assumed. In 1942, the British obstetrician Grantly Dick-Read published a book called Painless Childbirth, which is considered a pioneer on the subject.
Dick-Read proposed the theory of the fear-tension-pain syndrome associated with childbirth. Later, in 1989, hypnotherapist Marie Mongan further developed the subject and introduced new data and techniques. This is how this perspective regained importance.
Many celebrities have made use of this therapy. Hypnobirthing was used by the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, to give birth to her first child. Other celebrities have also used this method, which is why it has become so popular.
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Hypnobirthing features and tools
Hypnobirthing is based on the idea that, in order to give birth, an atmosphere of calm is needed. This allows the muscles to relax.
When this state is reached, the production of stress hormones that increase pain during contractions is reduced. Instead, there are more endorphins, and these facilitate the process.
When the mother secretes more oxytocin, dilation occurs smoothly and naturally. If there’s adrenaline, the muscles contract, and the process is more difficult.
The entire preparation process must be advanced by the mother and the father. It usually takes place during the third trimester.
Hypnobirthing involves a very detailed information stage about the birthing process. The objective is for the mother to understand what is happening to her body, identify any complications, and know what to do in case they arise.
There’s also training in relaxation and meditation techniques. Negative ideas about childbirth are also addressed. For this, terms such as “labor” are replaced by “delivery” and “contractions” by “uterine waves.”
Hypnobirthing seeks to make a mother fully aware of everything that’s happening to her at the moment of giving birth.
To achieve this, the following techniques are applied:
- Deep relaxation is achieved through relaxation techniques and self-hypnosis. It seeks to reconnect the mother with the natural experience of giving birth.
- Breathing techniques: These are basic and seek to oxygenate the body adequately, so that this contributes to muscle relaxation and pain reduction.
- Guided visualization: This consists of eliminating the negative connotations associated with childbirth and replacing them with a more natural and positive perspective.
- Concentration and awareness: From the information provided, the mother is expected to become aware of everything that is happening to her and take control of what’s happening to her body.
Is it really effective?
The World Health Organization (WHO) has not endorsed hypnobirthing as such, but has said that relaxation, breathing, and meditation techniques help reduce pain during the process. It has also been noted that non-pharmacological procedures to relieve pain offer many benefits.
A study on hypnobirthing, published in 2022, found that women who had received this type of therapy had a more satisfying birth experience, took less time, and experienced less pain. There are other similar, but isolated, studies.
In this sense, an article published in the British Journal of Anaesthesia indicated that there’s still not enough evidence to affirm that hypnobirthing is an effective method. It doesn’t deny its effectivity, but it does recommend further research.
Should you try hypnobirthing?
All indications are that hypnobirthing does not guarantee a pain-free delivery, but it does make the process much easier and reduces discomfort to a significant degree. Therapies that employ relaxation and breathing techniques are often helpful in a variety of circumstances. Hypnobirthing, however, is not the only therapy to prepare for childbirth. There are other methods, such as Lamaze and Bradley methods, which are also very well qualified.
A mother has several options to make the process of giving birth more rewarding.