By Kerry Tuschhoff, HCHI, CHt, CI
Hypnobabies: "Easier, More Comfortable Childbirth"
First and foremost, it is important to understand that although many of our Hypnobabies moms do experience pain-free births, not all of them do, and we do not promise or guarantee that will be the case. Hypnobabies is dedicated to helping each birthing mother have the *easiest, most comfortable birthing experience* that she can have. This is one of the first concepts our students learn, since our student workbook directly states the following:
You are about to embark upon a journey to learn how you, your Birth Partner and your baby can have a much easier, more comfortable and joyful childbirth experience. It will take dedication, planning and a willingness to be open to new concepts, and all will be well worth your effort and time.
At Hypnobabies, our motto is, “ENJOY your baby’s birth … in comfort, joy and love.” This is exactly what we work towards and what Hypnobabies was designed for, as you will see by the wording of each Hypnobabies script. It is important to remember that we cannot promise you a completely pain-free or drug-free birthing.
Although the majority of our Hypnobabies moms do have very comfortable births, some even pain-free, it is important for anyone using this course to understand that every birth experience is different, just as every pregnancy is different, you need to know and accept that your own will be the perfect one for you, no matter what path your birthing journey takes.
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There is no “right way” to do Hypnobabies, no one outcome or effect that every woman experiences. Therefore, there is no “failure” should things go differently than you originally planned. You will always be a successful Hypno-mom as long as you practice and use your Hypnobabies techniques, cues and scripts. Every woman has the kind of birthing that she needs to have, and every woman deserves to have the best and easiest one she can, so keep practicing your Hypnobabies skills until baby is born, and use what you have learned during your birthing … and afterwards.
Childbirth is so much easier when you use the incredible power of your own body, mind and spirit together, and that’s exactly what you are doing with Hypnobabies. Enjoy your course, your practice and your wonderful birthing!
As you can see, Hypnobabies does not guarantee a “pain-free” birth experience to anyone, and makes clear that birth outcomes for each mother are completely unique. This is exactly why we have affirmations and hypnosis scripts which include suggestions and directives such as:
“I easily accept any path that my birthing takes me when I give birth to my baby,
knowing that it is the right one for me and my baby.”
It is, however, extremely important that all mothers who embrace Hypnobabies *believe that it is possible to have a comfortable birth* using Hypnobabies techniques. There is no way for any of our moms to actually experience an easy, comfortable birth unless they believe it is a possibility for them and of course, that is what our course is all about: changing belief systems. I have actually heard birth professionals state that it is misleading to indicate to women that they can achieve comfortable, easy labor with Hypnobabies. Their reasoning seems to be that not all women do achieve this, so we shouldn’t teach anyone that it is possible!
Consider this: If we at Hypnobabies taught all of our mothers that “easier, more comfortable...even pain-free births can be experienced, but don’t expect that it will be that way for you”…what kind of outcomes would we see? We would be invalidating our tried and true, very successful techniques and tools, (and the birth stories of women who have had easy comfortable Hypnobabies births) in favor of…fear! This is similar to telling a child they shouldn't work towards getting an "A" in school so they won't be disappointed when they get a "C". To bring it closer to home, it is akin to physicians telling moms that “VBAC may be possible for some women, but don’t really plan on it for yourself because most moms can't achieve it”. Giving a bit of encouragement and then negating it with a *warning* is counter-productive and counter-intuitive to all that many of us stand for in the birthing world. It will benefit everyone if we all become a bit more open-minded about concepts that we don’t yet understand fully, and be willing to grow as we learn.
“If you have a hammer in your hand, you will suddenly see nails everywhere.”
~ Abraham Maslow
Planning Birth Realistically:
It is extremely important that all expectant mothers understand their own goals and needs for childbirth, so we encourage our Hypnobabies moms to plan their baby’s birth realistically by:
1. choosing a supportive birth team and birth place which will help them attain their natural (Hypnobabies) birth
2. maintaining prenatal exercise and excellent nutrition
3. using optimum fetal positioning
4. tuning in to themselves and their babies
5. and of course, learning, practicing and *using* Hypnobabies as outlined in our written materials, for their best benefit.
