Is Pain-free possible? The research that says you can do-away with childbirth drugs
While most women look forward to the birth of their child with happy anticipation, for many, this excitement can become countered with feelings of anxiety and fear about the experience of giving birth. Namely: the pain.
It doesn’t help that often women are quick to share their own birthing stories with nervous expectant mothers, who are then also battling with perceived social judgement around the use of pain relief. This results in many women have fixed ideas about taking analgesics during labour, leading to an approach that they’ll just have to ‘tough it out’, pain and all.
Is there a different approach?
While you don’t have to justify your choices to anyone, what many expectant mothers don’t know is that extreme pain relief doesn’t have to be the only option for experiencing a pleasant birth.
While a small amount of fear is completely normal, particularly for first-time mothers, this anxiety can become a hindrance that has the potential to make the childbirth experience far more stressful than necessary. It is well known that this fear and anxiety can also slow down, or even stall, labour.
Instead, hypnosis is increasingly being used by women to overcome those fears and remain relaxed during childbirth. In a hypnotic trance, the mind is calm and the body is physiologically relaxed, as a result the body can create the optimum levels of birthing hormones. In addition, you can alter your sensory perceptions of pain so it does not reach awareness or does so with less force.
Sound a little off-beat? Here’s the research that says that practically pain-free is more of a possibility than you realise:
A comfortable childbirth? The research that says it’s a reality
Research exploring the benefits of birth hypnosis and in regards to obstetrics (the branch of medicine that deals with pregnancy and childbirth birth) is not new. In 1962 The British Medical Journal published MD Josephine Davidson’s research “An assessment of the value of hypnosis in pregnancy and labour”. The results confirmed you can enjoy a much more comfortable childbirth with birth hypnosis. Not only were the average lengths of labour shorter for the hypnosis group, but they reported subjectively much less pain, required significantly less chemical analgesics (drugs) during birth and were much more satisfied – describing labour as pleasant. More recent research echoes these results.
The Study – an assessment of the value of hypnosis in pregnancy and labour
Davidson’s study involved 210 pregnant women who were divided into 3 groups of 70 women (45 of which were pregnant for the first time, and 25 who had experienced pregnancy and childbirth before).
The control group received standard antenatal classes. The physiotherapy group received 6 relaxation classes which consisted of controlled breathing and pelvic exercises. The third group, the hypnosis group, received 6 hypnosis lessons from a hypnotist which consisted of relaxation and pain management training and positive hypnotic suggestions about childbirth.
The hypnosis group was weighted with women who were more likely to have difficult or long labours (e.g. those who were anxious, older first-time mothers, or second-time mothers who had had previously distressing labours).
Shortening Labour Duration
In this study the hypnosis group on average had a 6-hour shorter labour duration than the physiotherapy group and almost 8 hours shorter than the control group. The most significant difference was during first-stage labour, which was almost half the other groups. This confirmed prior research studies that showed the effectiveness of hypnosis in reducing the duration of labour.
Hypnosis = Less Labour Pain
The women’s subjective experience of pain was measured on a scale of none, slight, moderate and severe. During the first stage of labour the most significant difference was that 46% of the hypnosis group reported no pain, compared to only 8% in the physiotherapy group and 4% in the control group. As for severe pain only 6% of the hypnosis group described first-stage labour pain as severe, compared to 26% of the control group (the phsyio group fared better than the control group at 10%). Again the hypnosis group scored lower on experiencing moderate pain with 17% compared to 46% of the physio and 47% of the control group who described the pain as moderate.
During the second stage of labour the biggest difference was in severe pain. 65% of the control group and 70% of the phsyio group described their labour pain as severe, compared to 20% of the hypnosis group. Again the hypnosis group fared better with 24% experiencing no pain during the second stage of labour compared to 3% of the control group and none of the physio group.
Hypnosis = Less Drugs
41% of the hypnosis group required some form of analgesic, compared to a whopping 99% of the control group and 100% of the phsyiogroup. Analgesics included gas, pethidine, opiate, barbit, morphine and local and general anaesthetics. It’s important to note that requiring less or no drugs reduces risk to both mother and baby.
Results continue to be confirmed by ongoing hypnosis for pregnancy and birth research
Davidson’s was not the first study to research the benefits of hypnosis for childbirth, and certainly not the last. More recent studies have also confirmed Davidson’s findings – hypnosis is effective for reducing duration of labour, pain and the need for drugs and increasing the mother’s satisfaction of childbirth. Other researched benefits show that birth hypnosis is effective for turning breech babies, improved condition of baby at birth (based on Agpar scores) and lowers incidences of post-natal depression (see “research: hypnosis for pregnancy and birth” for more).
All of which I’ve evidenced in my own clinical observations of my birth hypnosis clients’ experiences with childbirth. In addition, many of my clients comment on how calm their baby is, and attribute that to the regular deep hypnotic relaxation during the last trimester and the relaxed birth.
What is hypnosis?
Hypnosis is a safe and natural state, where focused attention and relaxation are used to access your subconscious mind –the part of your mind that is responsible for your memories, emotions, autonomic processes (i.e. breathing, blood flow, etc) beliefs, habits, fears and phobias. In hypnosis you become more receptive to therapeutic hypnotic suggestions and techniques, and can amongst other things overcome fears and influence your normal perceptions, such as time and pain, and physiology.
One of the biggest misconceptions about the hypnotic state is that you are unconscious or it involves a lack of control – conversely you are in control and aware of what is going on around – a little bit like when you get really absorbed in a good book or movie, you may lose track of time but you are fully in control of yourself and you have an awareness of what is happening around you.
Preparing for birth with hypnosis means that you are empowered to remain clear-headed and in control – and able to make decisions from a place of balance if required to do so. You are aware of your external environment but have the ability to go within to better enable the instinctive process of birthing to take place.
What does a hypnobirth involve?
Typically the Birth Hypnosis sessions I offer clients involve:
- Addressing conscious anxiety and fears as well as any unconscious fear conditioning
- Teaching hypnotic pain reducing techniques and hypnotic analgesia
- Creating positive birth, bonding and mothering expectations
- Using the mind to influence the body and birthing processes
- Teaching self-hypnosis and creating hypnotic triggers so the mother to be can quickly and easily relax herself into a hypnotic state
Pregnant women may have in common with other women the fact that they are pregnant, but just like us, our subconscious minds are unique, and as such people experience hypnosis differently, a technique that works beautifully for one client may not suit or produce the same results of another.
I’ve found a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t best serve all women, so I like to work one-on-one with my clients to ensure I tailor the sessions to their unique needs and fears and use techniques best suited to them.
Other birth and prenatal services I offer my clients can also assist clients to prepare for a c-section, overcome a previously traumatic childbirth experience, prevent or manage gestational diabetes, and help turn a breech baby.
Why use birth hypnosis?
The research is clear – hypnosis helps reduce pain, labour time and increases satisfaction.
So when it comes to childbirth, it makes sense to work with the part of the mind that controls our fears, autonomic processes and our ability to relax. Birth Hypnosis helps women focus their attention into a relaxed hypnotic state and control their perceptions, this puts them in control of enhancing their comfort and enjoyment of the birth experience.
Do you want to improve your birthing experience the natural way? Contact me to find out how hypnosis can help you experience a calm and relaxed birth.