I'd like a pain free delivery, please
November 17, 2011 9:49 AM   Subscribe

Please tell me about your hypnobirthing experiences. I would like to hear if it worked for you or especially if it didn't - why and why not - and I am specifically looking for information about your hypnobirthing classes.

I have seen this hypnobirthing thread (http://ask.metafilter.com/6386/Hypnobirthing-Has-Anyone-Tried-It) but it's more than 6 years old and I have some more questions.

What class did you take and what was the content? I know there are a couple of competing systems, Hypnobirthing and Hypnobabies and probably others. I have heard that the Hypnobirthing classes do not allow you to take home copies of the scripts. Is this true?

How much 'woo' is there? I believe in hypnosis. I don't believe in crystals, ley lines, magnetic copper bracelets, etc., and my partner is ready to check out at the slightest sign of anti-science.

How hypnotizable are you? In the few past encounters I've had with hypnotism, I have not been very hypnotizable. However, I do get a lot out of guided meditation so I have some hope for this method.

How much more did you get out of the classes versus the books/CDs? Before my last delivery I bought the official Hypnobirthing Rainbow Relaxation CD and I was not impressed at all. It basically seemed like a low-rent poorly written guided meditation track and didn't seem to have any specific pain-management content.

Finally, if you have any tips on how to get the most out of a hypnobirthing experience, or if you have any relevant non-birth experience with hypnosis pain management, I would love to hear it.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
If you mefimail me I can point you to a good semi-private forum for information about this
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:54 AM on November 17, 2011

I did hypnobirthing for the birth of my second child. It worked very well for me, with a couple of caveats -- my labor experience is atypical. In that birth, I had prodromal labor for a month. When I actually went into for-real labor after my water was broken, I went INSTANTLY into transition, with extremely intense contractions that rode one on top of another for an hour or so, and then my son was born.

With that in mind, I'm so glad I did the hypnobirthing. My labor was far from painless, and I was far from being "in control" of it, but -- OK. The best analogy I have is that it's like surfing. When you're surfing, you are definitely not in control of the ocean, but you can use your board and your body and your strength and your focus to find your place in the wave, and move forward, instead of being tumbled over and over and over in the surf. Hypnobirthing did that same thing for me, it let me find my place in the labor where I could breathe and move forward through a very intense experience.

I did have three totally painless contractions, right before I started feeling the urge to push. I had a sense that my opportunity for a rest was coming, and I just SLAMMED myself down into a very, very deep trance. Those three contractions, I just experienced as fireworks going off on the inside of my eyelids. My doula and my husband thought my labor had stopped, and were a little worried because I was non-responsive. The midwives saw that I was still contracting, though, and recognized what was going on.

The hypnosis was also really useful during my prodromal labor. The contractions were not particularly painful, but they were often quite intense, and since I was at home with my older child and my husband was a 90-minute commute away, they were pretty anxiety-inducing. I wrote myself a hypnosis script to help calm that anxiety, and it was actually extremely helpful.

I think if I had a more typical labor pattern, I would have had a chance to get deeper into that trance and would have had much less discomfort during labor. As it was, it hurt really hard, but was absolutely manageable; I yelled a lot, but I was never scared or freaked out.

I am not planning on any more children, but if I were, I would DEFINITELY use the hypnosis again. It was great.
posted by KathrynT at 10:12 AM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I took hypnobirthing classes at Isis Maternity here in the Boston area. We were given copies of the book Hypnobirthing: The Mongan Method, which comes with a CD with the scripts. We also got other materials which included copies of the scripts -- if not the exact same ones on the CD, then similar ones. (But yes, rainbox relaxation.)

I don't think there's a lot of 'woo' but there is a lot of "your body knows how to do this, pain is not a natural part of childbirth, if you just relax enough you won't have any pain" which I suspected (and know, 2 kids later) was bullshit. I just took it with a grain of salt.

I don't think I am that hypnotizable, but this is all deep relaxation and it's all in your own head and body, so it's not like someone else is trying to hypnotize you.

I thought the class was useful. If I read the book I probably wouldn't have practiced the methods nearly as much.

I ended up with an emergency C section for the first kid and getting induced for both kids, but I think the relaxation techniques definitely helped me to stay calm and take my labor in stride. So it was worth it for me even though I didn't have the textbook drug-free natural birth. With the first kid I was in labor for a very long time, and then got induced and spent about 10 hours without pain relief, and I was amazed at what I was able to handle and how I could get my muscles to relax with enough concentration. At the same time, I wish I had asked for pain relief sooner -- while I COULD manage without it, things were so much better with it. As with all things childbirth, YMMV.
posted by chickenmagazine at 10:14 AM on November 17, 2011

I took a hypnobirthing class in DC area before my first kid. There was no woo: no crystals, bracelets, etc. There was also no hypnotism, just guided meditation in my experience. I took home scripts and had a whole package including a book that, I think, came with the CD you are mentioning. We read chapters before class and discussed, and went over scripts during class and practiced exercises and breathing and positions and so forth.

