Hypnobirthing? What sort of strange, hippie thing is that?! Or at least that was my first thought. It also conjures up images of men in glasses holding out a swinging watch and all other sorts of nonsense. But it’s really not that strange. It is a technique you use to relax deeply while in labor. You aren’t hypnotized in the common understanding of the word, you are simply in control of your bodies response to labor, and relaxed enough to greatly lessen the stress and pain many women experience during labor.
But here’s the thing – I think that everyone should learn how to relax deeply, which is what hypnobirthing is all about! Life is full of stress. I find it easy to either get caught up in the stress of the moment or to try to avoid thinking about it by distracting myself (which doesn’t remove the stress, it just pushes it a little out of mind for a while). Through hypnobirthing, I realized how good it was for my body and mind (and emotions!) to learn how to breath deeply and calmly and to lower stress levels in my body.
So when I say “everyone” I mean everyone! Are you a mom needing a c-section? Deep breathing and relaxation techniques can help you face surgery calmly. Are you a professional with a stressful job? Deep breathing is where it’s at. While I think that hypnobirthing can help many accomplish a natural birth, that is certainly not the only benefit to learning the techniques.
How I found out about it
My sister told me about it after she successfully used it during the birth of her children. I was looking for a new birthing method to use with Aria (my now four-year-old), and took to reading a lot of forums and discussions online on different methods for natural labor. While this can’t be taken as a scientific survey, I was impressed with how many women who used hypnobirthing reported birth and labor as very calm, serene, even painless experiences. While hypnobirthing didn’t guarantee all of those things for everyone, it certainly seemed to help many.
How I practiced
I got (affiliate link) this book on hypnobirthing, and after reading it I started practicing the method. My piano teacher used to run through relaxation techniques with me before an exam, and I found these similar. Using the mind and body connection, you get your muscles and limbs to relax more and more until you are in a state of deep relaxation. For Aria’s birth, I choose to do this without music with my husband running through the relaxation technique while I worked at relaxing my body. With our new little one’s birth, we added the music as well (and I found it very helpful despite the fact that it’s a genre of music I generally dislike). I truthfully never practiced as much as I should have, but I got good enough at it that I could relax pretty quickly when needed.
Aria’s birth story with hypnobirthing
The first time I used this technique was four years ago. My previous birth experience with Elena, my now eight-year-old, was a fairly typical 8-hour affair with a lot of walking to keep myself in labor. I tend to shut down my labor when moved around too much, especially when at the hospital, and so was forced to walk around for about 6 hours to keep things moving. I coped well with everything until transition and then decided I had no coping skills for about 15 minutes until I was allowed to start pushing and only felt semi in control then. I was hoping to be able to stay in control, and have better coping abilities in my next birth.
Aria’s birth ended up being quite different than Elena’s. I was in labor for a whopping 30 minutes before I realized that I needed to get to our birthing center quickly. I spent the 30 minutes in the car doing my deep breathing and while I hate transitioning in the car, it definitely helped me cope and relax as much as possible during a very fast and uncomfortable car ride. I walked into the birthing center and announced that I was in transition. The midwife checked me and informed me that I wasn’t dilated even a tiny little bit. I then cried. I couldn’t understand how I could feel like I was in transition but not even be progressing at all. I wanted to stay on the bed and do my hypnobirthing. My midwife informed me I should walk around. I knew that was impossible but said it might be possible to stand up under the shower. I made my way to the bathroom and made the mistake of sitting on the toilet, and found myself seconds later laying on the floor (yes, in the bathroom) telling my husband to get the midwives quickly because “this baby is coming out”.
And yes, she was. Only she was a surprise breech baby (she had turned probably 8 days before labor), and things got very tense because her cord was wrapped around her in a way that was making her heart rate drop dangerously during each contraction. I was informed that we needed to get her out quickly, and I did. Breech baby and all.
Her entire labor was somewhere around 2 to 2 ½ hours long. While it was incredibly intense that whole short time, I felt that using the deep relaxation techniques helped me cope not only with labor, but a very hectic labor with some scary moments in it. I got my wish of feeling like I was much more in control. I was a fan. This birth was by far the least painful as well.
Larkin’s birth story with hypnobirthing
So with Larkin’s birth, there was no question about whether or not I wanted to use hypnobirthing! This time I practiced the techniques with music and I found that the music helped me relax more quickly than without.
We had one “practice run” with Larkin. I was having very close contractions, and we ran to the hospital, blasting my music, and me holding it together barely in the back, only to have my labor slow, and then stall completely at the hospital. This is, unfortunately, typical for me). I had been hoping that the hypnobirthing would help me keep my labor going, but after a million and two interruptions, I gave up. I sat up and informed everyone I was no longer in labor and wanted to eat something. It took a while to convince the hospital staff to let me go back home because I had obviously been in labor, but eventually they let us go.
A week and a couple days later, we had another go of it. This time was fast as well. I went from very sporadic (but intense and painful) contractions to ten minutes apart for three contractions to just minutes apart, to almost continuous contractions in about an hour. We raced off to the hospital again for another uncomfortable car ride. While I was very unhappy about every bump in the road, I think the only reason I wasn’t panicking and yelling at my husband was because I was able to cope by using the deep breathing.
We got ourselves wheeled upstairs, and I found my contractions dying off again (I started to panic slightly at the thought of having it stall completely). But once I laid down in bed and started deep breathing, the contractions came back strongly, albeit not as close together. The staff tried to get through some of the preliminary checking routine and I tried to ward them away from me (they were very respectful and worked around me as much as possible). I somehow became convinced I needed to go pee (they wanted me to give a urine sample, which put the idea in my head), only to find that I was pushing, yet again, in the bathroom. I let the contraction pass and got back to bed as I did not want another bathroom birth! And not that many minutes later I had an adorable baby on my chest. The staff informed me that I was at the hospital for about 30 minutes total before she was born.
And the hypnobirthing? It helped a lot, despite the fact that I was really having to fight to relax at all. Larkin’s birth was amazing for several different reasons, but for whatever reason the contractions were the most painful of all of my labors. Full disclosure: Before we realized how quickly this baby was coming and the staff was trying to check baby’s position and get the monitors set up, I was unable to use my hypnobirthing well, and ended up wailing/screaming at the top of my contractions. However, I was able to pull back into the technique and when the urge came to yell or panic or scream as the contraction continued, I was instead able to work on relaxing and working with the contraction and breathing the baby out. Painless? No. I would almost describe Aria’s birth that way. Most likely because of the way Larkin’s head was positioned, my contractions were quite painful this time. But hypnobirthing really helped me stay more in control despite that fact, and helped me work with my contractions instead of panicking through them. Though I don’t remember them saying this, my husband and mom told me that the medical staff was impressed with my control of the labor as I was pushing the baby out. I thank this technique for that.
Benefits aside from labor
I found that there were several strong fears that I had to face this pregnancy. I often found myself stuck in a mental whirlwind as I considered different medical options for our specific situation. Larkin was breech at first, for example. My stress levels were getting high, but we found that when I practiced the hypnobirthing technique that I could center myself again and bring those stress levels down.
I also found that it helped me – someone who has long had issues falling asleep at night – relax enough to go to sleep very quickly most nights. I simply work on deep breathing and deep relaxation and within minutes I was often asleep! I was thrilled about this benefit as sleep is so important for health.
Now that I am no longer facing labor, I still will try to keep up on deep breathing and deep relaxation as needed to deal with daily stress, sleep issues, and frustrating life moments.
What about you? Have you ever tried hypnobirthing or deep relaxation/breathing techniques whether for labor or just life in general?