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What’s the deal with birth hypnosis?

Instead of relying on medicine for pain relief, some moms use hypnosis to cope with the pain of labor and delivery. What’s it all about, and is this something anyone can do?

Woman in labor

You might have heard of Hypnobabies or birth hypnosis from a friend, but if you haven’t tried it yet, it can seem a little overwhelming or difficult — or even a little “out there.“ Proponents of hypnosis for childbirth say that this can’t be further from the truth — with a little training, you can learn to enter a state similar to hypnosis that can help your birth be calm, gentle and more comfortable.


Birth hypnosis is a method of relaxation that women can be trained to use during labor and delivery. Hypnosis may bring to mind images of a cartoonish man dangling a stopwatch in front of someone’s eyes, intoning, “You are getting very sleepy.” But in reality, it’s not like that at all.

Hypnosis, or hypnotherapy, is described as a state of deep relaxation (both physical and mental), thereby allowing the person to focus on a feeling or a thought by blocking outside distractions. There are several different hypnotherapy methods, but most will teach the mom-to-be to induce a state of self-hypnosis that allows her to visualize her cervix opening up and her baby descending through the birth canal.

“The name is quite deceiving,” explained Bethany, who is expecting her second child. “It’s more like meditation. I took classes where I basically practiced visualization and relaxation techniques. You definitely get into a zone, but are fully aware of everything going on around you.”

Breaking the cycle of fear

Birth hypnosis works by breaking a soon-to-be mom’s connection with her fear of childbirth — and the pain involved. Fear can lead to muscle tensing and fight-or-flight symptoms that can impede the progress of labor, and you definitely don’t want anything getting in the way of progression of labor and eventual delivery of your baby. “You are taught that if you allow either pain, fear or tension in, it’ll lead to the rest,” shared Heather, mom of two. “So taking their teachings and listening to positive affirmations can calm your fears, which will release tension which will help your body work more efficiently and in turn you’ll be in less (or no) pain. It’s about trying to get your body and mind to work positively together for the best end result.”

Tiffany used Hypnobabies for her home birth and loved the course and what it taught her. A doula from a nearby community holds courses for parents-to-be where they can learn the techniques themselves. “The most beneficial part for me was the constant reminder that I was doing what my body was meant to do,” she happily remembered. “I had a calm peaceful birth at home and there were times I fell asleep on my birth ball.”

Riding the wave

Bethany was delighted at how well it worked during the labor and delivery of her first child. “In fact, the labor and delivery nurses were astonished that I was smiling through what their monitors showed as very strong contractions,” she told us. “She asked me why I was smiling, noting that most women don’t. I told her that each surge brought me closer to meeting my baby.”

If you’re interested in learning more, you can search for an educator through the Hypnobabies website or the HypnoBirthing website. Ask around to see if any of your friends or family members have used one of these methods, and find out where they learned it from. Learning more about childbirth and your body’s role can only improve your outcome, so if you’re so inclined, don’t hesitate to find out more.

More on natural birth

Benefits of natural childbirth
Recovering after childbirth: When going natural pays off
Plan a natural birth in six easy steps

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