What is hypnobirthing?

This labour and delivery management technique promises a nearly pain-free birth. Here's how it works.

Suzanne Csizmar had what many would consider a dream labour and delivery. “It was uncomfortable, but no worse than constipation,” she says of her first baby’s birth. “It almost didn’t hurt at all.” The whole process lasted nine hours and she did the entire thing drug-free. She had, however studied HypnoBirthing, which she says trained her to use breathing techniques, music and visualization for a drug-free birth.

Advocates say HypnoBirthing is the key to experiencing a painless (or less painful), joyful drug-free birth. Based on the work of British obstetrician Dr. Grantly Dick-Read, the specialized prenatal courses teach women to trust in the natural experience of labour, kissing fear, and therefore pain, goodbye.

“This technique and philosophy teaches mothers their bodies are made to give birth,” says Ilona Fritsch, the Montreal-based hypnotherapist who brought the Mongan Method of HypnoBirthing to Canada 14 years ago. “We teach women to do what their bodies already know how to do.”

Fritsch, a mother of three, says through self-hypnosis techniques, women are able to release their own natural endorphins allowing birth to take place in a calm and controlled environment, often without the use of drugs.
“When we expect pain, we feel pain, and we have been brought up to expect childbirth to hurt.” She says. Fritsch explains we are bombarded by images of painful labours in movies and on TV. “HypnoBirthing films are boring in comparison,” she says.

It was the drama-free videos shown at the HypnoBirthing classes that really helped Csizmar who delivered her daughter at a hospital in south-central Quebec.

“In watching the birth videos during the courses, you realize birth doesn’t have to go the way we’re conditioned to believe it will,” she says. “You don’t need to be freaking out and screaming.”

Csizmar says the HypnoBirthing courses she took when she was 7.5-months pregnant, gave her the tools to calm herself down and stay in her “zone” throughout labour.

Tara Slone, host of Breakfast Television Calgary gave birth at her Toronto apartment two years ago after having taken HypnoBirthing courses.

She says when delivering in the hospital or at home, she would recommend the course to any pregnant couple.

Slone says the term “hynobirthing” is a bit of a misnomer. “You’re not hypnotised in the conventional way we see on stage,” she says. “You are very much present. If I were to call it something I would call it meditative labour. It gives you a place to put your mind to work through the contractions.”
While Slone admits she felt the pain of labour, she says the technique, “Served to take the fear out of labour for both my partner and I and to give a mental focal point to breathe and work through contractions.”

She says taking the courses taught her and her fiancé to work together.

Csizmar was also grateful for the emphasis the courses put on the couple working together. “The whole family is going through the birth,” she says. “My husband was an integral part of the labour and so was the baby.”

While expectant parents can come at any time during the pregnancy, Fritsch says mid-term is a great time to take the courses. This is a case where practise makes perfect. Once they begin courses, couples are encouraged to practise the self-hypnosis daily.

With the $300–$400 fee — the price varies depending on the course provider — comes literature, handouts and music that women will take with them wherever they labour.

For couples who would rather try the technique without taking the course, Marie Mongan’s HypnoBirthing: A Celebration of Life, which is the course’s official literature, can be purchased with or without the accompanying CD.

Many non-branded options are also available.

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