How Can Hypnosis Help You In Labor?Of the most popular birthing approaches today, hypnosis is gaining ground as an effective tool to use during labor. While anyone can use general hypnosis, the method that teaches how to use it in labor is called Hypnobirthing. I am not a hypnobirthing instructor, but as a doula I have worked with women who have used it in labor and found it helpful.
In my last post on hypnosis for birth, I described the foundational psychology behind hypnosis. Before reading on, I encourage you to take a look at it! You can read it here.
So, how can we utilize this tool in labor?Well, to start with, consider this: a woman is already experiencing a type of hypnosis in active labor anyways – without even trying to be!
You see, when a woman starts active labor, her thinking brain shuts off and the primal brain takes over. It’s one of the ways that birth professionals can identify that a woman is in labor: can she answer a basic question? If the answer is no, or if it takes considerable effort for her to do so, she’s likely in active labor.
Her mind is already in a sort of hypnosis – it’s deeply relaxed and the subconscious is at the forefront.
How do I mean?
Hypnosis is essentially just a mental state of being. In hypnosis, your mind is deeply relaxed, and your subconscious mind is especially vulnerable to suggestion. This is exactly what is happening in labor as many women can attest!
Women who have experienced natural labor report that labor feels very mentally hazy – like a fog of sorts. They have no concept of time, they cannot hold a conversation, and they don’t know what they want. As soon as they start pushing, the fog lifts a little bit and they can converse and engage a little better. Then, as soon as the baby is born, it’s all over and instantly they are back to being themselves.
A woman’s subconscious mind is highly receptive during labor. In a very real way, intentional language and messages can go a long way toward sustaining a labor. The body responds to the mind – and the messages that we give it truly matter. The impact that these messages have is heightened when in hypnosis and deep focus.
A woman can give her mind specific messages about labor that help her with the entire process. We call these affirmations.For example:
And these messages can carry a mother through her labor.
The big question most mothers have is: Will it help with the pain of labor?
Well, it certainly can. I’ve seen it be a great tool for this use. However, it’s important to note that a mother should never feel that she has somehow “failed” if she prepares to have a pain free birth through hypnosis and ends up feeling the intensity of her contractions.
That said, does hypnosis help a great number of women with pain management?
Hypnosis for labor is most effective if a mother has been practicing its use as long as possible during her pregnancy. She can intentionally give her mind the message that birth is safe, normal, and attainable. As she practices saying affirmations,listening to relaxation scripts, learning to intentionally read her body for areas of tension, and visualizing her birth, she prepares her mind and body to relax in the same way during labor.
Furthermore, it’s entirely risk-free. Hypnosis in birth is simply strengthening, taking advantage of, and honing in on a natural process that is already in place during labor: deep focused relaxation. There are no risks associated with that!
In order for hypnosis to be truly effective in labor, the choice of one’s words matters quite a bit. We will cover that in our next installment on hypnosis for birth.
Hypnosis For Birth: What IS It?
In recent years, a number of birthing “methods” have come into vogue. Clients ask me all the time about my thoughts on the Bradley method, Lamaze, and hypnobirthing all the time.
The last of that list usually strikes a chord of curiosity with most people. Hypnobirthing = hypnosis and birth? It certainly sounds intriguing and trendy, doesn’t it? But what is it really – and does it even work?
Furthermore, what does it mean to say that a birthing method “works?”
First, let me preface by saying that I do not believe there is any “one method” of birth that is best for every mother. No single method will work for all women.
But all methods will work for some women.
And herein, education is critical. You see, I believe birthing women should learn as much as they can before and duringpregnancy in order to prepare for birth. This is because you do not know what is going to work best for you until you are in the middle of labor! And that’s decidedly NOT the time to try and educate oneself!
So with that in mind, education is my primary intent with this series.
I am not a hypnobirthing instructor, and I’m not affiliated with the Hypnobirthing organization at all. Still, I have worked with mothers who chose hypnosis for birth as their preferred method of birthing, and it has several wonderful benefits, and for that reason, I think all pregnant women should learn about its benefits as a part of their childbirth education.
So with that in mind, let’s start with some background: What IS hypnosis?
Or rather, what is hypnosis NOT? It’s not surrendering of one’s will, it’s not manipulation, and it does not involve losing control over oneself.
Rather, in the most basic of terms, hypnosis is simply a normal state of being. It’s intense focus. It’s tapping in to our mind’s ability to direct thoughts to influence our body and subconscious mind. Really, that’s what it comes down to.
You see, your mind is an unspeakably powerful thing. In particular, the subconscious mind is the driving force behind all that we do. We may think our thinking mind is in charge, but in reality, it’s our subconscious mind that shapes our reality. And yet, our thinking mind is what gives our subconscious mind all the tools and information it needs to do just that.
The subconscious mind is incredible because it does not discriminate. It simply receives messages and drives our actions (and bodies) accordingly. And it affects what happens to us WAY more than we even realize.