I found the class helpful in that it forced me to practice and devote actual time to "training" to be meditative before giving birth. It also made me optimistic that I could do this natural childbirth thing, by spending dedicated time with like-minded people. Kind of like a pep rally.

I was not hardcore about it and have a general layer of cynicism in everything I do, but I found it helpful, did some imagery while birthing, was open to questioning my doctor and nurses about what they requested of me (ie birthing positions), and was able to have 2 completely unmedicated births and to manage my own pain just fine. And I'm very wimpy.

Feel free to memail me if you have more questions.
posted by rabidsegue at 10:18 AM on November 17, 2011

My wife and I had our first baby three weeks ago. We took a hypnobirthing class and got a lot out of it, though ultimately the labor/delivery went completely different than expected.

I should start by acknowledging that I don't personally believe that I or most other people can really be "hypnotized," but my wife was very interested in this program so I went along with it for her sake. The classes were in our home, by a local hypnobirthing specialist and hypnotherapist. It involved several hypnosis sessions which I found relaxing, but was fully conscious throughout. My wife wasn't sure whether she was actually hypnotized or not. However, she did get a lot of benefit and relaxation from the CDs of Marie Mongan talking about floating through colored mists.

She listened to the CD regularly, per the instruction of the course, and we did add some of our own content and practice with me reading from the script. Ultimately, however, we decided that during the birthing process she would listen to the CDs (on an iPod) rather than have me try to recite the script. We also did not regularly use the hypnobirthing vocabulary ("surges" rather than "contractions," etc.) nor did we ask the hospital staff to do so.

We did make lots of use of the meditation and movement concepts learned in the class during the early stages of labor. However, while we had planned to do an intervention-free childbirth, once labor really got going it was far more painful than my wife had anticipated. After about 8 hours of it, she asked for an epidural, which helped her stop vomiting and allowed her to be more conscious and present during the rest of the process. I have a couple sisters and lots of friends who have described their birthing experiences, and I had no illusions that a kind, relaxing voice would be all that it took to get my wife through that kind of pain -- despite the fact that people have done so since the dawn of man. In the aftermath, everyone came out happy and healthy and my wife has much more respect for Western medicine and technology!

The benefits we got from the course included very detailed instruction on what would happen during the birthing process, what experiences we could expect, how to develop a birth plan, how to interact with the hospital midwives and health care providers, etc. We felt very informed when we went to the hospital. Additionally, taking the class and practicing the script, meditating and listening to the CDs together, etc. was very bonding for my wife and I. I think we could have gotten the same benefits from any of the other classes, such as Birthing from Within, but either way, it was totally worth the $300.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 11:20 AM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

My wife contends that hypnobirthing helped, though when she was in labor and I started in with the whole visualization script she immediately said "SHUT UP! THAT ISN'T HELPING!!". On the bright side, listening to the CDs immediately put me to sleep so I got quite a bit of extra rest before the kid was born.
posted by foodgeek at 11:29 AM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Mrs True says:

"I did hypnobirthing, and while I won't say it was 'pain free' it definitely helped. I had pitocin and back labor and was able to use some of the tools from the hypnobirthing class to manage it. The class I took (in Chicago) was more of a general birth-education class - I think the most beneficial thing to do is to get the CDs and hire a doula to teach you some of the techniques.

What works for you/what you like is so personal - the thing that worked best for me was imagining the time/place where I was the most relaxed ever and picture that constantly. So during and between contractions I was on the balcony of a cruise ship after an afternoon at the spa. I even had a lip balm that smelled like the spa which helped cue the memory. My husband would say that I wasn't 'present' for a lot of the labor because I was so inside myself. I wouldn't say I was 'hypnotized' but I was totally relaxed and took my mind away from the body. The relaxation tips were very helpful (not clenching your jaw, accepting the contractions and not fighting them, etc).

I found it also helpful to inform the staff that you don't want to be asked about your pain level, and you only want to be checked when necessary, and by the same person each time. "
posted by true at 12:13 PM on November 17, 2011

We studied Hypnobabies for our birth and we found the classes to be very helpful. You have CDs that you listen to regularly (at home) as well as scripts that you practice with your partner. You have two or three different books that you keep, which was great for referencing. We also had a Hypnobabies certified doula at the birth, and that was a big help. My water broke around 5:00 AM, which is what woke me up, and I think I must have slept through early labor, as the labor pains were intense from the get-go - there was no building up as I had read and heard about. At the time I felt that was the reason why I couldn't get control over the pains using the hypnosis, but looking back I see that I could not have gotten through 24+ hours of labor and complications without the hypnosis at least working some. My back labor was horrible, but probably less so with the Hypnobabies. I do wish it had been more effective as I was expecting to have little or no pain during labor. I've had success with self-hypnosis and hypnotherapy for sleep issues, so I do believe in it and feel that I am hypnotizable. My husband believes in it as well.

I've heard that Hypnobirthing is not as good in that it is not as thorough as Hypnobabies. This is a good article that discusses the differences between the two.

Feel free to MeMail me if you want more info. Hypnobabies classes can be hard to find, depending on where you live. I've read that the Home Study course is pretty comprehensive though.