The good news is that most of our Hypno-moms are able to utilize the knowledge they have learned in Hypnobabies and enjoy excellent results. Sometimes, that is not the case. Although the written Hypnobabies material, audio tracks and other “hypno-tools” are the same ones used by Hypnobabies moms who have had excellent birth experiences, some moms have disappointing births…just like with all other childbirth preparation programs. For any mother to have experienced childbirth as anything but safe, satisfying and empowering is heart-wrenching to me, and it is even more disheartening to know that our wonderfully successful Hypnobabies techniques and “hypno-tools” are there, in each Hypno-Mom’s grasp, available to produce a much easier birth experience, and yet…
Same Hypnobabies techniques, cues, scripts, recordings, childbirth education, workbook and handouts. What happened? In reading birth stories and talking personally to some of the moms and other birth professionals, I have found:
The same thing happened that affects all other unsatisfactory births, with all childbirth programs out there: Life happened!
1. No time or willingness to learn & practice as necessary for the desired results
2. Incomplete birth preparation materials (in our case, moms only having the Hypnobabies audio tracks, which means they were not actually learning, practicing or using Hypnobabies)
3. Complications during birth, for mom, baby or both
4. Allowing large numbers of people at the birth
5. Emotional issues before and during birth
6. Birth attendants or “support” people that interfered with the natural process of birth
7. Birth attendants or “support” people that were unsupportive of the birthing method (in this case, of Hypnobabies) during birth
Misunderstandings: “No Different From….”
The first time I heard a fellow childbirth educator say that they considered Hypnobabies techniques to be “no more than deep relaxation” and “no different than _____ childbirth course" (in this case, the Bradley Method), I was astounded. I had no idea that people were so misinformed about what hypnosis really is; re-training the inner mind’s belief systems for a beneficial change. This is so much more powerful than just relaxation, breathing, or any other comfort techniques that I myself had previously taught as a non-Hypnobabies childbirth educator! As you will read below, our program’s success at helping moms achieve much easier and more comfortable births involves much more than “deep relaxation”, and you will learn why that is so important.
A brief explanation of Hypnosis:
Hypnosis begins with a deep state of relaxation, which can be induced either by a hypnotherapist or birth partner, with audio tracks or by self-hypnosis. Hypnosis is best described as an altered state of consciousness, a changed or focused state of awareness, concentration and perception. It is a heightened sense of suggestibility that redirects the focus of both the conscious and sub-conscious minds. While in a state of hypnosis, the conscious mind relaxes and the attention of the sub-conscious mind (where change takes place) is greatly stimulated, which allows access to all of our brain's potential.
The following is what Hypnobabies takes full advantage of, and makes our program much different than simply “deep relaxation”…
During hypnosis the subconscious mind is in a state of focused concentration and receptivity -- alert, accepting and digesting the specific suggestions that it hears, allowing changes in perception to occur from within. In essence, hypnosis is the process whereby resistance to change is reduced and selective thought becomes more efficient. When our moms are in this deeply subconscious state, Hypnobabies provides suggestions which re-train the inner mind with new, positive belief systems about childbirth. Powerful, specific directives for an easier birthing are compounded (repeated) many times so that the subconscious can accept the new beliefs, which takes several weeks to become ingrained.
How does this happen? Literally re-training the inner mind (by using deep, somnambulistic hypnotic states and powerfully re-framed language) with the following concepts:
1. Hypnobabies moms will feel all of the normal birthing sensations during labor; pushing, pulling, tightening, stretching, baby movements, etc., however, these sensations will be experienced comfortably (yes, comfortably! Read Hypnobabies Birth Stories Here, Here and Here!)
2. Suggestions for confidence, relaxing in-between birthing waves, feeling even more comfortable after the waters have broken and focused, mother-directed pushing are also built into Hypnobabies and work so beautifully when Hypnobabies is learned, practiced and used *as outlined in our course*.
I can’t stress enough that moms who borrow a used Hypnobabies course without all of its materials, or just listen to someone else’s Hypnobabies MP3s are setting themselves up for disappointment since they will *not* have all of the “tools” they need.
Excellent, joyful births also cannot be consistently expected for moms who actually learn and practice Hypnobabies faithfully but inexplicably choose not to use their techniques and cues during labor, or whose birth care providers continually interfere with the use of their Hypnobabies "hypno-tools". Doulas, midwives, nurses and doctors can assist birthing mothers in having much easier births by fully supporting the way each mother chooses to give birth, regardless of their own personal beliefs or emotions.
