We love midwives! Their service, love and dedication to expectant and birthing families is invaluable and we love to educate our students about the Midwifery Model of Care. Many midwives don’t yet have experience with Hypnobabies or hypnosis itself, therefore how the power of our minds creates change and manifests healing, pain relief and emotional confidence is still unknown to them. This article (excerpted from the Hypnobabies Hypno-Doula Training Program) is dedicated to the wonderful midwives who attend Hypnobabies births. It is our intention to help midwives learn more about Hypnobabies language terms, philosophies, hypnosis techniques, and how they can more effectively support their Hypnobabies clients’ unique birth preferences. (Hypno-Moms, please share the link to this blog post with your own midwife, and doulas, please share it with your local midwifery groups. Thank you.)
Wonderful midwives: Since Hypnobabies really is different from other childbirth preparation programs and you may not be familiar with the unique needs of our students, we simply ask that you read our educational post here with an open mind! “When I encounter a story that reveals something about a labor or birth that is new to me, I don’t automatically dismiss it as untrue or irrelevant simply because I am unfamiliar with the phenomenon it reveals.” ~ Ina May Gaskin, Birth Matters
Serving your Hypnobabies clients during their prenatal visits … some things to know:
1. Hypnobabies mothers are in a state of heightened suggestibility when in the presence of a *perceived* authority figure. As a medical care provider, you are an authority figure to all of your midwifery clients. Of course you and the families you serve are collaborators in their pregnancy and birthing journey; you are “on the same team”, working together in a partnership that bonds you together. While this is true, it is the *perception* (on the part of each expectant mother) that you are also an authority figure who is the ultimate expert and to whom she turns for extremely important issues as well as comfort and possibly protection that makes her much more suggestible to what *you* say and do. This is true for anyone she considers an expert (authority figure) during her pregnancy and birth, and it explains why strong, intelligent women can be so easily influenced when it comes to extremely important issues during pregnancy and birth.
2. Listening to an authority figure speak creates a state of heightened suggestibility in the listener’s mind, because the listener holds the speaker in high regard. More importance is put on the words spoken than if a non-authority figure spoke the very same words.
3. Everything said by you, an authority figure, during a prenatal visit becomes a directive to your client’s subconscious mind (her feeling mind) and this can result in her experiencing physiologically anything that is said to her in a “what to expect” manner.
4. This is especially true for your clients who are learning Hypnobabies because they have a daily hypnosis practice making them even more suggestible. It’s very important that they hear everything spoken to them in encouraging, positive or neutral language.
5. This means using terms that have a neutral or positive association for your client. Most women who have seen, read or heard others’ birth stories have developed a fearful, or negative association with the terms that we have historically used to describe birth.
6. The words an expectant mother associates with her impressions of childbirth often have a negative connotation (emotional meaning) to her subconscious mind.
7. She may even express consciously that she doesn’t have a negative association with the words that were used to tell the frightening or drama-filled birth stories, but it’s important to know that we all form connotations for the words we hear. This happens automatically in the subconscious mind and is expressed in our behavior.
8. When a woman hears birth terms that have a negative connotation to her, spoken by an authority figure during prenatal visits, or while she’s vulnerable and highly suggestible during birthing, she automatically recalls the associated feeling subconsciously, and she can actually experience the same feeling in the moment that she associates with those words. If she associates the word with fear, she’ll experience fear.
9. As birth workers, we all have come to understand that fear is the most prevalent impediment to the process of giving birth.
10. The Hypnobabies program purposefully uses neutral/encouraging language to eliminate the automatic fear response that a pregnant woman experiences when she hears birth described in terms/words that have a negative association and connotation for her.
11. This is why Hypnobabies uses words/terms to describe birth like:
• BABY rather than FETUS
• GIVING BIRTH not the DELIVERY or BEING DELIVERED
• BIRTHING WAVE or PRESSURE WAVE instead of CONTRACTION
• BIRTHING TIME instead of LABOR or even HARD LABOR
• TRANSFORMATION rather than TRANSITION (when “transition hit” … )
• DISCOMFORT never PAIN (no positive connotations for the word pain)
• POWERFUL STRETCHING or PRESSURE SENSATIONS not RING OF FIRE
What about childbirth preparation … taking other classes and doing Hypnobabies?
