Hypnobirthing is a childbirth preparation method that harnesses the power of hypnosis and relaxation for those planning a natural childbirth in or out of the hospital. Despite its effectiveness at decreasing the fear and pain of childbirth, there are two things about HypnoBirthing that drive me crazy.
Benefits of HypnoBirthing
Before I get burned at the stake for criticizing this childbirth method, let’s talk about the benefits of HypnoBirthing. 😉
The doula clients I’ve worked with that took Hypnobirthing classes, listened to the tracks, read the books, etc., generally approached their labors with minimal fear and great confidence. This is wonderful because when women are less fearful, they often experience less pain, and their labors are more straightforward.
Speaking of pain, despite not using the actual p word, HypnoBirthing mamas are experts at pain coping in labor. With the relaxation techniques and self-hypnosis learned during pregnancy, they make childbirth look easy. I’m not exaggerating! Hypnobirthing mamas have the whole pain coping during labor thing mastered.
The Two Things About HypnoBirthing That Drive Me Crazy
The following two aspects of HypnoBirthing are something parents should consider before putting all their eggs in the one basket.
Singular Birthing Focus
When parents learn hypnosis for childbirth and then go on to have a natural birth, HypnoBirthing is great. But for the women whose paths go in a different direction, that’s where the problems start.
It seems that either HypnoBirthing teaches one way of giving birth – unmedicated, vaginal, with minimal intervention – or parents with this same singular focus are drawn to this childbirth preparation method. Either way, parents that identify with this method tend to plan for only one way of birthing. When plans change, as they sometimes do, women feel shocked, betrayed, confused, angry, and as if they failed.
Don’t get me wrong, there are many amazing benefits to a low-intervention, natural birth. Obviously, I’m a huge advocate of unmedicated birth! However, as a childbirth educator I know I would be doing a disservice to parents if I didn’t also teach the tools to navigate doing the next best thing if birthing plans change.
I find just as much satisfaction helping women rock unexpected birth scenarios, as I do helping parents have a natural childbirth.
Positive and Negative Self-Beliefs
The thing is, when someone is so singularly focused on one particular birth outcome and it doesn’t become their reality, postpartum struggles are likely. During pregnancy and with minimal awareness, self-beliefs form that go something like this.
If a natural birth doesn’t happen, these beliefs flip, and the self-talk goes in the other direction.
“Because I didn’t have a natural birth, I am therefore weak, inept, a failure, and a bad mother.”
Let me just say that these negative self-beliefs combined with sleep deprivation, hormonal fluctuations, relationship strains, and breastfeeding challenges, are a recipe for disaster. Becoming a mother is hard enough. Becoming a mother while believing to be weak and a failure is almost insurmountable.
No Need to Push
Another idiosyncrasy about HypnoBirthing is the belief that actively pushing during the second stage of labor is not required because the body will do it all by itself. Again, the problem is not so much that this is a false statement, but that it’s teaching only one way of giving birth. Let me explain.
When a woman is fully dilated, she typically feels a strong, reflexive urge to push. This urge is involuntary, and something that the body just does. The fetal ejection reflex is a powerful, whole body sensation that guides women through the second stage of labor. For parents that have never given birth, I often compare it to the vomiting reflex – it happens all by itself.
On one hand, I understand where HypnoBirthing is coming from. In many cases, when it comes to pushing, especially with women that have already given birth, there isn’t anything extra to be done. All that’s required is to be completely in the moment as contractions literally eject the baby out of the body.
But this isn’t the case for every woman, especially for those that have not had a previous vaginal delivery. Many women need to put forth great strength behind each pushing contraction to birth their babies. Some have to give everything they’ve got, for hours of pushing. This may not be the average woman’s experience, but it’s well within the range of normal.
For HypnoBirthing parents, it can be a challenge to change gears if a different type of pushing is required. There can be a bit of a learning curve to switch to big, strong, gorilla-like pushes. However, once a woman realizes what’s working, there’s progress to be seen!
Final Thoughts on HypnoBirthing
Like most everything under the sun, HypnoBirthing has its strengths and weaknesses. Because it combines the power of hypnosis and relaxation, it’s a wonderful tool to help parents achieve a natural childbirth.
However, women should consider the effects of a childbirth preparation method that teaches a singular way of birthing. Parents are wise to pay close attention to their self-beliefs tied to any potential birth outcomes. It’s important to question any beliefs, and their sources, that call someone a failure.
What are your thoughts on HypnoBirthing? Am I totally off base? Leave a comment and let me know your experience. I’d love to hear your story!