Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Hypnobirthing, anyone?

One thing I teach in my classes is that whoever you are, you take your personality into labor with you - this isn't surprising, but I think it can lead to some interesting and worthwhile observations. That's why I have women brainstorm how they have coped with pain in the past (and partners write how they've been helpful) - because how they've coped in the past is a clue to what might work well during labor. Women who like to be distracted might have lots of people in the room; women who do not want to be touched while they're in pain are more likely to be the ones hissing "Don't TOUCH me!" through clenched teeth. Of course it doesn't always work out like that, but like I said - it's a clue.

So, it wasn't surprising to me that, since I tend to be an "in my head", introspective-type person, I coped with my labors using a lot of "invisible" coping skills, that I did by myself: focusing on my breath; focal point; visualization. I used a bunch of others too, but my labors were fairly calm and quiet (for labor), because I was doing most of the coping work in my head.

I teach all of the above in Birthing Your Baby classes, and really encourage participants to practice at home, with and without their labor support helping them (and we practice in class). Of course we discuss lots of other methods, because the more tools in the toolbox during labor, the better.

Anyway, I'm wondering what overlap there is between these "in the head" methods of coping and hypnobirthing?? What specific techniques are used to create the self-hypnosis? I suspect that Birthing Your Baby classes do use a lot of hypnobirthing techniques, but I need to do some research to find out for sure.

I've never been particularly attracted to hypnobirthing, for a few basic reasons: I like to call a spade a spade - no "rushes" or "surges" - they're contractions, to me. I also have wondered if some teachers focus too much on the promise of "no pain", to the point that women who do experience pain might feel like they're not trying hard enough, or are doing something wrong... Finally, I've talked to a few women whose hypnobirthing instructors didn't want to "scare" them by discussing possible (very common) procedures... this feels a little paternalistic to me - I want to give moms/dads information so they can make their best decisions, not encourage them to stick their fingers in their ears and sing lalalala "I don't need to know this because it won't happen to me" lalalala.

But that's just me... I've read enough birth stories to realize that hypnobirthing works marvelously for some moms, and that's awesome.

What started me thinking more about this is an article I read recently "Overcome the Fear and Pain of Childbirth Using Hypnosis" by Angela Monti Fox, LCSW. I really, really liked what she said in the beginning of the article:
"The first goal in the process is to overcome the fear of childbirth that has been embedded in each woman's consciousness, a natural consequence of cultural conditioning. Probably from before a woman has even thought about having a child or becoming pregnant she has been taught to believe that childbirth will be the most painful experience of her life. This is what we call being negatively hypnotized. This is not to say that giving birth is easy, it certainly is not—it probably will be the hardest work a woman will ever have to do with one of the most sensitive parts of her body—that is why it is called “labor.” However, it can also be one of the most fulfilling, wonderful and ecstatic events in a woman’s life, one that can impact many aspects of her life for years to come. How a woman gives birth can have a powerful effect on many aspects of her sense of self, her feelings of self confidence and personal power, her feelings toward her body and new born; and her feelings toward her sexuality as well as the resumption of her sexual life with her partner."

I read that and I thought - wow! I need to check out this hypnobirthing more closely - maybe what/how I teach has more in common with it than I thought...

But then this sentence: "Learning to birth with hypnosis—especially for first time moms—means learning to birth without fear and pain" makes me go - huh? what does "learning to birth without pain" mean? If I learn the right things and try hard enough, I shouldn't feel pain during labor? I feel very uncomfortable with that statement. Some women don't feel pain in labor - hypnobirth insturction or otherwise - and that's awesome... but I'm not sure learning something (anything, in particular) directly equals birth without pain with any true consistency. Lots of techniques can help, sure, but so does having appropriate care and good support and a baby in a good position, and... and... and - these are not necessarily things that we "learn" - they're things we try to make happen, or not, and that work out, or don't. There's only a certain level of control that can be exerted - and birth is notoriously something that is it's own thing, that I think works best if we don't try to control it - much better to just be with it, to be in the moment, to let things flow & see what happens (as long as motherbaby is doing well, of course).

I also really liked the paragraph that explains hypnosis as a "natural cognitive function" or state of "focused concentration" and how hypnobirthing "teaches [laboring women] to relax and divert her attention away from each contraction".

But that paragraph ends with "She may wish to experience a surge as a sensation of pressure, or a pulling up or stretching, but not pain. In addition, when using hypnosis, time can be condensed. Moms that birth with hypnosis, are trained to experience each new surge as lasting no longer that 15 or 20 seconds" and those statements just don't make sense to me.

The article continues with a bunch more great information about hypnosis (this author clearly believes in informed consent, as well - yay!).

So, I am now definitely motivated to learn more about hypnobirthing - what it is, what it isn't, how instructors teach it, etc. I just bought that book Birthing in the Spirit, so that might give me some insight.

Anyone have any experience with hypnobirth? I'd love to hear it... as well as any recommendations for good books, articles, or websites about hypnobirthing.

Anyone... anyone...???? ;-)

Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
Independent Childbirth Classes in Central Maine

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