Hypnosis has been employed during childbirth since the 1950s and is referenced as hypnobirthing.
Over the past 70 years, there have been numerous research studies where hypnosis has implemented in various stages of pregnancy, labour and delivery; all that research has concluded auspicious outcomes in every stage.
During pregnancy, women undergo physical, emotional, and psychosocial changes. These changes induce adverse symptoms such as morning sickness, nausea, vomiting, and substandard insufficient sleep, resulting in constant fatigue. Insomnia is a condition with which many women are afflicted and enhanced by their pregnancy. Randomized controlled trials have been conducted revealing the effectiveness of hypnosis to alleviate these symptoms. Women who participated in these studies reported statistically significant reductions in their episodes of nausea and emesis.
Women pregnant with multiple gestations, or who have elevated levels of stress and are highly anxious have an increased risk of preterm labour. Studies suggest that hypnosis in conjunction with medical interventions is effective in terminating preterm labour.
Anxiety during pregnancy is a common feeling many women experience. It can be caused by a modality of factors, from women questioning if they will be a good mother or the uncertainty of the baby’s health during development. Or, if these women struggled with infertility, then their anxiety is rooted in the possibility of losing the baby. Many women feel powerless in these situations, thereby cultivating and sustaining their anxiety. By reducing the anxiety they experience and thereby decreasing their stress level, hypnosis is able to enhance women’s feelings of control and facilitate their mental health (James, 2009). Further research has substantiated that hypnosis is as effective at reducing anxiety as 1 mg of alprazolam (Spiegel, 2013).
Women who have less adverse symptoms during their pregnancy experience reduced stress and increased relaxation, resulting in healthier mothers, which promote the health of the unborn child. Elevated levels of maternal stress and anxiety during pregnancy are pernicious toward unborn babies. When suffering from stress and anxiety women’s ability to carry to term decreases, which precipitates preterm deliveries. These deliveries may result in babies with a lower birth weight afflicted with increased health risks. Short-term complications include breathing difficulties, a compromised immune system, heart defects, low blood pressure, and increased brain haemorrhage, blood disorders such as anaemia, immature gastrointestinal systems and metabolic impairments (Mayo Clinic, n.d).
Babies born too early are more inclined to suffer long-term health problems such as cerebral palsy, behavioural and psychological problems, learning disabilities, visual impairments, loss of hearing, and chronic health complications (Mayo Clinic, n.d).
Additional research has been conducted on babies born to women who suffered from high levels of stress during the pregnancy, examining long-term side effects. Results indicated these babies have a bigger stress reaction toward normal activities compared to babies born to mothers with lower stress levels during pregnancy. As these babies grew from infancy to toddlerhood, they exhibited heightened levels of anxiousness compared to other children. Researchers have hypothesized high levels of stress during pregnancy are permanently wiring the foetal brain toward worry and anxiety (Ellis, 2015).
These results reinforce how vital it is for women, especially during pregnancy, to stay mentally, emotionally, and physically healthy. Multiple studies depict the effectiveness of hypnosis in the management of stress, the reduction of anxiety and the induction of relaxation (Spiegel, 2007). Being more mentally and emotionally healthy further enhances women’s physical health, which promotes their ability to carry to term.
Hypnobirthing assists mothers in painless childbirth,(“ Maternofetal Psychoanalgesia”) providing provides effective analgesia during labour and delivery . Furthermore it gives the mother a sense of self-control. Women learn to control everything in relation to childbirth and uterus dynamic, are able to better manage uterine contractions and reduce the pain and discomfort experienced during labour and delivery, learning to obtain psychoanalgesia for their whole body.
Women that used hypnosis during their delivery consistently reported eliminating or greatly reducing the experienced pain of childbirth, with an effectiveness ranging from 35% to 90%, resulting in a decreased need for epidural anaesthesia, (Landolt, 2007).
As a result, the possibility of natural childbirth increases and, with it, the well-being of both mothers and babies.
There are also significantly fewer complications, shortened labour time, and a shorter stay in the hospital (Stewart, 2005).
The therapy begins during the third trimester and focuses on the preparation of delivery. It can be administered in several ways: (a) Women may choose to have a hypnotherapist guide them during delivery or (b) are taught self-hypnosis where they guide themselves through the delivery process. Sessions with the hypnotherapist begin several weeks prior to the anticipated delivery date. In one of the sessions, I will provide examples of suggestions you can implement such as having a simple quick delivery, the ability to manage and reduce the pain, and the ability to recover faster. I always teach my clients self-hypnosis so that the mother can practice pain control techniques and appropriate visualisations for the entire pregnancy, birth and post-birth experience. I also help them to resolve any concerns that they might have regarding this period and these experiences, teaching them relaxation responses that they can implement during the birth or when needed.
I also help the mothers in the post-birth period to ensure appropriate healing and recovery, to treat any difficulties in milk production or pain experienced during breastfeeding and in general help the mother to cope with her new role in life.
To summarize, these are the main benefits of using hypnobirthing:
• It enhances the success probabilities of embryo transfer during in vitro fertilization
• It alleviates morning sickness, nausea, vomiting, and insomnia
• It reduces anxiety and stress levels
• It enhances the ability to carry to term
• It helps women to better manage uterine contractions
• It reduces the pain and discomfort experienced during labour and delivery
• it decreases the need for epidural anaesthesia which then decrease the undesirable post operative effects it causes the mothers and their unborn child
• It curtails labour time
• It shortens their stay in the hospital
• It speeds up recovery time.
I hope that I have been able to dispel any misconceptions and fears surrounding hypnosis and increase the awareness on how effective it is in the field of obstetrics, especially on infertility, pregnancy, labour, delivery and post-birth period.