Misconceptions about Hypnosis for Childbirth

By Kerry Tuschhoff and Carole Thorpe

We are very proud to announce that it is now common knowledge that Hypnobabies is a very successful childbirth hypnosis program. Women seek out our program in ever increasing numbers, and it is obvious that they know exactly what they want and need, or they wouldn’t be investigating the possibility that childbirth can be joyful AND empowering by using hypnosis. In terms of helping women have much easier, more comfortable and even pain-free birth experiences, we have taught hundreds of thousands of expectant women how to trust in their bodies, their minds and their babies. The results are effectively and very positively changing the way women experience childbirth, the way babies are being born and the way the world perceives natural childbirth. It seems only realistic and logical that those who work with expectant women would be supportive of childbirth hypnosis and willing to learn how they could help women have this kind of birth experience, with the ensuing positive feelings of empowerment and memories of a joyful birth.

 Yet curiously, regarding support for hypnotic childbirth from some childbirth educators, midwives and doulas (labor assistants), that is not always the case. The good news is that most of them are so amazed and in awe of the kinds of births our Hypnobabies moms have that they react very positively indeed, with comments like, “That was the most beautiful birth I’ve ever seen”, and “What in the world did she learn to remain so relaxed and focused on her own body and baby?” They express their gratitude for how  relaxed and fun it made their own participation in the birth, while their special Hypno-Mom was able to have such an easy natural birth instead of suffering, and how much peacefulness there was as the babies slide out into the world.

 They have seen the value of greatly reducing childbirth discomfort and helping women look forward to childbirth by using deep hypnotic suggestion and relaxation. Most witnesses to a true Hypnobabies birth are extremely positive, affirming what they have seen, heard, and learned while attending a Hypnobabies birth. They come to recognize childbirth hypnosis as an innovative step forward towards helping more women choose natural childbirth in the future, or even towards helping women choose homebirthing or birth center births, since they have seen that the woman’s fear of childbirth was eliminated, and that Hypnobabies trained moms are able to fully trust the birth process and their own inner voice.

 In fact, most of our moms find their outer voice for the first time and realize they have the right to express it, since Hypnobabies teaches them birth empowerment as well as birth hypnosis. Hypnobabies doulas have expressed delight at seeing the positive reactions of doctors and nurses to what natural childbirth can truly be, as demonstrated by our Hypno-Moms experiencing fewer complications and much less discomfort. Many are recognizing this use of hypnosis as a way to enhance the mind-body connection, and as a natural progression and evolution of natural childbirth.

 And then…there are birth professionals who have some very interesting ideas and misconceptions about: what we teach in our 6-week Hypnobabies class series, how eyes-open childbirth hypnosis is learned, practiced and used in labor, or how hypnosis affects the birthing mother’s emotional state and her connection to her body’s sensations and to her baby during the process. Comments such as, “What is wrong with childbirth pain anyway?”, or “Why should women spend time learning something so difficult just to give birth?”, tell us that those birth professionals must not comprehend what true hypnosis for childbirth is and how it can benefit women, their birth partners, their babies, their caregivers and…their/our own futures. It has been speculated that anyone who would say these things simply hasn’t dealt with their own pain and difficulties in childbirth and therefore want all women “to have to bear up like I did”, in order to validate their own unsatisfying experience with birth.

 I choose to believe that inside every birth professional is someone who cares deeply for birthing women and truly desires that we help each other as sisters, caretakers and soul-mates. With a little bit of information and education to learn the truth about hypnosis, I believe most would be willing to value and treasure hypnosis for childbirth as the gift that women give themselves and their precious babies.

Please make certain that the labor assistants you have chosen to attend your birthing are fully supportive and knowledgeable about your choices

Very Important!
On that note, if you are a Hypnobabies mom who plans to hire a doula or midwife, (Excellent!) please make certain that the labor assistants you have chosen to attend your birthing are fully supportive and knowledgeable about your choice for a natural, comfortable birth using hypnosis. They may need a little education, which is excellent, but anyone who is inflexible and will not work with you to learn your Hypnobabies words, cues and techniques is *not* a good choice.

