Can Hypnobirthing Lead to Pain-Free Labor and Delivery?

Filed under: In The News, Delivery

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Would you try hypnobirthing? Credit: Getty

The newest trend to hit the birthing education front is hypnobirthing, a technique that incorporates hypnosis into labor, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The concept is a lot like using hypnosis for smoking, weight loss and breaking other bad habits. Expectant moms are trained to relax on demand and avoid dwelling on pain, which can lead to a natural and relatively pain-free labor, the newspaper says. Costs for the courses range from about $140 for home kits and CDs to $500 for the growing number of classes, the Journal adds.

So, how does the hypnosis work during delivery? Hypnosis is a state of deep relaxation, where a person is particularly susceptible to the power of suggestion, David Spiegel, psychiatry professor at Stanford University, tells the Journal. Successfully used for weight loss, smoking cessation and pain management, when people are hypnotized, their brains are better able to alter perception of different senses, including feeling less pain, he adds.

Critics worry such programs may set up a pain-free birthing ideal that sets prospective birthing moms up for unreal expectations in a process that can be fraught with possible complications, Nancy Chescheir, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of North Carolina, tells the Journal. She says it's important to be flexible and open to medical interventions if necessary.

"You can't predict how your labor is going to go," Chescheir tells the newspaper. "The childbirth education experience should be about 'How can I partner with my provider?' "

Cassie Friesen of Broomfield, Colo., tells the Journal she imagined she was inside a bubble and repeated the word "peace" with each contraction when she gave birth to her daughter last July.

"It's so corny-sounding," she tells the newspaper, "and yet it worked."

HypnoBirthing LLC was started in Chichester, N.H., in the early 1990s by Marie Mongan, a former college counselor trained in hypnotherapy and author of the book "HypnoBirthing," the Journal reports.

Today, more than 1,300 certified "Mongan Method" instructors guide couples through visualization sequences such as "opening rose" and "rainbow relaxation," to be used during delivery, according to the newspaper.

Hypnobabies LLC, in Stanton, Calif., began in a community center and now sells classes and self-study kits to some 20,000 women a year, founder Kerry Tuschhoff tells the Journal. Her method promotes "eyes-open childbirth hypnosis," in which women are said to remain in deep hypnosis even as they walk, talk and move around the room during labor.

"Many Hypnobabies' moms have pain-free and fear-free births," Tuschhoff tells the newspaper, adding that the pain of childbirth is transformed into "comfortable feelings."

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