A Pregnant Pause: Hypnobirthing Helps Ease the Pain of Childbirth


Andrea Page practiced hypnobirthing when delivering her son, Taio. Courtesy of Andrea Page
Throughout her pregnancy, Andrea Page set aside time each day to visualize her upcoming birth and delivery and practice relaxed breathing techniques.

"I visualized my cervix opening like a flower and the baby easily passing through," the 31-year-old Edmonton, Alberta radiation therapist tells ParentDish. "I was determined to let go of all fears surrounding labor and pain so that this was a blissful and wonderful experience."

An avid yoga and daily meditation practitioner, Page wanted the birth of her first child to be as natural and trauma-free as possible. So last October 11, after several hours of focusing on hypnosis techniques from a CD and book, which she had religiously practiced throughout her pregnancy, she gave birth to a 9 lb. 2 oz. baby boy, Taio.

"The contractions were so intense and the urge to push very strong, but I focused on the hypnosis throughout the entire process," she tells ParentDish. "Taio came out gently and non-traumatically and then fed for nearly an hour. He is a calm baby, sensitive, loving and affectionate. I fully believe the birth experience (and obviously the pregnancy) pave the way for the child's development. "

Page is one of a growing number of moms-to-be who are opting for one of the newest trends to hit the birthing education front: Hypnobirthing.

The practice incorporates hypnosis, and breathing and relaxation exercises into childbirth and is designed to help moms relax on demand and avoid dwelling on the pain during labor and delivery, Cindy Fahey, executive director for with the California-based Perinatal Advisory Council (PAC/LAC), tells ParentDish.

Fahey and other experts say that hypnosis during childbirth allows women to consider other alternatives to pain medication and epidurals.

"The greatest challenge in childbirth education is overcoming the assumption that an epidural is the only and best approach," says Fahey. "Rather, this empowers women to educate themselves in the birth process and investigate natural pain management."

The concept is simple and a lot like hypnosis for smoking, weight loss and breaking other bad habits, Fahey adds. Costs for the courses range from about $140 for home kits and CDs to $500 for the growing classes, she says.

Early in her pregnancy, Page says she was ecstatic when she heard about the option of hypnosis during the labor and delivery of her first child.

"As a mother I wanted to give my son the best possible opportunity for love and balance from the beginning, Page, who writes the blog Our Zen Family, tells ParentDish.

"I didn't have a specific mantra per se, in words anyway," says Page. "My mantra was focused more on letting my body do as it so cleverly knew how. I rode the waves of contractions, each time visualizing the baby moving farther down in my pelvis. I silently sent words of praise and love to the unborn child."

Practitioners say that a hypnotic state is not necessarily a trance and that there are different levels of being hypnotized and ways to achieve a hypnotic state. Some women bring in hypnotists to the birth, others have practiced hypnosis with their partners, who then serve as coaches during the labor and delivery, says Fahey.

"Clinton, my partner, said many words of encouragement throughout the delivery, so I was able to achieve a self-hypnotic state quickly and calmly," says Page. "Breathing was a huge part of the process and entirely relaxing my mind and body."

Clinton, who operates an outdoor fitness company, jokes that hypnobirthing makes childbirth "damn easy," Page tells ParentDish. "Seriously, he says it was an incredible experience made easier because of the hypnosis," Page says. And, she adds: "The midwives praised us (mostly me!) for how calm and relaxed we were throughout labor and delivery. "

Increasingly, medical practitioners are welcoming hypnobirthing in their delivery rooms, says Fahey.

"Many women under-prepare for childbirth, so most nurses are happy to see that preparation of any sort (including hypnobirthing) has taken place," says Fahey.

The concept of HypnoBirthing LLC was started in Chichester, N.H., in the early 1990s by Marie Mongan, a former college counselor trained in hypnotherapy and author of the book "HypnoBirthing," according to the organization's website.

Today, more than 1,300 certified "Mongan Method" instructors guide couples through visualization sequences like "opening rose" and "rainbow relaxation," to be used during delivery, the Mongan website reports.

Fahey, also a nurse, says a semi-hypnosis state naturally happens in most natural childbirths. "Hypnobirthing's greatest asset is the opportunity to get the women in touch with her body, which typically allows for a smoother delivery," Fahey tells ParentDish.

Fahey says the practice is especially popular with runners and other athletes who are used to training their bodies to prepare for an athletic event, and take the same approach to childbirth.

"They recognize the opportunity to prepare for childbirth in a focused manner and are more likely to seek programs and classes such as hypnobirthing, Lamaze and the Bradley method," says Fahey.

"My hope is that, in time, women will realize that they can be more in control of their childbirth, and that an epidural is not the only pain management option."

And, it's not just something prospective moms are doing to prepare for baby.

Ben Broner, a recently retired Birmingham, AL-based physician tells Parent Dish he drew dads-to-be-into the hypnobirthing training sessions, much like dads are involved in Lamaze.

"I would have the husband attend the second and third sessions so that he could learn the technique to use during labor," says Broner.

Bev Flaxington tells ParentDish that hypnobirthing was her lifeline during a tense birth experience with one of her three children.

"My son was born at home 10.4 lbs. and stuck under my hip bone," says Flaxington. "I was cut and sewn with no drugs thanks to hypnobirthing."

But Brandon May, a hypnotist, cautions that hypnosis during childbirth is not for everyone.

"There was one woman I know who went through a hypnobirth without any drugs and didn't seem to flinch when she was asked to push," says May. But this is not recommended for everyone. Some people may be unresponsive to the hypnosis session if they are not fully engaged in the hypnosis process."