Why Hypnosis for Childbirth & Doula Care Works
Hypnosis is a tool that can assist you in reaching goals and making changes in your health. It is the art of accepting suggestions that, while in an ordinary state of mind, you might discard. When hypnosis is used during pregnancy and labor, these are documented outcomes:
- Patients who used hypnosis in addition to conventional treatment for pregnancy-induced hypertension required only half the number of hospitalizations than patients who used conventional treatment only.
- Teaching clients how to control nausea in hypnosis reduced incidences of nausea and vomiting.
- Hypnosis, used with conventional treatment, stopped labor for longer periods of time than conventional treatments alone.
- Hypnosis used by itself has been effective in helping to "turn" babies that were in the breech position after 36 weeks.
- Finally, almost 70 percent of patients who took my Hypnosis for Childbirth class gave birth without needing medication throughout their labors and births.
The effects of hypnosis on the labor processes and birth outcomes of pregnant adolescents Martin. A, et.al. Journal of Family Practice, May 2001, Vol. 50, No. 5
This study compared 22 pregnant hypnosis-prepared adolescents with 20 control patients. The birth outcomes in the hypnosis group significantly differed from the control group. None of the hypnosis-prepared patients had Cesarean deliveries vs. 12 of the 20 in the control group. 12 patients in the hypnosis group experienced complications compared with 17 in the control group. Fewer patients in the hypnosis-prepared group used anesthesia than in the control group. Conclusion: Reduced complications, reduced surgery and fewer number of hospital days shows that preparation with hypnosis for birth benefits mother and baby.
Improved obstetric outcomes using hypnotic analgesia Harmon, MT, Tyre TE, The University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Journal of Consult Clinical Psychology 1990 Oct; 58(5): 525-30
First time expectant mothers were offered a 6 session preparation for childbirth class with hypnosis. This group was compared to a group of first time mothers receiving a relaxation based 6 session childbirth course. The hypnosis prepared group had shorter labors, less medication, babies with higher Apgars and mothers reporting less pain than the other group.
A hypnotic relaxation technique for the treatment of premature labor. H. Omer, American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis 29(3):206-213, 1987
In this study, the author demonstrated that combining hypnosis and other relaxation methods with standard pharmacological treatment for preterm labor increased pregnancy duration and average of 18% longer than with standard obstetric measures for preterm labor alone. Treatment was started when patients were hospitalized and lasted for 3 hours on the average. Patients were also given a hypnotic relaxation tape to practice daily. Infant weight in the hypnosis group was also increased.
Stories and Testimonials
Maya's Birth Story
Friday, Dec. 27, 2002 one day past my edd I had my 40 week appointment. It is standard procedure for women to have ultrasounds at that point. We had the ultrasound and then went down to the doctors office. The appointment was with the nurse practioner. She gave me an exam, told me that I was still at 1 cm.
I mentioned that I was not really sure of the last time I had felt the baby move. Looking back I know that the baby was moving but I had become so used to it that I was not even aware of it at that point. So she told me that I should go to the hospital and have a non-stress test. Then the results of the ultrasound came through. The nurse practioner looked at them. She showed them to the doctor who told us to go into an exam room and wait for her.
I did not have a good feeling about this. The doctor came in and told us that the fluids seemed a little low. Nothing terrible at this point but by the end of the weekend it might be a problem. She recommended that we induce that night. That was a very strange moment. The idea that we would definitely have the baby over the weekend, no more waiting, was very unreal. I had in my mind this very natural birth, laboring at home, getting to the hospital at the latest possible moment and being induced didn't fit in that picture.
My husband, Sean, and I talked it over and took into consideration what the doctor had told us about the safety and health of the baby and decided to have the induction. We still had to go to the hospital for the non-stress test and now to pre register. We were suppose to return to the hospital at 10pm that night to start the induction.
It had been a very long morning. We had been planning on spending the night at my parents' home (they live about a mile from the hospital) so we had our bags packed already. We went to get something to eat before going to the hospital and made a few pone calls, one of which was to Tanya. We explained what was going on and she helped us get some perspective on the situation. Even though this was not what we had pictured, we still could have some control over what happened and how the birth would go.
That night was very surreal. We had a lovely dinner with my family. After dinner we sat around and waited. I was trying to relax in my parents' room. My sisters were there with there four month old daughter. We have some wonderful pictures of her climbing on my stomach. Since we were so close to the hospital we had until almost 10 until we had to leave. Saying good bye was another strange experience. Leaving knowing that the next time we saw everyone we would have a baby.
