Childbirth is one of the most profound events a woman and couple will experience. Unfortunately, the experience can be fraught with anxiety, as well as fear of pain and loss of control. Often during childbirth, those fears/anxiety transfer into a fight-or-flight response. This automatic physiological response increases her perception of pain intensity and decreases internal blood flow. So in effect, the woman’s anxiety actually increases exactly what she fears. This is what we often refer to as a self-fulfilling prophesy! We can reverse this effect with hypnosis. With the ability to use self-hypnotic techniques, women and their partners can effectively enter the childbirth experience with calm and focus.
Hypnosis and self-hypnosis is very effective for pain management and establishing a calm state of mind. It is best when the mother begins practicing hypnotic relaxation techniques early in the pregnancy so that when the (potential) panic of labor sets in, she will already have conditioned herself to them. When used for childbirth, the primary aim of self-hypnosis is to help the woman maintain control by managing anxiety and discomfort though inducing a focused state of relaxation.
Many studies have shown that incorporating prenatal hypnosis in childbirth preparation results in significantly less use of sedatives, analgesia, and regional anesthesia during labor. Newborns whose mothers use hypnosis actually achieve higher neonatal Apgar scores at one minute after birth. These newborns are born much more alert, cry less and make more eye contact sooner.
Maternal hypnosis influences fetal movements in anxious pregnant women, with anxious fetuses’ activity becoming less chaotic and more organized when maternal relaxation is achieved through hypnotherapy. When women become anxious during pregnancy and carry that into delivery, this of course is transferred to the fetus. The fetus may flail around inside the uterus, causing the cord to become wrapped around their necks or for this to become a breech birth. Physicians have never given a clear reason for why some babies are born breech or with the cord around their neck, but it makes good sense that when the baby becomes anxious in response to mothers anxiety, it is akin to a fetal anxiety, hyperactivity pattern. This is why it is imperative for the mother to use hypnosis to remain calm and to receive calming suggestions.
During a breech delivery, if the lower uterus can be relaxed by hypnosis, the baby’s position will spontaneously shift to headfirst. In one study, 81 of 100 women with breech presentation successfully converted to the normal vertex position after receiving hypnotherapy. By comparison, a spontaneous movement into the vertex position occurs in 48% of cases.
In our next blog we will discuss the difference between hypnosis and hypnotherapy and how they can both be an important part of healthy childbirth.