*UPDATE: Readers of Heather's Natural Health asked Heather to see if these relaxation techniques really worked when she gave birth to her daughter. Click here to see Heather's labor/delivery video and read her blog about her birth story.
Forget swinging pendulums or trances, the HypnoBirthing technique taps into focused concentration and relaxation.
Add soft music, low lights and positive imagery and HypnoBirthing instructors say you have the tools needed to achieve a "shorter, smoother and easier natural birth in peaceful relaxation as nature intended."
We watched half a dozen moms give birth using this technique without any medications or appearance of pain.
Dr. Geraldine Williams from Miami gave birth to her first child using HypnoBirthing deep breathing exercises. We see her smile and text right before giving birth!
"I am in labor and delivery room 3. I have a paper thin cervix. I am 8 centimeters dilated. and the babies head is coming down," says Dr. Williams during delivery.
YouTube is also loaded with videos of moms giving birth in a deep state of relaxation while listening to peaceful CD's.
Bay area mother, Amber Patricio, says HypnoBirthing exercises made her second birth a breeze at Tampa General Hospital. She says it cut her labor time in half and created an incredible natural bonding moment with her husband and daughter, Novella.
"I will say there are moments of intensity... more intense tightness than others, but I can't ever say I was in pain. I never doubted myself or thought, 'I can't do this. This is hurting.' I felt tightness."
"You didn't scream or insist on an epidural?" we asked.
"No way... nothing!"
Amber says the classes helped her build confidence, release fear and anxiety she had from her first birth and have an incredible life experience.
Denby Beauchamp became a certified HypnoBirthing instructor after she used the techniques she now teaches. She says it allowed her to have a successful VBAC with her second child.
Mothers don't pant or learn to push in the 12 hours worth of classes ($250 total). The emphasis is on learning three slow, deep breathing exercises to keep the muscles from tensing up and force the body to relax.
Beauchamp says,"If you've ever been afraid of anything, your muscles get tight and tense and constricted.You carry it in your neck and back and if that occurs during labor, your birthing muscles also become tight and constricted and that produces pain after a period of time."
Parents do have homework. They are asked to listen to the guided imagery CDs nightly, read a HypnoBirthing book, practice light massage and keep a positive perspective.
They say American women need to do what other cultures have been experiencing for centuries - relax, stay calm and trust your body to follow nature's way of birthing.
You can listen to two samples from HypnoBirthing CD below.
Click here for Birthing Affirmations
Click here for Rainbow Relaxation
For a more in-depth interview with Denby Beauchamp, read below.
Denby learned about HypnoBirthing® just two weeks before her first child was born. She was so impressed with her experience, that she knew she had to let other women know, "There's a better way to birth our babies!"
Now, she has been teaching HypnoBirthing® for over six years. She is extraordinarily passionate about empowering her moms by helping them realize that this is "their" body, "their" baby and "their" experience. She is committed to helping women become aware of their options, so they can make informed decisions for themselves and their babies, instead of walking away from their births with a heap of regrets.
-Why is it called HypnoBirthing?
HypnoBirthing® teaches women how to utilize self-hypnosis techniques in childbirth to relax and learn to trust their bodies and nature's way of birthing.
I think it's important to allay any fears people might have with regards to using this form of "hypnosis." In HypnoBirthing®, there is no hocus-pocus. And, I can assure you that I do not swing a pocket watch or tell my couples to "look deeply into my eyes" or suggest that "you're getting sleeeeepy." In fact, hypnosis is commonly used therapeutically in many areas of medicine, dental anesthesia and personal therapy sessions.
Despite misconceptions and misinformation, you are definitely not unconscious during self-hypnosis. The HypnoBirthing® mother is deeply relaxed and in a daydream-like state, but she is also an active participant in the labor process. Though she is deeply relaxed, she is totally aware and may return to a conversant state or choose to become mobile whenever she desires. HypnoBirthing® mothers often find that they experience time distortion and are not distracted by other people or their birthing environment, while they focus on their birthing and their baby.
-What is the history behind it?
The concept of HypnoBirthing® is not new, but rather a "rebirth" of the philosophy of birthing as it existed thousands of years ago and as it was recaptured in the work of Dr. Grantly Dick-Read, an English obstetrician, who, in the 1920s, was one of the first to forward the concept of natural birthing. The method teaches you that, in the absence of fear and tension, or special medical circumstances, severe pain does not have to be an accompaniment of labor.
