Gold Coast Doulas is pleased to present a blog from Karlye McNeely RN, BSN. Karlye is co-owner of Gold Coast Doulas LLC, she is a graduate of the Hope/Calvin nursing program, and former L&D nurse. Karlye is a certified HypnoBirthing practitioner and has been teaching HypnoBirthing classes in West Michigan for 11 years. She has spent 10 years supporting couples as a birth doula. Karlye most recently became trained, and is pursuing her certification as a postpartum doula. She looks forward to this next adventure in supporting families during these important childbearing years. Karlye is a wife, and mother to three wonderful children. In her spare time she enjoys baking, taking walks with her husband, and cheering her kids on at their extracurricular activities.
I have had the pleasure of teaching HypnoBirthing in West Michigan for the past 11 years. During these years I have often heard the same suggestion given to me over and over again, “this is such a great class, you should just change the name.” Well, changing the name was never an option available to me. Instead, I took the position of educating people about hypnosis, as it was always the “Hypno” portion of HypnoBirthing that everyone seemed to struggle with. So, here you go, some information about what hypnosis is, what it isn’t, and why we use it for birthing.
What is Hypnosis?
Hypnosis is a state of consciousness that many of us spend a large portion of our day in and out of. In its simplest form, it is focused concentration. Have you ever been engrossed in a good book, “glued” to the television while watching a sporting event or movie, driving in your car and not quite remembering the drive? Do you practice mindfulness, meditation, or spend quiet time in Prayer? These are just a few of the normal life activities during which you are in a state of hypnosis! All hypnosis is self-hypnosis, even when being facilitated by a practitioner. The reason is, hypnosis can only be achieved if the recipient is a willing participant. Although, the usual definition of self-hypnosis refers to a person’s working alone or with a relaxation CD, hypnosis can be used for a variety of reasons, in a number of settings, often facilitated by a practitioner. In fact, hypnosis can be so effective that it was recognized by the American Medical Association as a beneficial therapy for many physical and emotional needs in 1957. Self-hypnosis for birth was designed to help the birthing mother acheive an ultimate depth of hypnosis, or focused concentration, so that her body could remain loose, limp, and relaxed, thus allowing the birthing muscles, free of tension, to function as they were created to function.
Hypnosis is NOT
Hypnosis is not something a person can be forced to do. If the recipient is not willing to relax both their mind and body, it simply won’t work. While in a state of hypnosis no one can be forced to divulge private information or do something that would be against their beliefs or moral code. If something of that nature would be asked of them while in a hypnotic session, they would simply come out of their relaxed state and no longer participate. When a person is in a state of hypnosis they continue to be aware of their surroundings, are able to communicate, if needed, and are not asleep. This is especially important to understand in relation to birthing hypnosis, as many women think that they will not remember their birth, or be unaware of what is happening around them while using hypnosis. The exact opposite is true, women using hypnosis for birth are actually more aware and connected to what is happening within their body and with their baby, they are aware of their surroundings and their birth companions supporting them, and they are able to communicate when needed. However, because of their deeply relaxed state, and the comfort they feel while so relaxed, they simply choose to remain within their own mind and body. To any outside observer, it may appear as though she is sleeping or distant. Another comment I often will get is, “I can’t be hypnotized” or “I can’t relax my mind, it is always going.” First, the majority of people can use, and benefit from hypnosis. However, like many things we do in life, some need more practice at it. The more time you practice bringing your mind and body into this focused and relaxed space, the better and easier it will get. For this reason, I recommend that couples interested in learning the HypnoBirthing philosophy and techniques for birth, begin their preparation earlier in their pregnancies. Generally, recommending beginning classes during their second trimester. The more time you have to condition your mind and body to relax, the easier it will be to reach your desired level of hypnosis on your birthing day.
Why use hypnosis for birthing?
So, why do we even need to consider using hypnosis as a preparation for birth? We have been conditioned and programmed to believe that giving birth is incredibly difficult and painful, and in some cases, that our bodies are flawed to the point that it isn’t even possible. Surely you can recall many experiences, stories, television and/or movies that have portrayed birthing in a very negative way. Most of us have had experiences with well intentioned friends or family members sharing their stories of birth, for most, these tend to be horror stories. Maybe this a second pregnancy, third, or fourth, and the previous births have been less than ideal, unfortunately, at times even traumatic. These are just some of the ways women have formed a negative impression, or paradigm of birth. If we are being honest, a FEAR of birth. These stories, pictures, experiences have imprinted into our subconscious minds throughout the course of our lives, and created the foundation of our beliefs about birth. These beliefs, or fears, are the blueprint by which our body plays out labor and birth. Does our body begin labor believing that birth is natural, normal, and healthy? Or, does labor begin with a sense of fear, danger, and distrust? For many it is the latter. By using hypnosis you are able to access the subconscious part of the mind, beginning to change your beliefs about birth, to more accurately represent the truth about birth. A woman’s body was created to grow and bring forth new life. When this normal, physiological process of birth is understood, and a woman believes and trusts her body’s own instinctual abilities, she is then able to relax and surrender to the power of her own birthing body, thus freeing her to have a more empowering and satisfying experience. By utilizing self-hypnosis a mother has the opportunity to create a new foundational paradigm of birth, a relaxed body, and a focused mind. Thus, opening herself up to a more positive, more efficient, and more enjoyable, labor and birth for herself and her baby.