1. For all the reasons cited above regarding the impact that birth language can have on the expectant mother’s feelings and perceptions, and even her experience of pregnancy and childbirth, we ask that expectant mothers choose one childbirth preparation program and only one; that they choose a program that appeals to them and that they embrace that one program fully.
2. When a mother chooses to use Hypnobabies Childbirth Hypnosis to prepare for birth, it is imperative that she hears and speaks, and thinks only in terms/words that form positive, encouraging associations, and connotations for words that describe birth.
3. The Hypnobabies mother will be learning and using hypnosis to reframe her perceptions of birth at the subconscious level (her feelings).
4. She is learning through her hypnosis practice that birth can be easier and more comfortable, so that she may become fearless and confident about birth. Eliminating fear from birth while learning hypnosis tools for physical comfort creates a new positive perception of what birth can be in her subconscious mind; in her feelings about birth.
5. If at the same time, she also sees videos and hears in another childbirth class that birth is the worst pain she’ll ever experience … but that she is strong, and she can endure the pain, and that the pain is purposeful, or that pain is empowering and helps her bond with her baby … her hypnosis conditioning to the opposite will be undone. This is because the subconscious mind (feelings), cannot entertain or experience two such opposite philosophies in the same moment, in the same body. She simply cannot feel confident and afraid at the same time.
6. Choosing is the important message here. We are not saying that Hypnobabies is for everyone; we know that it is not. However, in order for a mother who chooses Hypnobabies to make the best use of the hypnosis tools that create her comfort, she needs to avoid attending other classes where the language and the philosophy is one of preparation for coping with unavoidable pain.
7. Some people think that Hypnobabies teaches only hypnosis, and that expectant moms need to take other classes in order to be fully prepared for a natural birth … not true! Since Hypnobabies includes very thorough, consumer-based childbirth preparation education along with birth hypnosis tools, it isn’t necessary for our students to take other classes in order to be fully informed about all aspects of preparing for birth such as:
A midwife can support her Hypnobabies clients during the prenatal period by:
1. being open-minded and hypno-curious!
2. using neutral, encouraging terms when talking about birth or when describing procedures or explaining her choices during prenatal visits.
3. learning about the Hypnobabies program (it’s different than other hypno-birth courses)
4. asking mom if she practices her eyes-open childbirth hypnosis technique 5 times every day:
Things about Hypnobabies that your client will appreciate you knowing:
1. The single most important thing to know is that everything said to a woman in hypnosis becomes a directive. If she is told that what she will feel is going to be painful or unpleasant, by way of warning her what to expect next, she can experience something uncomfortable that she otherwise wouldn’t have. For example: saying, “Powerful stretching sensations as your baby’s head crowns” or “lots of pressure now as baby crowns”, rather than “let me know when you begin to feel the burn”, or “now you’re going to feel the ring of fire” will eliminate fear for the mother, and create confidence and a much more comfortable experience.
2. Mothers need to use their hypnosis techniques early in birthing, and maintain a deep level of hypnosis throughout birthing for it to be most effective. It’s a myth that being in hypnosis “too early” can stall birthing. The opposite is actually true. Hypnosis tracks can be used to start birthing, and to increase the power of birthing waves.
3. She needs a constant stream of hypnotic suggestions coming into her subconscious mind in order to actually stay in a deeply hypnotized state. She can listen to her Hypnobabies audio tracks or to her Birth Partner reading Birth Prompts to her, or listen to the Relaxation Music and use her self-hypnosis tools on her own.
4. It’s her HYPNOSIS conditioning and its continuous use during birthing that creates her comfort and therefore allows her to relax so profoundly, not the other way around.
5. Hypnobabies is not guided imagery or just a better relaxation technique; it’s real medical hypnosis (hypno-anesthesia) that doctors and dentists use for their patients who cannot tolerate medical anesthesia for surgeries or other procedures. Hypnobabies mothers learn to create hypno-anesthesia and must maintain a deep level of hypnosis to access it instantly during birthing.
The Signs of Birth Progressing Can Be Subtle in Hypnobabies Mothers:
The signs that a Hypnobabies mother is in her Birthing Time are the same as other natural birthing mothers, just typically more subtle. When she’s in her early Birthing Time, she is able to listen to her hypnosis tracks and sleep, sometimes all the way to 5 centimeters dilation. She will continue to rest until her birth progresses to the point where she knows instinctively that she needs to do something different, like change her position or eat or use the restroom.