For most people, the concept of a “pain-free” birth experience is steeped in mystery at the least and is akin to science-fiction at the farthest end of speculation. Few mothers have experienced one, and those who have and attempt to tell others about it are rarely believed, even if they have video of their birth which shows that they did indeed do so. Why?
Other mothers may feel envious, annoyed or even bitter to hear that someone else had a much easier experience of childbirth than they had, especially if theirs was an exceptionally difficult birthing. Many experienced birth professionals have only seen and experienced themselves that childbirth is “hard work” and therefore painful in varying degrees. This allows a belief system to be firmly implanted that childbirth cannot be any other way. This seems logical, until we realize that there are exceptions to just about everything in life, and what seems "impossible" at first can many times begin to change to "unlikely", then "possible", and finally it becomes an established fact.
At one time the earth was considered to be flat. Anyone who thought it otherwise was:
2. …ostracized, or
3. …locked up for being “crazy”
Of course, eventually enough people began to question the earth being flat that they were allowed to pursue it to the point of proving that it was round, and then…anyone who thought it otherwise was:
2. …ostracized, or
3. …locked up for being “crazy”
So it is with any new concepts; “new” meaning anything that we, ourselves are not familiar with. This is human nature - we tend to reject something that does not mesh with our own personal experiences and belief systems, until enough other people “validate” it that it seems worth looking into or changing our own beliefs about the subject. However, if our minds are automatically open to new concepts, especially ones that enrich people’s lives, we don’t need validation. To quote one of our most beloved, wise and kindhearted souls:
"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
"Just RELAX and you’ll have a pain-free birth"?
Although the philosophy of some hypno-childbirth programs teach women that they will not have pain “if they just relax enough”, most women find that idea to be inaccurate and misleading. If this was a valid theory, literally millions of women would have had pain-free births just from practicing and using the wonderful, deep relaxation techniques that are taught in many childbirth classes, and that is not the case. Although there are women who do have pain-free births without much preparation or through deep breathing and relaxation, a great deal more is need for most birthing mothers, physically, mentally and emotionally in order to have a comfortable childbirth experience. That’s where the real, medical hypnosis in Hypnobabies comes in.
Childbirth experiences are different for every woman. There is no predicting how any one mother will feel as she gives birth, and telling a woman that she will feel no pain if she "just relaxes deeply enough" is inadequate at best and inaccurate for most. This can confuse the mother and create self-doubt before, during and after birth.
It is with intense frustration that I continue to hear the insistence (from other camps) that “childbirth is a natural bodily function and therefore it should not hurt if you relax adequately”, when I have heard thousands of reports to the opposite, directly from moms themselves.
The fact that childbirth is a “natural” function of the female body does not preclude the following:
1. There is (most of the time; in the absence of medications and real hypnosis techniques) some (small/manageable/serious/hurts like holy warts/ferocious) amount of pain “naturally” involved in moving an object the size of a small watermelon down through some pretty delicate tissues, and out.
2. A woman’s abdominal organs, ligaments, many nerves, uterine muscles, cervix, back, vagina, perineum and anus are pushed, pulled, squashed, torqued, stretched beyond belief at times and bruised as the uterus contracts, moves baby into position, opens and pushes the baby out.
3. If anyone tried to manipulate our insides and bottom like this for any other reason than childbirth, it would be considered inhuman and unconscionable *not* to use some form of medication (or real hypnosis techniques) to lessen the pain.
4. Are we to believe that if a mom “relaxes enough” and “lets go of her fears”, the experience will be painless just because childbirth is a “natural” female process? For most moms, that is untrue.
Simply relaxing through childbirth generally only "helps it hurt a little less", and “avoid unnecessary pain” as some childbirth methods teach (there is no “necessary” pain if you use Hypnobabies). And yes, as we do teach in Hypnobabies, some of that pain is caused by the ingrained and very powerful belief system that childbirth is *supposed to hurt badly* (which comes from other people’s birth stories, TV “birth” shows, movies, books and sadly, some childbirth classes). However, for most women when the above processes of childbirth kick in as they are supposed to do, to simply believe that “childbirth is not inherently painful if I relax enough because it is a natural female process" is insufficient to make that true, and some mothers can become quite traumatized by this.
