So first of all, I wanted to start this by saying that I am not a die-hard “natural” (i.e., unmedicated) birth advocate. In fact, I went into my pregnancy fully accepting that I would probably end up getting medical pain relief. Now, as I learn some more stuff about options for pain relief, I’m starting to realize that I actually want to make more of an effort to avoid an epidural, but that’s neither here nor there. The main reason I started looking into unmedicated birth techniques was because, if everything goes as planned, I will certainly not have the option of having pain relief at the beginning of labor (I have heard that you can get an epidural before starting pitocin if you get induced, but for the most part, everyone starts labor unmedicated) and I don’t really want to be floundering because I just assumed that “epidural, please” was sufficient thought to give to pain in labor.
Second, if you’re familiar with Hypnobabies, you’ll notice I’m using “unapproved” language to refer to labor. That’s mostly because it’s the words that my general audience will be most familiar with. But more on that later.
I was given the suggestion of Hypnobabies from my doulas. They suggest it over other self-hypnosis techniques because they consider it a more complete course on childbirth. I found the technique of self-hypnosis intriguing because of my past experience with meditation and deep relaxation. I’m already familiar with a lot of the breathing and relaxation techniques used in hypnosis, so I figured it would be a pretty natural progression, plus I know I’m personally willing to accept that I can effect changes in my body through a mind-body connection. I chose to purchase the Hypnobabies self-study course because my doulas’ recommended class is pretty far away from me, and I know my husband tends to giggle when he hears the term “hypnobabies,” so I can’t really take him anywhere.
I purchased the class around 26 weeks pregnant, and recently started downloading parts of the course. I went ahead and went through the Introduction last week, and spent the weekend downloading the first week’s audio files, and started going through the course material this week. Starting at 28 weeks means that I will finish the six-week course around 34 weeks, giving me 3-6 weeks to maintain my progress. This week, I’m going to give my general impressions, mostly from the outside, after having read the introductory material and listened to a few audio tracks. Then, each week, I’ll do a recap of how I found the previous week’s work.
So the introduction is mostly an introduction to the structure of the course and the concepts behind self-hypnosis. Self-hypnosis involves putting yourself into a deeply relaxed state, where your subconscious mind is more suggestible to changes in your thinking about a specific topic, in this case childbirth. So Hypnobabies training ultimately aims to reset how your brain thinks labor will go. The idea is that you can change your thinking from assuming childbirth is a scary, painful thing, to thinking that it will be more manageable. From there, you also learn specific techniques to put yourself into a self-hypnotized state to help you cope with any parts of childbirth that are less than completely pleasant (i.e., painful). So when you go into labor, you can use self-hypnosis to get through specific contractions, while still being present mentally and able to interact with others between contractions.
The structure of the class is a bit more intensive than I expected. By way of comparison, if Circle + Bloom was a “get fit in 30 minutes a day” kind of program, Hypnobabies is a little more like meditative P90X. You will spend an hour or so each day listening to specific audio tracks, one that trains you in a specific self-hypnosis technique, and one track of birth affirmations. At least the birth affirmations don’t involve deep relaxation, so you can kind of listen to them any time (I like to listen to them at lunchtime at work). You also get a slideshow of each week’s lesson, which probably takes at least an hour to get through, if you do it all in one sitting. Personally, I’m going through one or two chapters per day of the weekly course slides right now. There is also a downloadable booklet that has an overview of the Hypnobabies techniques, plus a supplement specifically for the birth partner, which you can print out and take with you to the hospital (or wherever you give birth). It’s a lot of material, but you take at least six weeks to get through it.
One final note: Those of you who remember my post from last week about complaining about pregnancy might wonder how the positive thinking message of Hypnobabies meshes with my personal belief that you shouldn’t be afraid to complain about your pregnancy. Well, even the Hypnobabies material says that you should never consider that self-hypnosis requires you to ignore or overcome what you are currently experiencing. Yes, they want you to focus on positive feelings and thinking, but first you should accept where you are. Then, the self-hypnosis techniques can help you train your brain to help you move past fears and complaints, similarly to how cognitive behavioral therapy helps you move beyond anxiety. I actually find the techniques and affirmations pretty compatible with how I feel, given that they’re up front about the fact that you’re not actually expected to completely believe all the affirmations from the get-go. That’s the point of training for six week!
So that’s my first impression of starting Hypnobabies. Join me next week to see how my first week of the course went!