Choose well. You only have the opportunity to give birth to this baby..once. You deserve to have the kind of birth that you want, and all aspects of this once in a lifetime experience are for you to decide. Beautiful, easier and much more comfortable childbirth is in your grasp, so keep it there!


Birth Professionals, Read On

Below is an article that explains the many misconceptions about childbirth hypnosis, written by our Hypnobabies Vice President, Carole Thorpe, who is also a Hypnobabies instructor. Carole is a hypnotherapist and birth assistant (doula) who has attended hundreds of babies’ births. Her article lends merit to everything we stand for here at Hypnobabies, which is to improve the experience of childbirth for all women.


Carole writes:

“Sadly, misconceptions regarding hypnosis and its use during childbirthing are widespread. The most common misconceptions are:

That hypnosis is merely another method of coping with pain or that it's pain management, or that hypnosis is just flowery guided imagery delivered in a monotone voice that induces deeper relaxation than other methods, or that hypnosis distances a woman from her body during her baby's birthing and denies her basic physiological responses that others create through enduring pain, or that women won't remember their baby's births, or that moms must lie still and listen intently to hypnosis recordings...their birthings entirely scripted, for hypnosis to be of any use. None of these assumptions are true of real self-hypnosis, deepened to the level of somnambulism, which is the depth of hypnosis that one must achieve to create an anesthesia effect in the body.

When a birthing woman is profoundly relaxed and deeply in a state of self-hypnosis, she responds to pre-learned, post-hypnotic suggestions so profoundly that her body creates endorphins, serotonin, melatonin and other relaxing hormones and stress reducing brain chemicals. This happens automatically and all the smooth muscles in her body, all the muscles controlled by the autonomic nervous system relax so powerfully, that there is a physiological response that is perceived by the woman as a lessening of physical sensations, or a profound diminishing of discomfort, and for the majority of them the elimination of pain entirely. Hypnotherapists call this phenomenon, "hypno-anesthesia".

It's common knowledge among those who teach clinical hypnosis for medical purposes, that hypnosis can slow pulse and respiration rates, and lower blood pressure, and eliminate pain entirely. Doctors and dentists use this type of hypnotic conditioning with their patients to create "hypno-anesthesia" for their patients who are allergic to medical anesthesia. These doctors and dentists perform surgeries with no medical anesthesia, with no pain and no side-effects.

Hypnobabies’ Eyes-open Childbirth Hypnosis teaches the same medical self-hypnosis techniques that doctors and dentists use for their patients who cannot have medical anesthesia. Women listen to hypnosis scripts to learn a cue to instantly enter self-hypnosis, and how to deepen it to the level of somnambulism in order to create an anesthesia effect in their bodies. Hypnobabies mothers experience their contractions as "only pressure" or a pressing down sensation, or even like being squeezed or hugged tightly. Many of the women I have assisted have described the sensation of their contractions as being very much like the sensation of a tight blood pressure cuff...intense, even sometimes mildly uncomfortable, but not automatically painful.

Hypnobabies moms learn to create hypno-anesthesia at the drop of a finger, literally. They learn to deepen their ability to do so by listening to a script designated to this purpose. Then with practice and by listening to other scripts, these women learn to strengthen the effects of this hypno-anesthesia in their bodies. They regularly practice scripts with their birth partners during their pregnancies to instill these skills as an automatic response to the sensations of their contractions when their labor begins. Through repetition and the resulting compounding effect, women learn to do all of this with their 'eyes open' so that they can move around and respond to their birthing body's cues and their baby's cardinal movements.

