Hypnobirthing: Controlling childbirth pain with your mind
May 7, 2012 (WPVI) -- When many people think of hypnosis, they envision entertainers putting audience members into a trance and convincing them to cluck like chickens or reveal deep, dark secrets.
In reality, hypnosis is defined as a state of heightened focus and extreme concentration. And now more and more women are using it to cope with the pain of childbirth, through a technique called hypnobirthing.
Childbirth is most often portrayed in movies as a chaotic, uncontrolled and extremely excruciating experience.
"I think most women are scared of pain," said Simone Nadav of Fishtown.
For Simone, hypnobirthing helped her train her mind to overcome that pain during the birth of her daughter Bayla, now 15 months old.
A video recording of the birth shows Nadav in one of the last and often most painful stages of labor. Yet she appears relaxed, and the only sounds you hear are her breathing. She said that is what got her to the point of delivery.
"Really hypnobirthing is letting your own mind surrender to your own body and letting your body take control and birth your baby," she said.
Robin Frees, a hypnobirthing instructor, says mothers-to-be take several classes to learn specific breathing methods and concentration techniques.
The cost of the sessions is between $200 and $300. They allow women to essentially self-hypnotize during labor and, as many put it, breathe the baby out.
"In a state of hypnosis you're not asleep but you're not fully aware," said Frees. "You're very, very focused and you're allowing yourself to slip into that relaxed state where your mind and body can work more in harmony together."
"Yes, there was pain. I had contractions in the front and I had back labor and I felt it. But I was able to work through it," said Simone.
Jefferson Hospital OB/GYN Dr. Abigail Wolf says hypnobirthing is a great pain-coping technique.
But she warns patients should approach childbirth with an open mind, because once a mother is actually experiencing labor pains, she may change her mind about receiving medication. And of course there also can be unexpected complications.
"Having anesthesia on board is safer if you need to do some sort of emergency c-section or another emergency delivery," she told Action News.
For Sara Dawson, hypnosis not only worked for the birth of her now 6-month-old daughter Lauren, it helped her conceive a baby after months of failed fertility treatments.
"I decided I wanted to try hypnotherapy because I felt like my body wasn't playing along with what my mind and heart wanted," she said.
Dawson's hypnotherapy involved six sessions. She describes it as a guided meditation in which she uncovered sources of stress in her life, specifically fears about being a good mother.
"It was fantastic to relieve myself of these concerns that weren't really accurate," she said.
Shortly after her last session, Dawson knew the treatment had worked.
"I felt this joy and I didn't even need the test to tell me I was pregnant. I just knew," she said.
A doctor we spoke with said it is important to remember that Dawson had hypnosis in conjunction with fertility medications before she conceived.
special report, special reports, erin o'hearn
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