We got to the hospital and I was checked in with an IV in my hand by around midnight. There was some mix up with what exactly the course of action would be for my induction. The original plan was for pitocin and a catheter. The resident told us that maybe I would not need the catheter. Although her reasoning seemed to be based partly on the fact that there was a shortage of sterilized equipment in the labor ward that night. In the end I did have the catheter, it was put in around 2 am or so.
While we were waiting I was trying to relax. Sean was doing the hypnobirthing scripts for me and we had music playing. I was in mild pain at that point. The nurse kept coming in and asking about my pain level, checking the monitors, my blood pressure and what ever else she felt was necessary at the time.
I was doing my best to listen to Sean and get into a deep state of relaxation. Every time I would get comfortable and begin to fall asleep the nurse would come in to wake me up. Apparently when I was resting, I was not progressing as fast as the doctor would like. This went on until 6:30 when Sean decided it was time to call Tanya. I was in pretty much pain at that point and he was not having much success in helping me, no matter what he tried to do.
Tanya arrived around 7:30. She got a good idea of where I was at and began to help me get into a deeper state of relaxation then I had been in all night. At 8:30 the doctor came in to remove the catheter. I was so happy to have that done. I just wanted to get out the bed and move a little bit. They examined me and were surprised to see that I had gone from 1 cm to 5 cm over night. I was progressing faster than they had thought I would. They also broke my water at that point.
I got up and all I wanted to do was go for a walk down the hall. I made it from the bathroom to the end of the bed. I could not go any farther. The surges were too strong. At this point what exactly happened is to totally clear to me. I know that I sat on the end of the bed for a little while. At some point I was able to get on to the bed and use the birthing ball. I was on my knees leaning on the ball. I remember two or three really strong surges. Tanya and Sean were both talking me through them. I also remember two or three surges that I was able to totally relax through. I listened to Tanya and relaxed my entire body.
I wanted to be in the shower, I thought that would help. So my hand with the IV was bagged up and I got ready to go. First I needed to go to the bathroom. I never made it past the toilet. I was shaking so badly. I think I heard Tanya say something about transition, but I am not sure. It was at this point I said “Maybe I want to rethink the drug option”. That was not possible at that point since I was fully dilated and ready to push!
The nurse came in to do an exam and told us that I was at 10 cm but that I had to wait for the doctor. The doctor had been there early and then left thinking that the baby would not be born until the afternoon at the earliest. It was around 10 am now. I had gone from 5 to 10 cm since 8:30. The nurses actual words were that the doctor “would be mad if she stole her thunder”. Who's birth was this again?
Once the doctor arrived and changed her clothes I was allowed to begin pushing. There was a mirror there but after looking once I asked them to take it away. Tanya, Sean and the nurse were amazing at helping me through this stage. Although now I have no memory of the pain at the time I know I said it burned. Maya Beth was born at 10:48 am. The doctor and nurse both were amazed that this was my first baby because of how easy the pushing was. I knew that I could relax knowing that Tanya was there to advocate for what Sean and I had decided we wanted during and right after the birth.
Maya was placed on me and began to nurse immediately. The labor nurse was wonderful about doing what had to be done with the baby on me. That first hour of Maya's life was the most incredible one of my life. She was so alert and beautiful! I was exhausted but awake in a way I can't describe.
Molly's Birth Story
Since I had just passed my due date, we were a little
worried, but I worked from 9:00 until 2:00, and no
labor. Fhew! Around 5:00 that evening, I noticed that
I was having contractions - as I had many times before
- but this time they weren't stopping. I started to
keep track of when they were happening, and I was
surprised to find that they were coming just about
every five minutes. In the past, they had been pretty
random, and would subside after a couple of hours. I
figured these would go away too, so we decided to go
out for some Thai food. †
The contractions continued on through dinner, so we
went home to watch Lord of the Rings, which we had
rented the night before. We got about half-way through
the movie, and I just couldn't watch anymore. The
contractions were very distracting, and starting to
feel crampy. I told Art I couldn't sit through the
rest of the movie, and we giggled at the idea that
this might be it. We decided to play a game of
Scrabble, and then go to sleep. It was about 12:30
when we finally went to bed. I figured I was either in
early labor, or I would wake up the next morning with
everything as it had been the day before.