Marie Mongan incorporated the theories of Dr. Jonathan Dye of Buffalo, New York and Grantly Dick-Read of the UK, two pioneers in natural childbirth. Two of her birthings were entirely free of anesthesia at a time when it was unheard of. She later went on to develop what we now know as HypnoBirthing®, The Mongan Method.
-How did HypnoBirthing help you through your labors?
I had always planned to birth my babies naturally, and I remained confident in that choice right up until I took my hospital childbirth preparation class. I honestly wasn't afraid of giving birth until I walked out of that class!! I consider myself blessed to have found HypnoBirthing® just two weeks before my first child was to be born. The fear release session allowed me to release the fears I had accumulated from the hospital class and regain my faith in myself, my body and nature's way of birthing. The breathing and relaxation techniques allowed me to tune into my baby and my body and tune out other distractions. I remember repeating, "I relax so my baby can relax" over and over in my mind. It reminded me to keep my body completely loose and limp and to breathe with my body not only for my sake, but for my baby's sake as well! Instantly, I felt only tightening and pressure-like sensations. I kept waiting for something more intense. In fact, there were times I didn't believe I was in "active" labor...it just seemed too easy! There was a moment where I shifted my focus elsewhere and instantly felt my toes curl up, and it got very intense. As soon as I relaxed my body and resumed my breathing, like a light switch being flipped, I went right back to feeling just tightening and pressure! That was my "A-ha moment" where I knew I had to learn how to share HypnoBirthing® with other women.
-What is the main philosophy?
The method teaches you that, in the absence of fear and tension, or special medical circumstances, severe pain does not have to be an accompaniment of labor. You will gain an understanding of how the birthing muscles work in perfect harmony--as they were designed to--when your body is sufficiently relaxed and you trust birth. You will learn how to achieve this kind of relaxation, free of the resistance that fear creates, and you will learn to use your natural birthing instincts for a calm, serene and comfortable birth.
All mammal mothers are drawn into a deep amnesiac condition created by the neuropeptides in the brain and pituitary gland called endorphins. Marie Mongan recognized the idea that the brain could control the birthing process when she was a child, watching a stray cat in the midst of labor. "A dog came into the yard and the cat's labor shut down," said Mongan. "She took the two babies and ran away and then took the others and ran away. Then she had two more."
(I've attached the following link if people would like to read more on this topic: http://www.drmomma.org/2008/07/animal-vs-human-birth.html)
We encourage expectant mothers to become educated about the choices they have to make and to protect the birth experience for themselves and their babies. We are not opposed to intervention, but unnecessary intervention. We don't believe in rushing a birth unless medically necessary. In fact, if you consider nature's way, you realize that we would never dream of interfering with the birth of a baby chick. They instinctively peck their way out of the egg when the time is right. The same goes with the metamorphosis of a caterpillar becoming a beautiful butterfly. We wouldn't dare interfere with that delicate process of transformation, and yet it occurs in human births all the time. We need to become much more conscientious of our choices and recognize the impact they have on how our babies are birthed into the world. In HypnoBirthing®, women learn to trust their instincts and their bodies to know how to bring their babies into the world in the calm and gentle way that Nature intended.
-What makes it different from other birthing classes?
Other childbirth methods teach couples how to "cope" with the pain in labor. In HypnoBirthing®, we don't believe that pain is a necessary accompaniment to labor if the mother is properly prepared and relaxed. We address the true source of what causes pain in labor, which is ultimately fear. If a person is feeling fearful their body tenses and tightens, including the uterus, after a period of time that tension results in pain. This is known as the Fear-Tension-Pain Syndrome. We utilize self-hypnosis, or deep relaxation with a purpose, along with guided imagery and visualizations to release those fears and allow mothers to birth with calm and confidence.
And, rather than exhausting, shallow breathing and the distraction techniques of typical "prepared childbirth" programs, HypnoBirthing® parents learn deep abdominal breathing and total relaxation, enabling the laboring mother to work in harmony with her body and her baby. This allows her to achieve a shorter and more comfortable labor for herself and baby. And, when it comes time for birthing, we don't believe in forcefully pushing the baby out. We actually teach women to work with and follow the lead of their body to breathe the baby down and out slowly and easily.