In addition, the subconscious mind does NOT work in negatives. It only receives the messages it sees and / or hears. Let’s use a non-birth example to illustrate this. If you tell your mind NOT to think of a pink elephant, what image comes to mind?
That’s right: the pink elephant! Now try this: Picture an orca. Did the pink elephant disappear? Yes it did. So it is with the messages that we send our brains.
If you are preparing for your labor, and you intentionally think about NOT having pitocin during your labor, what is going to happen? Conversely, if you picture having a normally progressing labor and a healthy contraction pattern, there is no room for pitocin!
In hypnosis, as well as any other childbirth preparation method, intentional focus on the desired outcome is encouraged rather than fixation on fears. Because when you’re fixating on the fear – let’s say it’s the pink elephant – that is the only message that your mind is being given about your birth!
That’s not to say you shouldn’t talk through your apprehensions or concerns – it just means that you should also be intentional about the messages that you are giving your mind! Because the mind controls the body – and there is no greater place that this is proven true than in birth!
For instance, I know a doula who told me a story about a client of hers. The doula noticed that this particular client was rather self defeating with her speech about her upcoming birth. Though the doula tried to encourage her, the client would consistently say things like:
And every single one of those things came true. Every one of them, down to the last detail.
Conversely, we’ve seen scores of mothers who have had intentionally positive self talk experience birth exactly the way they envisioned with tremendous outcomes!
The body is only responding to the messages it’s been given. And there is no place quite like birth where the unity of the mind and body are so apparent to observers.
Now, please understand that hypnosis is far more than self talk. But it’s most effective as a birthing method if it’s started long before the birth even arrives. Mental preparation for birth is over half the battle, and nothing can quite prepare the mind for birth as much as intentionally visualizing what you want from your birth, and giving your mind and body the exact messages you want it to have.
Also, please understand that sometimes things don’t go the way we intend, and that is okay too! But you’re sure setting yourself up for success by going in as prepared as possible.
Hypnosis is preparation, but it’s deep relaxation and focus as well, and we will touch on that in Part 2 of our series on hypnobirthing: How Can Hypnosis Work During Birth?
Of all the thing on your to do list after having a baby, resuming sex with your partner can understandably fall pretty low on the priority list. Between your fluctuating hormones, your healing vagina, your needy baby, your fatigue, and your lack of personal lubrication, sex can feel more like a chore than the pleasurable experience it was once upon a time. So here are a few short thoughts on resuming sex after baby.
Take it easy.
Your first few sexual encounters after having a baby should not be an all out party. Vaginal stitching (if you have it) can take several weeks to heal, and your partner should be very gentle on you until you feel you can handle a more rigorous encounter. Cesarean scars can take a couple months to heal, so be creative about positioning so that you can be safe.
Things may feel different.
Your hormones change the way that you experience everything, including physical sensations. If you are breastfeeding, your breasts may feel particularly tender. This may be a good thing or a bad thing – either way is normal! During birth, the pelvic floor gets stretched and slightly weakened, so penetration may feel slightly different. Differently is ok – and it can even be exciting!
Kegels can help.
As soon as you start to feel ready, start practicing Kegels. With the pelvic floor slightly weakened from pregnancy and birth, Kegels can add tone that can make sex more comfortable and pleasurable.
Tell your partner if something is not working for you or if it is causing you pain. What worked well for you only a few weeks ago may now be uncomfortable. Make sure you are communicating a lot during the postpartum phase as your body adjusts to a new normal.
Don't be afraid to lubricate.
In the postpartum period, hormones suppress a woman’s ability to self-lubricate, particularly if you are breastfeeding. That does not need to slow you down – just use what tools are available to you and make the best of it!
If you had stitches – either vaginally or from a cesarean, they can take several weeks to heal. Sex can still be resumed during the healing time provided you are able to be comfortable. Trying different positions during this time can be helpful.
There is no "expected time."
There is no “expected time” that a couple should resume sex. If you are comfortable a couple weeks after birth, go at it! If you are still 8 weeks (or more) after birth and still not feeling ready to resume sex, that doesn’t mean that something is wrong with you. The first several months with a new baby are incredibly challenging and if intimacy is slow to start, that is ok.
Make the best of it!
Sex after baby can sometimes be new and confusing – sometimes even comical. Laugh through the adjustments as you and your partner figure things out!
Some women experience pain during intercourse in the postpartum period. Some of this is normal, particularly as stitches are healing, but pain should not last for several months. If you are experiencing pain during intercourse after baby, the best person to visit a woman’s physical therapist. A woman’s physical therapist is an expert at the female pelvis, its ligaments, muscles, and complications with it. A woman’s PT has the best tools to find what it is that is causing your pain and help you correct the problem.
Do what works best for you and your partner. During the postpartum and newborn phase, be flexible and patient with yourself. In time, your sex routine will reach a balance with the rest of your new life with baby.