Best of luck to you.
posted by Nathanial Hörnblowér at 12:39 PM on November 17, 2011

We had our baby 5 weeks ago today, my partner tried hypnobirthing in CD form, she found that they tended to make her fall asleep very quickly! During labour, she said it didn't really help; the contractions were too intense for her to concentrate. Also this was her third night awake because of quite intense pre-labour contractions, so it was tough. My impression is your mileage may vary; it definitely works well for some people.
posted by smoke at 1:21 PM on November 17, 2011

I half-assed Hypnobabies with my second kid. Yeah, you're not supposed to half-ass it, etc., but given my first birthing experience, I was rather put off by your body was built for this, trust your body, trust your baby mantras.

What I did find helpful were the tracks on how to relax and the tracks that taught how to get into the hypnotic state. While I certainly didn't have a painless birth with my second child, I do think learning a few things about how to focus were helpful. Though I didn't actively use them during my rather short labor, I did find myself present without being all there, able to focus and listen to my midwives, and able to drift off into the nether regions of Laborland calmly at a few key points. I do think hypnobabies helped with that, but I won't credit the entire program as being terribly useful for me.
posted by zizzle at 1:36 PM on November 17, 2011

I never did a class (I was doing this 7 years ago, couldn't find any). Instead I found a relatively conventional psychiatrist who was also trained in hypnotherapy. He and I met for 3 or 5 sessions (not too many) and he created a recording for me of the exercises we did, so that I could practice on my own.

If you've been doing guided meditations, it's similar. I've done a lot w/relaxation therapy to handle anxiety, and was a little shocked at how quickly I went under during the one-on-one sessions. For that reason I liked the one-on-one -- not sure how well I'd do in a class setting.

My first labor was really long and ended in a c-section. I had no drugs until I'd been in labor for... what. 18? 24 hours, something like that. I won't say it didn't hurt, but I never felt out of control, and the hypno training helped me relax (that and the hot tub). I don't remember really hurting until late in the game, after they'd given me pitocin and were waiting to bolus my epidural for the c-section (so it was wearing off).

My 2nd labor was super fast (Good thing I'd planned a VBAC). I went into labor 3 weeks early, so it was kind of a surprise. We headed to the hospital, and I pretty much did most of my labor sitting in the car, because I was 7-10cm when I got into triage. Again, the hypno training was useful, since it trains you to focus and learn to relax through contractions.

For me it was sort of like... force and counter-force. When a contraction started, I started my focus/breathing mantra to relax. Wasn't until I transitioned that I lost it and had to be reminded to breath through contractions.

The whole thing with hypnobirthing is that you use an entirely different vocabulary. You don't use "pain" to describe contractions -- it's force, or a surge, or some other word. You learn the process of labor (what the muscles are doing, what the baby is doing) so that as it's happening you can visualize what your body is doing. So you may not find any programs that deal with "pain" much as a concept, since the idea is to get away from using that language. Part of the appeal of hypnobirthing is that it's supposed to speed up labor, since you're not fighting your own body's process. Instead you're supposed to help it along by relaxing through contractions. My 2nd labor took about 7 hours start to finish. It would've been 5.5 hours if I hadn't freaked out and asked for pain medicine, which slowed things down a little (thank god - I hate being out of control like that).

Hope that you find something that helps -- even if it doesn't work exactly as you think it will, I think all the education and relaxation exercises are useful. Good luck!
posted by hms71 at 1:50 PM on November 17, 2011

I planned on using hypnobirthing, until medical issues made a c-section necessary. I still used the techniques for some bad reactions I had to meds, and found that very helpful. But while it kept me calm and mellow emotionally, my body really, really needed actual drugs.

The several hypno-moms I have met who used it successfully (just the technique, with no pain meds) both used it with baby number three; I suspect that knowing what was likely to happen and having a body that had already given birth twice helped make it a useful tool for them.

My husband later used the technique to get through a brutal transatlantic flight while hit with food poisoning without losing his mind, for what it's worth. So, I think it's truly valuable, but it might not be the only thing you'll need to use.
posted by Ink-stained wretch at 2:00 PM on November 17, 2011

"I found it also helpful to inform the staff that you don't want to be asked about your pain level, and you only want to be checked when necessary, and by the same person each time."

This. I did hypnobabies (CDs and workbook). I think one reason that I had a lot of trouble actually staying in the meditative state was that there were people in and out of the room all the time. If I wasn't interacting with someone, I was waiting for someone to arrive ("I'll be back in just a minute to get that set up for you" and it takes another 1/2 hour). The CDs came with a sign to put on the door to keep the interruptions down, but I thought that was silly and didn't use it. I regret that now. They also don't want you to get other sources of information like a lamaze class because you are supposed to never hear about pain at all. I was against that on principle.

The other thing that you might think about is that it takes time to learn. You are supposed to listen to affirmations and a hypnosis track, as well as practice on your own, every day.

While I didn't get the drug-free labor I'd hoped for, all the practicing helped lower my stress.
posted by SandiBeech at 7:24 PM on November 17, 2011

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