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Some women are turning to 'hypnobirthing,' a holistic method for giving birth

Many women have been conditioned to believe that giving birth is an excruciatingly painful process; but through hypnobirthing, mothers are given a way to birth calmly and confidently.

Hypnobirthing is a simple method of self-hypnosis and education that considers the psychological and physical well-being of the mother, her birth partner and the newborn. It is built around an educational process including special breathing, relaxation, visualization, meditative practice, attention to nutrition and positive body toning. 

Cassie Garcia runs child birthing classes through GentleBirth, a childbirth education service, and incorporates some of the same components as hypnobirthing.

“GentleBirth uses it as one technique to help "train" your brain, and to think more positively about birth before going into labor,” Garcia said. “We also have a great app that moms can download to be practicing hypnosis and mindfulness exercises throughout their pregnancy, and during labor if they want to use it as a pain management technique.”

Through hypnosis, GentleBirth offers short practice sessions in its workshops that help with the pain, anxiety and stress that accompany pregnancy.

“Society has programmed us to be fearful of labor and birth. Most things we see and hear reinforce the idea that it is a painful, scary experience,” Garcia said. “But these mental exercises can help change our outlook to a more excited, positive one, and can even lessen pain during labor.”

Despite the benefits hypnosis offers during childbirth, Garcia recognizes that simply changing a woman’s mindset will not make all the pain disappear.

“However, things like visualization, mindfulness and hypnosis can help retrain our thinking,” Garcia said. “So when labor begins, it is a more peaceful, positive experience that can have a huge impact in how labor and birth go for mom and baby.”

Amy Elliott, a Marietta resident, did her dissertation on using hypnosis for childbirth, and she taught a hypnobabies class.

“It was just very interesting because it was so holistic and so encompassing,” Elliott said. “There were encouraging stories, and it really focused on the health of the mom, the baby and the cooperation between the birth partners. It was just this feel-good thing.”

Elliott’s research showed that hypnobirthing was not a one-time endeavor. There is deprogramming of beliefs that needs to go with it, as well as accountability regarding nutrition, exercise, and peer and spousal support.

“So the question of ‘Does hypnosis work for childbirth?’ is overly simplistic,”  Elliott said. “The answer is yes, but there needs to be all these factors in place for it to be an ideal experience.”

There are many steps and classes a woman who wants to use hypnobirthing must take for her to be properly educated about her body. Women are taught that the uterine muscles will work efficiently together when the body is completely relaxed. Expectant moms learn these skills in class, and practice them at home every day until their baby arrives.

“It was a six-week complete trial education course with mom and a birth partner, and lots of homework in-between,” Elliott said. “In order for a woman to relax, she has to know exactly what physically is happening, and she has to feel control over the environment.”

Elliott used hypnobirthing during her own pregnancy and believes it was a great choice that benefited her completely.

“It helped me understand more about staying healthy, my body, my mind and what was happening,” Elliott said. “I think a lot of women go into childbirth scared or they don’t know what’s happening, and it’s hard to feel fully a part of something if you don’t understand it.”

Although Elliott no longer teaches hypnobabies classes, she sees the method of hypnobirthing becoming widely used across the general population of soon-to-be mothers, despite how many misinterpret the practice.

“I think it’s widely misunderstood. People look for something that’s quick and complete, while this is more holistic,” Elliott said. “There’s a major section of the course that is on nutrition because if the mom isn’t healthy, then the baby isn’t healthy, and hypnosis isn’t going to help anything.”

Taryn Burkley, a sophomore studying nursing, finds the method of hypnobirthing very interesting, and sees how it could be beneficial for women to look into.

“I know that America has a really high death rate of women while giving birth, while other countries who believe in all-natural birth processes have a much lower death rate,” Burkley said. “So I do think more women should look into this because it seems like it gives mothers a lot of simple and helpful things to do, which makes it go smoother and less painful.”


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