Detractors of Hypnobabies have stated that we are teaching our Hypno-Moms to have similar beliefs: that they can have an easy, comfortable birth by using hypnosis. They feel this is a disservice to women who do not “achieve” this goal. In reality, as you have already read, since Hypnobabies teaches real medical-grade, very successful hypnosis techniques, what we are telling women is that they have the opportunity to enjoy childbirth much more…IF they are willing to:
1. Embrace Hypnobabies completely, since we do indeed teach all the childbirth, hypnosis, emotional and physical comfort techniques they will ever need to have an excellent birth experience.
2. Take the time, energy and love necessary to learn and practice Hypnobabies *as directed*; nothing left out.
3. Use, and continue using your Hypnobabies “labor tools” during childbirth: techniques, cues, audio tracks, scripts and birth team suggestions.
4. Educate their birth team and care providers on the use of Hypnobabies techniques and language, since all of our Hypnobabies mothers are deeply in hypnosis during labor, and can be instantly affected, positively or negatively by those around them (as all birthing women can).
The power of the mind/body connection is extraordinary and can be corroborated very simply and quickly by Ina May:
"I was able to learn midwifery in a way that permitted me to closely observe the birth process in hundreds of women without any imposed rules that would have interfered with the flow of labor. This was quite unusual for that the time, and it allowed me to observe phenomena and cause-and-effect relationships that medical, nursing, and hospital-based midwifery students would rarely (if ever) observe. I could see, for instance, how quickly a terrified woman could become calm and unafraid if the right action was taken or the right words spoken. I could see how previously unbearable levels of pain could diminish in the same fashion."
~ Ina May Gaskin, Birth Matters
“Pain in childbirth is caused by Fear”
There are also programs and books which teach that since childbirth is a normal physiological process for women, there is “no physiological reason for childbirth pain”, that pain is caused mostly by fear, and therefore eradicating fear in childbirth will eliminate their pain.
In reality, eliminating fear in childbirth is only one of the ways to help *reduce* childbirth pain. Women are moving a very large object through and out of their bodies when they give birth, and there are many sensitive nerves and body parts being pressed on, pushed, pulled and stretched to amazing lengths during this process. The big bag of muscles we call a uterus has stretched to the size of a small watermelon and the contractions that tighten these muscles are immense as well. Pain for most women is indeed part of that process, and eradicating fear is helpful in lessening pain, but does not ensure pain elimination.
We do know of course, that pain can be made much worse by tension in the birthing body and by fear being present in the woman's mind. The Fear/Tension/Pain Syndrome is very real, however, it needs to be recognized for what it is: a response to be eliminated so that childbirth can progress much more easily and comfortably. Women need to understand that simply eliminating fear during childbirth rarely results in completely eliminating pain, although it does indeed help.
The intensity of birth sensations depends partly upon:
1. A woman’s belief system regarding childbirth in general
2. The birthing preparation (tools) each mother has chosen, how well she practiced them and how she uses them as she gives birth
3. The choices a woman makes during childbirth which can help, hinder or even halt the process, including induction, immobility, Pitocin, etc.
4. A woman’s emotions, before and during childbirth, since emotional issues can cause constriction, Fear/Tension/Pain
5. The birth team each woman chooses to support her
6. Mom and baby positioning
7. There are actually many other factors which impact pain levels and the perception/experience of pain during childbirth.
Hypnobabies elements of a comfortable birth:
Elements of a truly comfortable birth:
In Hypnobabies Childbirth Hypnosis, during birth preparation and childbirth, we focus greatly on many elements that assist with making childbirth easier and more comfortable. The three main ones are:
1) Deep Relaxation: The muscles of a birthing woman's body, especially the ones around her baby must be completely and totally relaxed so that they can work efficiently and without any added discomfort from the Fear/Tension/Pain response. Practice is therefore mandatory and must be taken seriously. Hypnobabies moms learn to instantly accomplish becoming completely limp and loose like a dishrag when prompted to relax their body. This is one of the reasons we do progressive relaxation inductions, and in every Hypnobabies hypnosis script, CD track, cue and technique, deep relaxation is practiced so that it becomes a completely automatic response. Hypnobabies hypnosis training “implants” suggestions into our Hypno-Moms’ subconscious minds for instant and very deep total body relaxation.
