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The Disadvantages of HypnoBirthing That Drive Me Crazy

The disadvantages of HypnoBirthing are often unknown to new parents simply because of a lack of exposure and experience with the method. As a doula and birth assistant, I attend births where hypnosis is used and have seen its advantages and disadvantages first hand.

Before we dive in, let’s talk about what HypnoBirthing is. 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. HypnoBirthing is an excellent method of managing pain in childbirth. However, despite its effectiveness at decreasing the fear and pain of childbirth, there are two disadvantages of HypnoBirthing for first time moms to consider.

pregnant woman sitting on couch with eyes closed listening to hypnobirthing tracks on headphones

Benefits of HypnoBirthing

Before I get burned at the stake for criticizing this childbirth method, let’s talk about the benefits of HypnoBirthing. 😉

Decreased Fear and Tension

The doula clients I’ve worked with that took Hypnobirthing classes, listened to the tracks on their airpods, read the books, etc., generally approached their labors with minimal fear and great confidence. Hypnobirthers are excellent at creating a serene labor environment at home or hospital. This is wonderful because when women are less fearful, they are often less tense, and then therefore experience less pain (and their labors are more straightforward!) This phenomenon is called the fear, tension, pain cycle.

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Excellent at Pain Coping

Speaking of pain, despite not using the actual P word itself, 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 decreasing labor pain during labor thing mastered.

The Two Disadvantages of HypnoBirthing

The following two disadvantages of HypnoBirthing are something parents should consider before putting all their eggs in the “hypnosis during labor” basket.

Singular Birthing Focus

When parents learn hypnosis for childbirth and then go on to have a natural birth, HypnoBirthing is great. 1 + 1 = 2, point A leads to point B, etc. However, for those whose paths go in a different direction than planned, with maybe an epidural, transfer to a hospital, or cesarean birth, 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 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. Many HypnoBirthing first time moms leave the unexpected off their birth plans.

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 – like the B.R.A.I.N. acronym.

I find just as much satisfaction helping women rock unexpected birth scenarios, as I do helping parents have a natural childbirth, if not more.

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 mental health struggles are likely. With minimal awareness during our whole lives and especially during pregnancy, negative self-beliefs form that go a little something like this.

“If I have a natural birth, then I am strong, capable, successful, and a good mom.”

If a natural birth doesn’t happen, these beliefs flip and the self-talk goes in the opposite direction.

“Because I didn’t have a natural birth, I am therefore weak, inept, a failure, and a bad mother.”

(This is why I am so careful about birth affirmations. Not all birth affirmations are healthy!)

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 simultaneously believing to be weak and a failure feels insurmountable.

NOTE:  If you’ve had a traumatic first birth and are preparing for your second baby, pop on over here for some really great tips.

disadvantages of hypnobirthing when plans change in the hospital with an epidural - woman with epidural leaning on birth ball in hospital bed

No Need to Push

Another disadvantage of HypnoBirthing is the belief that women don’t need to push during the second stage of labor. What I hear is 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.

Fetal Ejection Reflex

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 tells a women how to push 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 each wave of contractions literally ejects the baby out of the body.

Some Women Have to Push – HARD

However, this isn’t the case for every woman, especially for those that have not had a previous vaginal delivery. Many women (and most first time moms) 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. The average first time mom pushes for around 1 and a half hours.

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!

woman on hands and knees pushing hard during childbirth
(Me pushing with everything I had for 2.5 hrs)

Coached Pushing

NOTE: What I am describing is big, strong, hard pushing, not coached pushing. Coached pushing is when a care provider, usually a nurse, tells a woman how and when to push. The nurse counts to 10 and tells the mom to hold her breath and push. Rinse and repeat 2 more times. After this, parents are instructed to take a break between contractions. Once the break is over they do it again and again and again. This is unnatural, and many women dislike this practice. That being said, some coached pushing may be helpful with an epidural for more feedback and assistance since she’s numb.

man applying counterpressure to the back of an african american woman kneeling at and leaning on her bed

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.

Share Your Thoughts on Disadvantages of HypnoBirthing

What are your thoughts? Am I totally off base? Leave a comment and let me know your thoughts on the disadvantages of HypnoBirthing. I’d love to hear your story!

Tracy Donegan

Sunday 29th of December 2019

That's why I could no longer teach HypnoBirthing (Mongan Method) and developed GentleBirth that is inclusive of ALL birth experiences. Too many women were coming out of their birth experience feeling like they failed. Not all HypnoBirthing classes are created 'equal'. Be sure to talk to your Instructor about their philosophy around medication....if they tell you that you won't need it if you practice hard enough or believe enough find a class with a more flexible approach.