-Explain how you replace birthing fears with positive outcomes and why you don't use words like contractions and pain?
From the time we are little girls, many of us have been inundated with the messages that giving birth is long, grueling and agonizing, and so we become fearful and learn to dread the experience. As a result of this, haven't we just created a self-fulfilling continuum? We experience pain in childbirth, in part, because we've come to expect it as a necessary accompaniment to birth!
In HypnoBirthing®, couples are encouraged to surround themselves with positive people and messages, to create a positive view of childbirth and the expectation that their birthing will be the beautiful, peaceful experience they've planned. Our Fear Release Sessions are integral to this process, as they allow each person to address their fears and then release them. As previously discussed, fear in labor can create tension and pain. That same fear and anxiety can also create adrenaline production in the body, causing the labor to become dysfunctional, a common reason for Cesarean Section surgery. Releasing fear helps couples rebuild their confidence in themselves and letting nature lead the way.
We also recognize that concepts that we are exposed to repeatedly have a way of conditioning our thoughts over time. The association of pain with childbirth is just one example of a universally held conditioning. Words and suggestions can trigger physiological responses within the body....some will keep your mind calm, while others may trigger stress or fear. I know the first time I heard the term "bloody show" in my hospital childbirth preparation class my face scrunched up and I thought, "I don't even want to know what that is." Because it certainly didn't sound good. In HypnoBirthing®, we recognize that this physiological response can cause tension in the body, such as my scrunched face and resistance to hearing more about this "bloody show." So, we've modified the language to have a softer, gentler response within the body. For instance, instead of "bloody show", we call it "birth show." And, we refer to the "mucous plug" as the "uterine seal." Much easier on the ears, isn't it? And, of course, everyone knows "contractions" hurt, so there's a built-in expectation with that concept, so we refer to them as "surges." That term has a much more fluid, more rhythmic flow to it, just as the birthing muscles draw up and back in a rhythmic fashion. We truly recognize the importance of the mind-body-spirit connection and incorporate it in all aspects of the childbirth experience.
-What do you say to moms who can't imagine being focused enough to give birth without any pain medication?
As with anything new to us, it takes an understanding of what we want to accomplish and knowing how we're going to accomplish it and then making a commitment to practice it in order to master it. I suggest that couples discover what helps them relax. Once they know what they like (i.e., relaxing on a bed or couch, dim lights, soft music, pillows placed just so, and so on), they should recreate that experience each and every time they practice their breathing and relaxation. The mind-body connection will soon recognize what comes next, allowing relaxation to come much more quickly and easily and allow you to relax more deeply in a shorter period of time. Before long, it will become second nature and you'll just employ the same techniques you've practiced at home wherever you'll be birthing. And, as with anything, you get out of it what you're willing to put into it. The rewards of having a calm, gentle and relaxed childbirth are well worth the investment you'll make!
Here are some of the advantages to using the HypnoBirthing® method:
- Removes the fear associated with childbirth
- Reduces the need for chemical painkillers
- Eliminates the fatigue associated with childbirth
- Reduces the first stage of labor by several hours
- Promotes the special bonding between mother and child as well as birthing partner
- Makes the birthing process a beautiful experience as nature intended
- More rapid post-natal recovery
-How can HypnoBirthing help moms who end up with c-sections or epidurals?
First of all, only 16 percent of HypnoBirthers undergo c-sections, compared to the national average of 33 percent. The techniques you will learn in your HypnoBirthing classes will help you to learn relaxation skills that will be useful to both you and your baby, regardless of your birth experience. In the event that medical intervention of any sort is needed, you will find yourself better able to remain calm and in control. Mothers who have needed scheduled cesareans for medical reasons report that they were totally relaxed before, during and after the procedure. Many report that they needed little or no medication following the birth, and they were able to return to normal functioning in a very short period of time.
For more information on how HypnoBirthing® can help mothers who must have a cesarean section go to: http://hypnobirthing.com/faq1.htm
-How is a typical HypnoBirthing delivery different from most in the hospital?