I woke up about 2:30, still having contractions. It
looked like Sunday would be a big day, so I tried to
get back to sleep. I tossed and turned for a few more
hours, and then woke Art up at 5:30 to take the dogs
outside. I usually take them out in the morning, but I
wasn't feeling up to it. He took them out for me, and
then tried to console me, but fell promptly back
asleep. I was still unable to rest, but I decided I
would wait until daylight before calling Tanya. I had
prepared for my birth with Hypnobirthing, and up until
this point I was doing very well. However, I was
starting to want someone there to help me through. It
had been about twelve hours since I noticed the
contractions, so I figured it would be a reasonable
time to call.
About 6:45 am, I called Tanya. She asked me some
questions, and after getting the answers she said, "It
sounds like you're in labor." She would put on her
clothes, and come over to our house. I told her I was
doing pretty well so far, so she didn't need to hurry.
Next, I called my doctor. She asked me some questions
and said, "It sounds like you're in labor." She
offered to meet me at her office to find out how
dilated I was, but since Tanya is also a labor nurse,
we decided she could do that for me at home. We agreed
to wait for Tanya, and I would call Dr. Graham when
Art and I showered, got dressed, and packed the
last-minute stuff we needed for the hospital. Tanya
arrived at our house around 9:00. I was three
centimeters (ugh . . . that's it?). We called Dr.
Graham, who said she would call in an hour to see how
things were progressing. 10:00 came, and the
contractions were getting less regular (every 5-7
minutes), but the strength was about the same. 11:00
came. I was 3-4 centimeters, contractions about the
same. We decided to go for a walk. We walked for 45
minutes, and the contractions seemed to get a bit more
regular, and a little bit stronger. This is good, we
thought. 12:00. I was hungry, so I made myself a
sandwich and some pretzels. About 1:00 I tried to nap,
since I had only slept about two hours the night
before. It was about this time that Dr. Graham said
she would stop calling on the hour, and we should call
if things got more exciting. We went for another walk,
and this time I couldn't walk through many of the
contractions. As slowly as things were moving, at
least we knew we were getting somewhere. When we got
back, it was lunch time for Art and Tanya, and a
chicken Whopper Jr. "snack time" for me (mmm...).
At about 3:00, Tanya said she would like to check and
see if I had dilated any more. If I hadn't, she wanted
to head back home to spend some time with her
daughter, who was leaving early the next morning for a
ten-day school trip. She checked me, and I was a
whopping 4 centimeters. Tanya left for home, telling
me to call her when things kicked in more. She said
that I would become more introverted with active
labor, needing to concentrate more on my hypnosis.
When myself or Art noticed this, we were supposed to
So we were on our own again. I called Dr. Graham to
fill her in, and then we just waited. We watched TV
for a while, napping a little here and there, and then
Art went to Boston Market to fulfill my chicken
craving. Around 6:30 we ate a pretty big dinner (I was
expecting just some chicken, but Art opted for an
entire meal with sides and dessert). I didn't mind. I
was hungry, and my labor was moving slowly.
Finally, around 8:30, things got a little more
intense. We decided to go for another walk in the
neighborhood, and only made it to the end of our
block. I could not get through a contraction without
stopping and being held. We put a call in to Dr.
Graham, saying that it seemed to be about time to head
to the hospital. Next we called Tanya to tell her to
meet us there.
When we got there (around 9:15), I was admitted right
away. Dr. Graham was ready for us. She checked me
first... still 4 centimeters, but now 100% effaced.
She said that from her exam, it appeared that the baby
was posterior, or "sunny-side-up." This could
partially explain why things were taking so long. She
then wanted to monitor the baby for 45 minutes to make
sure everything was going well. After the monitor had
been strapped on for a little while, the nurse turned
to me during a contraction and said, "You're having
one, right?" I nodded, and she made a comment about
how calm I seemed. The nurse drew some blood and set
up the prep for an IV, just in case I should need one
later on. The nurse informed me that she would come
back every half hour to monitor one contraction, and
every hour to check my dilation. An hour after I
arrived, I was dilated to 5 centimeters. An hour
later, 6 centimeters, and an hour later (around
midnight), 7 centimeters. All along, Dr. Graham had
said that my water bag was bulging, and at this last
check, my water bag broke.
It was at this point that everything changed. The
pressure from the contractions was a lot stronger,
since there was no longer the cushion of the water
bag. The pain in my back grew more intense as the baby
descended, and I was so tired from lack of sleep, I
was having trouble concentrating on my hypnosis
techniques. On top of everything else, the intensity
of the contractions was making me nauseous, and
eventually I found myself vomiting (no evidence of
Boston Market, though). Each contraction started out
very strong, and got more bearable as it continued. I
was laying in bed, partially reclined, as this was the
most comfortable position I could find.
