What is hypnobirthing? How can it help prepare you for labor and delivery?

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When you hear the word hypnobirthing, you might start to imagine yourself lying in a hospital bed with someone swinging a pocket watch in front of your face trying to get you to fall into a trance. While it might seem like a peaceful way to get through labor and delivery, hypnobirthing isn’t exactly what it sounds like.

Hypnobirthing and self-hypnosis

Actually, the method is a form of self-hypnosis that relies on breathing techniques and visualization to reduce the fear and pain that’s commonly associated with giving birth. Much like other classes that aim to give you a better understanding of what’s necessary in getting ready for baby, hypnobirthing classes prepare moms-to-be for the intimidating birthing process.

The method is based on the work of Dr. Grantly Dick-Read, an English physician who questioned the pain associated with childbirth.

“In no other animal species is the process of birth apparently associated with any suffering, pain or agony, except where pathology exists or in an unnatural state, such as captivity,” he wrote in his book Childbirth Without Fear, which was published in 1933.

Reducing the tension that increases the sensation of pain

He believed that fear and tension were responsible for 95 percent of the pain experienced during labor. He also found it could be reduced or even completely eliminated with relaxation techniques. Mothers who take hypnobirthing classes are taught how to calm themselves down. They do this by visualizing relaxing situations or locations and letting their bodies do all the work.

Words matter

Even the names of some of the experiences associated with delivery are altered for the hypnobirthing method. For example, contractions are called surges. Labor is called birthing. Pain is called pressure. This is thought to reduce anxiety and put a more positive spin on the birthing process.

Many mothers who trained in hypnobirthing still opt for pain medication, epidurals and C-sections. But when it comes time to deliver, being prepared for labor and reducing the stress involved never hurts.

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