Hypnobabies moms learn ONLY their self-hypnosis techniques and relaxation deepening cues by listening to, and practicing with, their hypnosis scripts. Their BIRTHINGS are NOT scripted, nor are their individual contractions. No one could script a birthing since no two are alike. If someone were to see a Hypnobabies mom in her 'eyes-open' childbirth hypnosis, she would look the same as any other birthing woman, with the exception that she could talk to you all the way through her contractions if she wanted to. She could "remain comfortable while moving around and still be in a state of deep hypnosis", with "all the muscles around her baby completely loose, limp, lazy and deeply relaxed", all the while "creating a mental hypno-anesthesia in her body"; actually enjoying...not merely enduring, her baby's birth.

She can recognize and respond fully to the "pressure sensations" of her body bearing down during second stage, experiencing "gentle stretching and pressure as her baby crowns and is being born", turning even more inward to focus MORE intently on the sensations of birthing her baby. A mom in true hypnosis (not one listening to guided imagery scripts which are meant to distance and distract) is never out of touch with reality, she's actually hyper-aware of her process because she is simply tuning out, "all the external goings on around her, tuning in more fully to her body and her baby". Caregivers are often fooled by the mom's observed level of comfort...and often don't even believe a hypno-mom is in labor until they do a vaginal exam, when they very often discover that she is in late first stage, nearing time to push her baby out, or even complete!

Besides learning their hypnosis techniques, Hypnobabies couples receive a minimum of 18-hours of thorough preparation for childbirth, over the course of a 6-week series. All hypnosis for childbirth classes are NOT created equal. One stands apart from the others as a thorough preparation for childbirth class. This is the reason that DONA recognizes Hypnobabies as the onlyhypnosis for childbirth course that meets the DONA certification requirement that CD applicants must observe a complete childbirth class series. For example, Hypnobabies moms learn how to stay healthy and low-risk through exercise and nutrition. Couples learn all of the signs of labor, what constitutes an emergency situation during pregnancy and birthing, and they learn guidelines about when to head for the hospital or to call their midwives to come to them.

They learn all about routine procedures in hospitals, and the risks, the benefits and natural alternatives to each. They learn the questions they'll need to ask in order to create true informed consent. They create their birth preferences based on this information, and based on what they choose for their baby's birthing. Nothing is scripted for them. They have plenty of opportunity to ask questions in classes and to receive answers to their questions about late pregnancy, birth and the immediate postpartum period...including breastfeeding, and newborn characteristics, and much more. They learn from highly trained instructors who must show that they have a background in childbirth education and hypnosis, and be thoroughly screened, before they can even apply to enroll in a Hypnobabies instructor training. The certification process is rigorous, more thorough than any other preparation for childbirth program that I have been certified to teach, including other birth hypnosis programs.

Hypnobabies moms are not "denied an opportunity to love and trust themselves and their babies", nor are they "denied opportunity for self-discovery and growth" during their preparation for birth, or during the actual birthing process...quite the opposite is true actually. During the script practices, when their birth partners read the script for that week to the mother, the mother relaxes so deeply that she creates endorphins and other stress-reducing brain chemicals that occur only in a state of sleep or deep hypnosis. When this happens, their babies play and bump around so much that we have to add to the scripts, "every movement your baby makes as you listen here to my {the birth partner's} voice, just relaxes you even more". Mothers and their babies quickly learn to associate that happy, relaxing play-time with their birth partner's voice. Because of this opportunity for prenatal bonding, I have seen more than one fretful newborn become instantly peaceful at a word from the birth partner. Our couples see this daily practice session as a time to connect and enjoy bonding with each other and their babies, not as hard work.

By using the kinder and gentler terms we substitute for the words "contraction", "labor", "delivery" and "transition", and by eliminating words that women have been negatively programmed with all their lives via every scary story they've read, or heard, or seen in the media about birth, we eliminate the fear associated with those words and stories. I fail to see how we deny women anything by giving them a sense of confidence through positive reinforcement (affirmations), and positive wording for what should only be a positive event in their lives.

