If a pain-free labour without drugs sounds too good to be true, think again. Relax, take a deep breath and hypnotise yourself to give birth without the hurt
"Giving birth to Anna was such a relaxing experience – I was in my own little bubble,” smiles Angela, 35, mum to Adam, 4, Daniel, 2, and Anna, 18 months.
If you’re wondering how to get Angela’s attitude, look no further than hypnotherapy for pregnancy and birth. It may sound like part of Derren Brown’s mystical act, but you don’t have to be a magician. In fact, an increasing number of mums-to-be are turning to hypnosis to manage pain and help make birth a calm and positive experience.
For most of us, the word hypnosis brings to mind someone in a trance-like state, under the control of a creepy-looking hypnotist. But in reality, hypnosis is simply a very deep state of relaxation where you are still very much in control of your actions.
“Hypnosis for birth is all about relaxation and learning how to control pain,” explains Monica Black, a clinical hypnotherapist at London-based Hampstead Hypnotherapy. “You’re completely aware and awake, just incredibly relaxed. You’re still able to talk and work with the midwives.
“By self-hypnosis through breathing and relaxation, you can control the pain of labour, potentially speed up delivery and, overall, have a more enjoyable birth experience.”
Laura, 33, mum to Delilah, 11 weeks, was induced at 42 weeks, and feared losing control of her labour and birth. “Hypnosis made me braver. In hospital I was left alone through the night after the first pessary. With your first birth, labour is unknown, so listening to the hypnosis CD I’d been practising for three months was very reassuring. I lay in bed thinking, ‘It’s OK, I’m calm.’”
According to Monica, giving birth doesn’t have to hurt. “Society has made women believe giving birth is painful, so mums-to-be have a preconceived fear of it. Fear leads to tension, tension leads to pain. Through the relaxed state of hypnosis you can allay your fears and control pain. You can never take away the sensation of giving birth, but under hypnosis it becomes virtually pain free.”
After giving birth to first baby Adam without hypnosis, Angela was delighted by the pain relief it offered for her second and third births. “After my first child, I had jaw ache from clenching the gas-and-air mouthpiece so hard. But with hypnosis for Daniel and Anna’s births, I had no problem. Every time I felt my body tense, I was able to go with it – the pain just melted away.”
Monica teaches mums-to-be to mentally ‘numb’ areas of their bodies. “You can learn how to numb whatever part of the body you want. Once you’ve gained control, you feel sensation but you won’t feel pain.”
Monica’s second method is to visualise a control knob measuring your pain from zero to 10. “When contractions get stronger, you simply turn the level down,” she explains.
As well as helping manage the pain, hypnosis may also speed up labour. “By being so chilled out and pain free, birth can also be quicker,” says Monica. “When you relax the mind you also relax the body, so instead of fighting, you’ll go with the contractions.”
The speed of Angela’s home birth surprised even the midwives. “When they arrived they asked if my waters had broken and if they could examine me. I replied, ‘I’m just bearing down.’ They’d no idea contractions were a minute apart. They’d never seen a birth like Anna’s.”
“I didn’t prepare mentally for Pagan’s birth. I was in denial that it would hurt and never felt in control. Pagan got stuck and I needed stitches. I felt because of the long, traumatic birth, I later suffered from PND.
“My second pregnancy was unplanned. I was so scared I considered a termination. With time, though, I came round to the idea. I didn’t want a hospital birth again so I decided on a home birth and bought a Natal Hypnotherapy Birth Preparation CD.
“I listened to it every day from 30 weeks. I went into labour very early in the morning, put the CD on and went back to sleep. When I woke an hour later, I used TENS and bounced on my birthing ball, listening to the CD again. I stayed calm and, though my contractions got painful, I could handle them. But the baby got stuck, so we had to go to hospital for a ventouse delivery.
“Even though I didn’t get my home birth, hypnosis helped me deal with labour –- I didn’t panic and felt completely in control, a total contrast to my first birth.”
Sarah, 24, mum to Pagan, 3, and Gryffin, 8 months
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