2) Fear Clearing Sessions: Women who stay in a state of stress during pregnancy can become ill or develop complications, because the mind controls the body completely. By the time their pregnancy is coming to an end, the adrenal glands have produced many constrictors and catecholamines which are stress hormones, and the uterus may not get the proper blood flow, resulting in inadequate oxygen getting to the uterus and the baby. Muscles need oxygen to work properly; the muscle layers cannot draw up and back as needed and when that happens, dystocia (dysfunctional birthing – without progress) can occur, and what has been labeled “The Fear-Tension-Pain- Syndrome”. Our Hypnobabies moms realize fully that they can easily avoid this during pregnancy and birthing by doing regular Fear Clearing sessions.
3) Hypnosis is the third element for an easier, more comfortable birthing and takes moms far beyond deep relaxation and breathing techniques. Hypnosis actually conditions the mind, through prior training, to convert birthing sensations from painful sensations to comfortable, even pleasurable ones. Normal birthing sensations are still experienced by our mothers, sensations such as pressure, stretching, pulling, pushing and tightening, as well as the movements and position of the baby, and they're experienced with less, little or no discomfort.
The main way that hypnosis is used successfully in Hypnobabies is through Post-Hypnotic Suggestions. These are the programmed suggestions for easier, more comfortable birthing that must be repeated (compounded) many times for the best effect. In order to create the deepest relaxation, real physical comfort, and a calm, confident attitude, Hypnobabies moms learn to reach a hypnotic state called somnambulism and listen to these post-hypnotic suggestions repeatedly.
Somnambulism (literal definition is 'sleep walking') is a very deep state of hypnosis where the person looks as if they are sleeping, and they may even breathe heavily as if they were asleep, but they are not asleep. They are as relaxed physiologically as they are when sleeping, but still very aware of what is happening around them (IF they want to be!). It is in this deep state of hypnosis that the autonomic nervous system is so relaxed that there is a lessening of physical sensation, a phenomenon that hypnotherapist/pain management specialists call "hypno-anesthesia".
Hypno-moms must practice their hypnotic cues and techniques on a daily basis until the baby comes for the best benefit, and to create an easier more comfortable experience for everyone involved, Hypnobabies moms simply have to do their “hypno-homework” every day. This practice is actually the easiest thing our moms do during their pregnancies! Getting into a relaxed position with soft music in the background and allowing themselves to float away into a wonderfully deeper mental and physical state…all while listening to suggestions for an easy, gentle and comfortable birth…is a gift they give themselves while pregnant that pays many dividends during birthing.
1. “Relaxation” is only one of the factors in producing a much easier and more comfortable birth; deep, powerful, medical-grade hypnosis has a very important part in this process, as does eliminating fear and the excellent childbirth education we teach in Hypnobabies.
2. Childbirth certainly *can be* (not is) inherently painful for many women (not all) and…..real, medical-grade hypnosis is needed to help it be comfortable (for most). This is where Hypnobabies comes in and makes a huge difference. Along with learning about variables and birthing choices in childbirth, our powerful hypnosis techniques and the deep relaxation that accompanies them account for our moms having much more comfortable births.
3. Our main message to families and birth professionals regarding Hypnobabies is:
“Those who find childbirth uncomfortable seek out Hypnobabies since our medical-grade hypnosis techniques and deep relaxation allow them to experience a much easier and more comfortable birthing, and our complete childbirth education helps them learn how to prepare for and make excellent decisions for pregnancy, birth and their baby’s care. Having the birth of your dreams involves learning how to relax deeply, which is automatically produced in Hypnobabies’ hypnosis sessions, as well as learning, practicing and using medical hypno-anesthesia, which re-trains the inner mind for a comfortable birthing. It also involves becoming an excellent consumer by learning how to remain healthy and low-risk, becoming educated on all childbirth processes and choices, and taking responsibility for your own birth experience. This is why Hypnobabies is a complete childbirth education course!”
Thanks for learning,
Kerry Tuschhoff, HCHI, CHt, CI
Founder/Director of Hypnobabies
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