LAUREN

Friday 27th of December 2019

Hypnobirthing failed me. After an entire pregnancy of believing I could have a "pain free birth" though preparing with Hypnobirthing, I then experienced the worst pain of my life with my first few contractions. Thus, as things progressed (and got more and more painful), I felt terrified that something was going horribly horribly wrong with my birth. It was extremely traumatic, and the birth ended in a C-section. Now having had two more children through VBAC, I realize that nothing was wrong with my body or my birth, it was Hypnobirthing that over-promised what I now believe to be impossible. My next birth I allowed myself to acknowledge that there would be pain, and while affirmations helped a great deal, it was very difficult - but overall a very positive experience. Not quite sure what to make of people who swear by Hypnobirthing. I make allowance for the fact that people could have very different experiences from me - apparently they do, if they love Hypnobirthing! Though I do feel like there is a badge of honor for those who claim their child birth was easy-peasy, a walk in the park, they didn't even break a sweat - and I can't be sure people who say things like this are being entirely truthful, or that that are honoring the heroism of women who do something that is truly hard - bring life into the world! Why can't we just admit that even with affirmations (that are truly helpful!) birth is painful, and that is ok! I suppose that every birth is different and maybe my body just can't cut it when pushing out babies, but I'm highly suspicious. Pain has a very important use in our bodies. If we didn't feel pain when we broke our arm we wouldn't think to fix it. Many people who have reduced feeling in extremities end up with burns or other injuries that result in limb amputations. I'm sure pain in child birth also serves some important purpose. Perhaps it alerts us to the gravity of the situation - of safely bringing a new life into the world! P.S. Your stages of labor articles helped me so much to eventually have some positive birth experiences! Thank you so much! Also, where are they?! Trying to find them for a friend.

Lindsey VanAlstyne

Friday 27th of December 2019

Thank you for sharing your experience. I know there are more stories like yours out there. It's not just you! (There's a search function at the top of this website. Type in "stages of labor" and you'll find it. Let me know if that doesn't work. :)

Luisa

Thursday 24th of October 2019

My husband and I took a hypnobirthing class and it prepared me so well for labor, which was 53 hours of painful back labor (painful except for the pushing, which was a welcome relief from the back labor!). At around hour 48, had to receive Pitocin to augment my labor. Although it was painful, I did not need an epidural, and I was so glad to be able to walk around throughout most of my labor. My instructor (who was also my doula!) was awesome and definitely let us know when there were things that she disagreed with about the official hypnobirthing approach, so perhaps I went into it knowing that it wasn't the only way. We also had a very difficult road to getting and staying pregnant, so by the time I actually gave birth, I had definitely internalized the idea that you can make all kinds of plans, but who knows what will actually happen. The one big divergence was that the class kept emphasizing that early labor was a time to rest, sleep, and eat, to gear up for active labor. From the very beginning of my labor, my contractions were excruciation in my back and I threw up anything I tried to eat, so there was no rest to be had. But I'm glad I didn't expect this going into it, because I would have been afraid! And oh yes--I definitely had to push WAAAAYYY harder than the class led me to believe, haha!

Lindsey VanAlstyne

Monday 28th of October 2019

I'm so glad for your insight and sharing your story. It's helpful to hear from someone who used HypnoBirthing - the pros and cons! Thank you!

Shoshana

Thursday 24th of October 2019

Hi! I teach HypnoBirthing , and I focus on all types of birth possibilities, it is about instinctive birth and understanding what is happening in the moment and accepting any situation and working to get the best experience out of it. There’s no question about how someone approaches a situation that can affect its outcome. That is what we teach. I had a woman take my course because she wanted to be calm after for nursing, not even during the birth. (She was a multi-para)..It has definitely helped with postpartum recovery as well.

As far as Not pushing the baby out, many childbirth educators, including Ina may Gaskin, the famous Midwife, refer to the NER- natural expulsive reflex. We do not teach to do nothing but rather to breathe the baby down as opposed to pushing and I’ve heard a lot of men that come to the class that report that this has worked for them in the bathroom LOL. I was at a recent birth that was very long and challenging and she actually didn’t push but did Bree the baby down, a first time mom and she literally had one stitch and she feels great! There’s no question that securing a supportive caregiver and provider makes all the difference! I think unless someone has properly taken the full course from an instructor it’s can possibly be misunderstood. If those are the two drawbacks you mention, then I think this is still a phenomenal way to have a baby… I used HypnoBirthing for my youngest two, I wish I had known about it earlier! (I have 9 kids!) I hope this was helpful and thank you for posting- I enjoy reading what you write!

Lindsey VanAlstyne

Monday 28th of October 2019

Hey! I'm so glad for your comment and insight. Thank you! :)

Melissa

Wednesday 16th of October 2019

I borrowed the book from the library while pregnant with my 2nd. I found it really helpful for making me feel excited and capable instead of being unsure of myself. My 1st pregnancy I had wanted to go unmedicated but didn't prepare in any way and after 29 hours of pitocin induced labor, I got an epidural and it messed my back up for like 2 months. That experience left me feeling childlike and the ppd was pretty bad so I was very excited going in the 2nd time. I was induced again but not pitocin this time and I walked the halls and bounced on the ball and such and I was just in a great mindset the whole time. I was calm.and felt capable. My husband was really blown away he said compared to the 1st time, he said it sounded like I was just meditating the whole time lol. But then transition came and I shifted into a primal state that just took over and I just remember it not being painful like I was expecting. It was just intense feeling. I'm glad that I wasn't in a hypnotic state and was present in a different way because that feeling, while being very intense, was definitely amazing!

Lindsey VanAlstyne

Wednesday 16th of October 2019

Thank you for sharing your HypnoBirthing experience!!