Two hours later, I was still only dilated to 7
centimeters, and the contractions had certainly not
gotten any easier. At this point, Tanya insisted that
I had to change positions or move around to get the
process rolling again. It seemed from our experience
throughout the day that each time I sat down and got
"comfortable," things would stall. She suggested that
I move to the bathroom and sit on the toilet. This
would allow gravity to help things along.
I followed her advice and moved. Walking was awfully
difficult, and the toilet was extremely uncomfortable.
However, I was getting so tired of waiting and
enduring this intense pressure, I was willing to do
anything. Tanya and Art took turns massaging my lower
back during contractions, †as the pressure was
unbearable otherwise. This position also forced me to
move back and forth from the bed to the toilet every
30 minutes when they came to monitor the baby. The
next time they checked, around 3:00 am, I was 8
centimeters. Thank God!!!
At this point, they upped the monitoring to every 15
minutes, since I was officially in transition. Moving
back and forth that often was a bit beyond what I
could handle, so we decided to adjust the bed into a
position that would allow me to mimic the position I
was in on the toilet. Somehow, I came up with a
strange position that seemed to be working, where I
was propped up on these handles that came up out of
the bed. I couldn't stand to be sitting flat during
contractions because it felt like the bed was pushing
the baby back up inside! So I continued to hoist
myself up with each contraction. At 4:00 when they
checked me again, I was 9 centimeters, and at 5:00 I
was about 9 1/2. From this time until about 6:30, Dr.
Graham did three more checks. At each one, I was close
enough to 10 centimeters, that she tried to stretch my
cervix around the baby's head, so that I could start
pushing. This was incredibly painful, and it failed
the first two times. The third time, around †6:23 am,
she tried it again, and it worked. "Can I push?" I
asked. "Yes, you can push."
I don't know what came over me, but with those words,
I propped myself up onto my hands, and the Mighty
She-Ra emerged! I began screaming and pushing, and I
never would have stopped if Dr. Graham hadn't told me
to rest and give the tissue time to stretch. I paused
for about 10 or 15 seconds, Tanya reminded me to put
my chin to my chest, and when they told me I could
push again, out she came. Molly Kate Grauer was born
at 6:25 am. She let out one big cry, and was quiet
from that moment on. She was perfectly pink, weighed 7
lbs, 12.5 oz, and her apgar scores were 9 and 9. All
of my struggles with labor were completely forgotten
the moment Molly was born. I felt like a million
Although I had a tough time near the end, Art, Tanya,
and my hypnobirthing techniques were absolutely what
got me through. I always had something to concentrate
on, and someone to help keep me focused and
comfortable. This was the most incredible experience
of my life and I would do it again and again. I was so
glad to be able to feel everything that was happening
to me, and to experience the sensations of Molly's
birth right along with her. †
Ramsey's Birth Story
There are three reasons why I had such an enjoyable, comfortable birth experience: 1) HypnoBirthing, 2) our labor doula, Tanya, and 3) being able to stand up while I gave birth!
At 37 weeks (a Thursday), I had my weekly midwife check-up and an internal exam to check my cervix. I think the exam "stirred things up" because I began to have mild contractions, similar to mild menstrual cramps. I though it was just false labor.
By Friday night/Saturday morning the contractions got more intense and closer together. I used the relaxation techniques I learned in HypnoBirthing and walked around, since laying on my back made the contractions seem unbearable.
Nonetheless, after two hot baths and a shower, we called Tanya at 8:00 am Saturday morning, and she came over. My labor quickly progressed and by noon I was 5cm dilated. Tanya helped me to focus on the pressure of each contraction as opposed to interpreting the sensations as pain...which is the truth - it's not really painful!
We arrived at the hospital about 2:00 pm. By then I was 8cm dilated! I was still calm and relaxed and enjoying the entire experience! It was time to accept that it wasn't just false labor! I was truly surprised by how minimal the discomfort of labor was. I've had menstrual cramps worse than those contractions!
I was taken to the ABC room, got into the birthing tub, and within a short time I felt the need to push. My instinct kicked in and I felt like I had to stand up. I delivered my daughter, Ramsey, within an hour and a half of arriving at the hospital. I stood next to the bed with my husband on one side, Tanya on the other, and the midwife on the floor! Wow! What a beautiful, enjoyable, empowering experience! I'd do it all over again in a heartbeat!