By emphasizing that a woman's "body was created for birthing", that a woman should "go within to find her own power through her baby's birthing", that her baby's physical cues deserve to be responded to during birthing by the mother "being so in touch with her body and so in tune with her baby", and by giving a woman the ability to create comfort in her body at the drop of her finger, we allow her an opportunity to attune more deeply to childbirth's cues than if she were merely coping with pain, or distracting and distancing herself from pain with busy breathing techniques, or traditional other-than-self-directed comfort measures. The more "power that flows through her, the more empowered she feels".

By putting the mother fully in control of her own level of comfort with her self-hypnosis techniques, she is free to use all of her hypnosis techniques in whatever way feels right for her. Some hypno-moms never listen to one script during their baby's birth, preferring to use their instant cues to create deep relaxation and hypno-anesthesia, so they can move around as they wish, while others prefer to listen to CDs and scripts and prompts from their birth partners. They ALL experience all of the thundering power of their baby's birthing, all the intensity, just not all of the pain. Their babies are born in an atmosphere of comfort, joy and love, with endorphins bathing their senses as well as their mother's. Why should it take hours and hours of pain-coping for a woman to build up to an endorphin state when it can be created automatically, instantly with the drop of her finger? I fail to see the superiority of eschewing a comfortable method of creating the endorphin state that is necessary for infant-maternal bonding, just so long as it happens. Most of the moms I have worked with were happy that they were able to do so without discomfort. I can't imagine anyone given the choice, saying, "I choose pain, thank you".

As for my experience with being a Hypnobabies-doula exclusively, it's much different and much more rewarding for me. I prefer to help a woman to be truly physically comfortable during her birthing, not just merely calm and peaceful in the face of pain-coping. It is very rewarding to help a mom achieve her goal of a natural, unmedicated childbirth, and to have her say she was completely comfortable and actually enjoyed the process. I prefer to have tools that really work for my doula clients like the word cue, "release" which instantly helps a mother achieve a deep state of hypnosis and hyper-awareness just by hearing it or thinking it to herself. I love that I can help her to deepen her relaxation instantly, when she asks me to, by simply pressing gently on her shoulder and saying softly, "relax, deeper now". What doula wouldn't?! It's so easy and works instantly.

That's not to say that I don't also put cool cloths on her face when she's pushing and getting overly warm, or that I don't use aromatherapy to add to the atmosphere of calm in the room, or that I don't suggest different positions to help with the descent of her baby, or that I don't do all the things other doulas do. I do all those things, AND I help mothers use their self-hypnosis tools to have their babies in comfort, joy and love. They tell me that they felt empowered by their ability to create a birthing that was peaceful and comfortable for themselves, and unmedicated and safe for their babies, using 'only' the power of their minds.

I have never had one Hypnobabies mom say, "I would never do that again". All of the couples I have worked with, who have gone on to have more babies, become what I affectionately call, my sweet "repeat-offenders", and most become lifetime members of my family of friends. I love my "work" and I am richly rewarded. It's SO EASY to be a Hypnobabies-doula.

For birth professionals whose life purpose is caring for women and their true choices in childbirth: I believe that if women weren't dissuaded from investigating hypnosis for childbirth, through much public misinformation, myths, and uninformed opinion, there would be many more who would find out about a safe, very pleasant option for comfortable unmedicated childbirth. In addition, the misinformation that exists in the birthing community has unfortunately cast doubt in the minds of so many aspiring doulas (and yes, even potential hypno-doulas) who could actually do quite a bit of good by referring women to Hypnobabies for natural childbirth preparation.

Natural childbirth advocates represent such a small percentage of the birthing community as it is, that we all need to work together towards achieving our common goal of assisting women in childbirth with grace and love, and supporting whatever choices *they* make.”

Much thanks to Carole for her insightful and sensitive information.

Please call us in our office at 714-952-BABY (2229) if you need more information on hypnosis for childbirth; education is the key to success with everything in life that is worth having. We all want women to succeed at having the birth of their dreams and for all doulas to feel confident in their supportive and caring roles as Hypno-Doulas.

Thank you,
Kerry Tuschhoff
Founder/Director of Hypnobabies