It’s important that the Hypnobabies mother follows her own internal agenda for comfort. A lot of times it isn’t apparent that a Hypnobabies mother is making progress during the early part of her birthing, so her birth care provider might suggest maneuvers or positioning and movement to get things going, when actually her birthing is moving right along … it’s just not obvious because she’s not demonstrating that she’s uncomfortable. Since approximately 70% of Hypnobabies mothers report being completely comfortable through their entire birth experience, your Hypnobabies client might never exhibit any signs of being in pain during birth.
If a Hypnobabies mother’s birthing has seemingly stalled, it’s more important to look to her emotional state first. She could listen to her “Fear Clearing” hypnosis track and resolve any concerns or fears that might be preventing her from progressing to the next phase of birthing. For example, a mom that has experienced abuse who could become afraid of pushing her baby out as she neared second stage, is able to let go of those concerns for the moment in order to attend to the task at hand, and go on to give birth to her baby quickly. This is the purpose of the Fear Clearing session. She might need to address those concerns with a therapist later on, but in the moment she’s able to regain her confidence and composure and give birth.
As the Hypnobabies mother’s birthing progresses, she might become more and more inwardly focused and communicate less. This isn’t because she isn’t able to speak during a pressure wave. She could if she wanted to; her not speaking is more likely due to not wanting to interrupt her focus and the depth of her hypnosis. Waiting to hear some distress in her voice, or panic in her tone as an indication of being in active labor is not valid for a Hypnobabies mom. Many a doula or midwife who is used to listening to the mother’s tone of voice for signs of distress before going to join them, has missed the baby’s birthing altogether. Midwives and doulas have also reported that some of our Hypnobabies mothers are so calm and focused during late first stage that they didn’t know when the mom was having a pressure wave!
There are usually signs that a Hypnobabies mother is in late first stage/transformation. During late first stage, her breathing might deepen like any birthing mom, and she may breathe a bit more rapidly. She might even moan or vocalize, and any sounds she makes will become lower in tone as her baby moves deeper into her pelvis. She might tremble, and feel hot or cold alternately just like other mothers who are in late first stage.
However, it’s not common for a Hypnobabies mother to experience nausea or to vomit as an indication that second stage is near. This is because they remain so relaxed emotionally and physically throughout birth that there are less stressor hormones in her body to cause her to become nauseous. For the same reason, some of our Hypnobabies mothers, especially during their second or subsequent births, never have pressure waves that are closer than 3 – 4 minutes apart or that last longer than 60 seconds.
Since their bodies are not fighting the birthing process, they are not experiencing the Fear, Tension Pain cycle which can interfere with the efficiency of the uterine muscles and slow down birthing. This is the reason so many of our mothers give birth more rapidly than the average. Remaining profoundly relaxed throughout first stage gives Hypnobabies mothers the energy to push their babies out when the time comes.
What About Suggesting Other “Tried and True” Natural Childbirth Tools?
If a Hypnobabies mother is experiencing some challenges during her baby’s birth, she needs her support team to help her get refocused on her hypnosis tools, not to suggest that she switch gears in the middle of her birthing to some other method of breathing, or movement or coping mechanisms. She may be experiencing a moment of self-doubt and she would benefit from listening to Fear Clearing or possibly some private time to listen to some deepening cues from her Birth Partner.
What she really needs is encouragement to deepen her self-hypnosis and to continue to use the tools that have been working for her up to this point. If her Hypnobabies tools ever worked for her, they will work again. A mother can decide to quit using her hypnosis skills, but hypnosis doesn’t just quit working all by itself. There is no time limit on the effectiveness of hypnosis. If a Hypnobabies mother has been using it effectively up until a certain point, she can be encouraged to re-enter, re-commit and reinforce her level of hypnosis until she’s back on track again. For most mothers, the Hypnobabies Birth Guide ~ track 1, “Easy First Stage” is the hypnosis track they turn to the most. It is designed to keep her deeply in hypnosis, to reinforce all her cue words and to focus her attention on her hypno-anesthesia, and being confident no matter what is happening around her, and to feeling safe.
If she’s been handed a major change to her birth plan, her Birth Partner could read her the Hypnobabies “Change of Plans” script to help her accept the new path her baby’s birthing is taking, and to refocus on her hypnosis tools for comfort.
