The fear of childbirth and labor is linked to reduced pain tolerance and is a risk to healthy post-partum adjustment. Childbirth education courses are gaining popularity among pregnant women as a means of addressing these fears and eliminating the need for pharmacological analgesia for pain associated with childbirth.
What is Hypnobirthing?
Hypnobirthing is a childbirth education course developed by Marie Mongan based on her own childbirth experiences. It is an educational process that includes relaxation, visualization, controlled breathing, meditation, nutrition, and positive affirmations to prepare a woman physically, mentally and spiritually for childbirth to reduce the perception of fear, anxiety, and pain during the process of birthing.
The hypnobirthing method is inspired by the work of Grantly Dick-Read, MD who termed the “fear-tension-pain” syndrome. He believed that tension and fear cause pain in birthing women and that hypnosis could break this cycle. Hypnobirthing philosophy believes that birthing is a natural process and it must not be externally manipulated or managed unless there is a special medical circumstance necessitating such an intervention.
Benefits of Hypnobirthing
- In a study involving thirty-two primigravida mothers, it was found that hypnobirthing accelerated the progress of the latent phase of labor. The latent phase of labor is associated with higher chances of exhaustion among mothers and hypnobirthing was found to speed up this early phase of labor.
- A retrospective matched cohort study showed that women who participated in the hypnobirthing program required no analgesia when compared to their counterparts. However, research on a larger scale is required to generalize this finding.
- Women prepared with hypnobirthing have reported feeling more relaxed, confident, less fearful and ‘in-control’ before and during the labor.
- Partners of women have reported that hypnobirthing sessions enabled them to become more confident and involved in the birthing process.
Limitations of hypnobirthing
- Hypnobirthing education does not provide information to mothers on complications that can occur during delivery, cesarean section or the need for medication based on the tenet that these may cause fear and anxiety among mothers. This omission may cause distress among women in the event of an unexpected complication.
- Regular examinations by the midwife may interfere with the focused meditative state of the woman practicing hypnobirthing techniques during labor. Midwives can support women in labor by being mindful of the hypnobirthing practices and minimizing interruptions.
- A study to explore the traumatic experiences of women during childbirth found that the preparation of women with hypnobirthing was strongly associated with the discrepancy between the expectation of the birthing process and the reality of delivery as a cause of trauma. However, further research into whether this approach prepares women adequately to face the reality of delivery needs to be explored in depth.
- There is a lack of substantial outcome data to prove the effectiveness of hypnobirthing.
Hypnobirthing is a natural alternative way of approaching childbirth and handling the fear and pain associated with it. Although more substantial evidence is required to recognize its beneficial effects, health care providers and midwives can provide information to women on hypnobirthing as an avenue to prepare them for a positive birthing experience.
Mongan, M. (2016). 4th ed. Hypnobirthing: The breakthrough approach to safer, easier, more comfortable birthing. Souvenir Press.
Wright, C., Geraghty, S., (2017). Mind over matter: Inside hypnobirthing. Sleep and hypnosis: A Journal of Clinical Neuroscience and Psychopathology. http://www.sleepandhypnosis.org/ing/Pdf/154fba2d236c4bc4bdb54da4b787a0de.pdf
Hollander, M.H., van Hastenberg, E., van Dillen, J. et al. Preventing traumatic childbirth experiences: 2192 women’s perceptions and views. Arch Women’s Ment Health 20, 515–523 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00737-017-0729-6