Sunday, October 9, 2011

HypnoBirthing - What is it?

Recommended resources: Hypnobirthing, Four Trimesters, Giving Birth Naturally

In essence, HypnoBirthing is self-hypnosis. It sounds wonky to some people and I realize that the name is perhaps its undoing. People have the image of hypnosis as someone being made to do stupid, silly or even dangerous things for someone else’s pleasure / gain. However, this is as far from the truth as it can get.

Firstly, one cannot be hypnotized against his/her will. If you’ve been to a hypnosis comedy show, those people who go up on stage and volunteer to be hypnotized have expressed their willingness to be hypnotized. They CANNOT be hypnotized without acknowledging that they want to. (Besides, they could always pretend to be hypnotized and no one in the audience would know it). Next, self-hypnosis doesn’t require someone to hypnotize you. Self – meaning you hypnotize yourself. Although you do not realize it, if you have ever had the experience of being so engrossed in a book or activity that you’ve lost track of time and the people around you, that in itself, is a form of self-hypnosis.

In HypnoBirthing, one is taught to face up to one’s fears and misconceptions about labour and birth e.g. that it is a painful and long drawn out affair, oft planted by the media and not-so-pleasant experiences of our friends and relatives. Strangely, people who have had difficult births seem to relish telling their birth ‘horror’ story while those who had easy births tend to keep quiet about it. Perhaps it’s the drama that holds the listener’s attention? Then, positive connotations and images are used to ‘replace’ the negative images in our minds, such as, a rose bud opening to reveal a baby inside, watching videos of calm and peaceful births. Most importantly, it teaches that births can be short, easy and relaxed.

Various breathing techniques are taught as well as when to use a particular technique, such as breathing the baby down the birth canal (as opposed to pushing the baby out). Breathing techniques are rehearsed in every class – which is important so that you can remember it. One is also required to practice on a daily basis at home. Information is given about birth positions, fetal positioning (head down is not the only thing to look out for!) and what to do if the baby is not in an ideal position. In addition, one is taught about all the possible medical terms and interventions that can potentially be offered in a hospital and includes tips on how to avoid having a caesarean – this information is very important when you are faced with a situation of having to make an on-the-spot decision about what to use / do. Some of the tools used include positive reinforcements and a relaxation CD called Rainbow Relaxation. On the whole, it is a very comprehensive course that covers almost everything and anything that one needs to know about this experience known as ‘birthing’.

It was Dr. Grantly Dick-Read, an English obstetrician, who discovered what is now known as hypnobirthing in the 1920s. The discovery came about when he was called to a laboring woman’s home to assist with her birth. She was a young woman, and said to him, ‘It is not supposed to be painful, is it?’ Dr. Dick-Read went on to witness her giving birth in a calm manner, without need or want of the medical tools of that era, which at one point in time included chloroform (!?). Yes, before the invention of the epidural that was what they used to knock laboring women out. Queen Victoria was one of those who used it for the deliveries of her 8th and 9th children (, Since these women were at least semi-conscious, in many cases, they ended up needing even further assistance such as forceps and caesarean to get the baby out – simply because when knocked out, the body cannot perform the way it was created to. It’s truly a case of one (unnecessary) intervention leading to another.

After that first observation, Dr. Dick-Read went on to perform further research and was eventually one of the first doctors to forward the concept of natural birthing as it existed thousands of years ago, long before the invention of medical aids such as the epidural which led to women and doctors forgetting how to birth naturally; causing women to become ineffective at natural birthing and instead reliant on drugs (*see note below). The method teaches you that in the absence of fear and tension, or special medical circumstances, severe pain does not have to be an accompaniment of labour.

As noted on the HypnoBirthing website, HypnoBirthing gives you an understanding of how the birthing muscles work in perfect harmony – as they were designed to – when your body is sufficiently relaxed and you trust your body and birth to be able to perform as they were intended to. You will learn how to achieve this kind of relaxation, free of the resistance that fear creates, and you will learn to use your natural birthing instincts for a calm, serene and comfortable birth.

What you will experience in a HypnoBirthing birth is an experience similar to daydreaming or focusing, that occurs when you are engrossed in a book or a movie. You will be conversant and in good spirits – totally relaxed but fully in control. Awake throughout, you will be aware of your body’s surges and your baby’s progress; but because you will have trained yourself to reach complete relaxation, you will be able to determine the degree and the manner in which you will feel the surges. You will experience birthing in an atmosphere of calm relaxation, free of the fear that prevents the muscles of your body from functioning as nature intended them to. In this calm state, your body's natural relaxant, endorphins, replaces the stress hormones that constrict and cause pain.

Learn HypnoBirthing then go forth to birth joyfully, enjoying your calm, easy and relaxed labour. :)

"When you change the way you view birth,
the way you birth will change."
-Marie F. Mongan

I am not against the use of drugs during delivery. I am against the current abuse of drugs and medical tools in the delivery suite where doctors use them to hasten a birth when a baby is not ready to be born (induced birth), where doctors perform an episiotomy just because, where women are ‘chained’ to monitors and unable to move, where a caesarean is deemed necessary because of ‘failure’ to dilate or ‘slow’ dilation, and where doctors fail to adequately educate their patients about their options including a natural, drug-free birth and the full range of drugs available and their effects, pros and cons. Who do you blame when a caveman burns his village down if he was told of its usefulness but not of its dangers? Do you blame the giver or the recipient?

I applaud the wise use of drugs in situations such as in a life and death situation or complications or when an epidural is administered during an exceptionally long labour to give the mother some respite, and with rest, she will have enough energy left for the final leg. Yes, drugs and medical tools have the place but only when used wisely.

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