If a Hypnobabies mother experiences a challenge or if she says she feels like she “just can’t do this” (as we’ve seen mothers who use every method of childbirth preparation do), this is not the time for your Hypnobabies client to “try something different” (unless it is a different Hypnobabies cue or technique). For instance, if we ask a Hypnobabies mother to “open her eyes and to breathe with me” to help her refocus, we’ve just engaged the neo-cortex of her brain and popped her right out of hypnosis. Her pre-conditioned hypnosis techniques will be of no use to her if she’s no longer in a state of hypnosis.
It’s also not the time to suggest using her Hypnobabies in ways that aren’t familiar to her, or suggest that she use her tools in ways that they weren’t designed to be used. This could be disorienting to her at a time when she just needs to be reminded of what she’s learned and practiced, in order to get her focus on hypnosis back.
As Ina May Gaskin said in her TEDx Sacramento presentation …
“I noticed that labor could be well established, that the uterus could be opening, the cervix opening, and things could come to a halt. OK, now what do we do then? Well, I found out that sometimes words could help, but they had to be the right words, something strong and relevant for that woman.”
Just as with any other method of preparation for childbirth, there are ways to work within the Hypnobabies program to get mom past any obstacles to her achieving her goal of a natural birth. We wouldn’t suggest to a Bradley mom that she begin using Lamaze distraction breathing techniques if she’s struggling a bit to remain relaxed while doing her deep abdominal breathing during late first stage. We use what she’s learned in her Bradley classes to help her to refocus and regain her confidence and composure with the tools she already knows. Moms need familiarity and the security of the tools they’ve chosen, learned and practiced during their preparation for their baby’s birth.
The most important thing to remember at a Hypnobabies birth is that the mother needs to be listening to (using hypno-tools) something familiar that will keep her deeply in hypnosis throughout her entire Birthing Time. She’s not DOING Hypnobabies if she’s not using her hypnosis tools (inside, to herself) and/or listening to hypnotic suggestions on audio tracks, or hearing birth prompts read to her by her Birth Partner or Hypno-Doula.
Easy, Comfortable Childbirth … Chance? Coincidence? Accident?
A Hypnobabies mom gives birth confidently, comfortably, much more easily than most natural childbirth moms …
Is it a fluke…a one-time occurrence…or maybe “just how that one mom gives birth…”? This is unfortunately what some birth professionals think is the case after they attend a Hypnobabies birth, assuming that the “hypno-tools” which that Hypnobabies mother used “worked for her, but probably won’t work for other moms”. Or that “this mother was just lucky and had an easy time of it”, or “I’ve never actually seen hypnosis work in a birth before so I’m not sure….”
Not having a true understanding of the medical-grade hypnosis contained in Hypnobabies and having attended other types of “hypno-births” is most likely the cause of these responses. In reality, it is deep somnambulistic hypnosis, complete childbirth education and the compounding (repetition) of hypnosis techniques that creates fear-free, comfortable Hypnobabies births.
Please take sometime to read Hypnobabies Birth Stories and you’ll see first-hand accounts of many Hypnobabies mothers experiencing easy, comfortable Hypnobabies births that resulted not from chance, but from their own dedication to learning, practicing and using Hypnobabies hypnosis techniques during childbirth! Homebirths, Birth Center Births, Hospital Births, First-time Moms, VBAC Births, Waterbirths , Breech Babies, Multiples.
A Midwife’s Experience with Hypnobabies
One wonderful midwife, Stephanie Soderblom, who was very skeptical at first, shares her insights and revelations with us:
“Despite the fact that I have been attending births for fourteen years, my first experience with Hypnobabies happened only a year ago…and I have to admit that I wasn’t looking forward to it. Why not? Because I’d had previous experiences with “hypno”-classes and the subsequent births were often MORE challenging as the parents were not only underprepared for what they were about to experience, they were set up for disappointments with unrealistic expectations of a “pain free” birth if they just did their hypnosis “right”. It was not unusual for my client to feel labor becoming active (generally 3-4 cm dilated) and panic, thinking she was not doing things ‘right’ because of how it felt, losing all confidence in her ability and desire to complete the job at hand…the exact opposite of what you want in labor.