At this time, about 72 percent of U.S. HypnoBirthing® mothers birth naturally, without medication. We encourage our mothers to consider their childbirth options and identify their birth preferences. So many times, mothers come into the hospital and are immediately put into bed, given an IV, hooked up to a blood pressure cuff and are soon strapped up to the electronic fetal monitor, offered an epidural or other medication to manage their "pain." Then, they're pretty much expected to stay there until birthing...oftentimes without being offered any other alternatives.
Many of our mothers choose to dim the lights, turn on soft, relaxing music, use aromatherapy and opt to change positions frequently. They choose intermittent electronic fetal monitoring vs. continuous monitoring so they have freedom to move about. They enjoy the benefits of light touch massage, slow dancing and gentle words of encouragement from their birthing companions. They may choose to use a birthing ball or to walk around, sit in a rocking chair or rest in a shower or tub if it's available. They often choose a birthing position that will least likely require an episiotomy, like a leap frog position or the use of a birth stool, as opposed to lying prone without the benefits of gravity. They may also request that hospital staff refrain from mentioning pain, hurt or the offer of medications. And, HypnoBirthing® mothers also opt for mother-directed breathing down instead of being directed or "coached" to "push, push, push." Our mothers breathe their babies down, gently and easily, by following the lead of their bodies without any forced or rushed pushing.
HypnoBirthing® mothers learn to tune into their babies and their bodies, so they do not have to rely on machines or other people to tell them what they need or when they need it. This has proven to be very effective and much more rewarding for mothers. Our couples also learn the importance of having respectful dialogue with their care providers to ensure they have the best birth possible. We want everyone to be in sync. I suggest my couples ask their care providers to explain the need for any medical procedure and that couples grant their permission before any action is taken. If they are uncomfortable or unclear about anything, they are encouraged to continue asking questions until they are satisfied they're making the best decision based on the situation. I never want one of my couples to walk away saying things like, "I wish I had known this..." or "No one told us that..." or "Next time..." This is one of the greatest experiences of our lifetime, we really need to protect it and be conscious about it.
-How can the classes and CDs help?
The HypnoBirthing® course includes a packet filled with lots of great information to build confidence in your birth choice. You also receive the text book, HypnoBirthing®- The Mongan Method and 2 CDs that are designed to help teach your mind and body to drift deeply and easily into the kind of relaxation you will call upon during your birthing. The affirmations are also powerful in reminding us that our bodies are designed perfectly to birth our babies (barring any special circumstances), and that there is nothing flawed or broken about our bodies. We are very visual beings, so we utilize a lot of guided imagery and visualizations to make it easier for our minds to assimilate the information provided.
Taking HypnoBirthing® with a Certified HypnoBirthing® Practitioner offers so many advantages. For instance, you can read about a breathing technique in a book, but having someone who has actually utilized the techniques successfully, demonstrate and guide you through them can ensure you are effective in your childbirth experience. Viewing our DVD with several moms using the HypnoBirthing® technique, also allows you to see for yourself just how calm and gentle the birth experience can truly be. And, having the experience of the Fear Release Session is one of the most powerful components of HypnoBirthing that really sets couples up for great success in their birth experience.
Couples also learn the value of preparing their "Birth Preferences", as well as the benefits of light touch massage and important stretching exercises to help prepare their body for birthing. Another great benefit is that those wonderful breathing and relaxation techniques that work so beautifully in preparing for and birthing your baby, are also valuable skills you can use in your everyday life.
-When should couples start taking classes? How long do they last/cost?
It is never too early, nor too late, to take the course. When you take it early on, you have the rest of your pregnancy to enjoy the deepened awareness of your body's wonderful changes, and you have some great relaxation techniques to help deal with any discomforts of pregnancy. Another advantage to taking it earlier is having more time to practice what you've learned.
If you feel you need a refresher before your big day, I do offer the opportunity for you to sit in on future classes, or I may meet with you privately for a refresher session.
I offer four three-hour sessions in small group or private settings. The small group class is $250. Private classes are also available for an additional fee.
To learn more about Denby Beauchamp and the HypnoBirthing classes she offers in Tampa Bay, visit Happiestbirth.com.
Join a discussion with local parents about the technique at MomsLikeMe.com.
Heather Van Nest/ 10 News & Heather's Natural Health