The upcoming birth was a first time mother and, as most people know, first babies tend to be the most challenging. I was skeptical and nervous about it as I knew this was a “hypno-birth” mother. I braced myself for the false alarms I often saw, emotional breakdowns, the pep talks I was used to giving to “hypno-birth” mothers about how she was NOT failing or doing it wrong, that her body COULD do this, that nothing was wrong. During our prenatal visits with this Hypnobabies mom I would ask her if she had any questions this week about nutrition, signs of labor, questions about the birth – and I was always pleasantly surprised at the depth of her knowledge and she would always assure me that they’d just gone over that information in her Hypnobabies class! My curiosity was peaked, but I did remain skeptical.
I got the first call early in the morning that the mother thought her water had broken, but they assured me that she was doing just fine and would keep in touch with me and let me know if anything changed or she needed me. She planned to do what she’d learned in her Hypnobabies class…to eat well and rest until labor commanded her attention. Plan for the day was to take naps and watch a DVD! Alright…now I was impressed! I didn’t have to tell a first time mom to take it easy in early labor, or calm a panicking family because her water had broken! How refreshing!
We kept in contact throughout the day until I headed to their house late that evening. Contractions were coming very regularly, but she was still calm and handling things very well. I figured I’d be there for quite a long time as it still sounded like it wasn’t far into her labor. I got to their home and she was listening to her CDs, calm and happy – uh oh, more confirmation that I’d probably be there a long time. Imagine my delight when their son slipped out into the world while his mom sat on a birth stool in her peaceful bedroom! Tucked into bed, mom smiled and looked at me and said, “That wasn’t nearly as bad as so many people told me it would be! That was AWESOME!”
I was thrilled beyond words – but figured that the chances were great that it was the parents that succeeded IN SPITE of the method, not because of the method. Glad that they had such a positive experience, Hypnobabies hadn’t quite won me over yet – I would need more experience with it before making a final judgment.
Thankfully I wouldn’t have to wait long. Another first time mother (who had attended the same class as the previous mother!) called me early in the morning with early labor. Similar story as her classmate; she labored all day, finally calling me out late in the evening. A smiling and happy first time mom greeted me from her rented Jacuzzi hot tub in her family room. I commented to my assistant that we were probably in for a LONG night and after our initial assessment we laid down to rest. One hour later, when I went to check on the baby, she was out of the water and going to the bathroom. Still smiling and happy, we all agreed that an internal exam might be a good idea. I prayed that she would be at least 3cm but braced myself for much less. To say that I was shocked is an understatement: I found her to be 8cm dilated and her water broken around my hand. Her response to finding out she was 8cm was a smile and a calm, “yay”! She got back into her water and soon after she delivered her 10 pound baby girl in her bedroom. Her response to the birth was that it was “beautiful”.
I could feel myself converting to being a Hypnobabies fan. Not for myself, mind you, but for my clients who time and time again have had similar experiences. Calm labors, centered mamas, working intensely and never complaining because they EXPECTED and PREPARED to work intensely for an easier birth experience!! Babies born beautifully by empowered mothers who soon-after say how wonderful their births were.
I found myself referring people eagerly to the Hypnobabies classes, and my reaction to finding out someone was a Hypnobabies family was, “AWESOME!” It has totally shattered all of my previous misgivings that I had developed, as it became obvious how different the Hypnobabies series was from all other hypno-classes. The main difference that I saw was the amount (and quality) of childbirth information given. Families were given information on how to keep themselves healthy through the pregnancy, stages of labor, physiological changes and ways to help facilitate the birth through positional changes and movement – and also given information on ways to use hypnosis to assist them through the birth. The parents were given realistic expectations so that they could prepare for what they were likely to experience, not false hope of escaping the experience.
As a midwife, my Hypnobabies births are easy on me as I am dealing with healthy and informed families ready for the challenges ahead – and they are a blessing to the families as the tools and information given to them through their classes help them have the best outcomes possible!! Yes, Hypnobabies…you turned this skeptic into a fan!”
Stephanie Soderblom, LM CPM
For more detailed and comprehensive information for all birth professionals that attend Hypnobabies births, please visit our Hypnobabies Hypno-Doula Training Program page.
(Hypno-Doulas, please share the above information with your Hypnobabies clients’ midwives so that they can help our wonderful Hypno-moms enjoy an easier, more comfortable birth.)