Wednesday, March 3, 2010


I was so busy with sick children and Purim that I did not have the time to post about my training in Hypnobirthing that I attended almost two weeks ago.
The instructor, Jenny West, was a homebirth midwife from Alberquerque, New Mexico. The students were all Orthodox women. It was a very interesting meeting of cultures.
Jenny explained that when most people hear the word hypnosis, they conjure up images of people doing embaressing things on TV shows because they were under the "spell" of some hypnotist. In truth, hypnosis is really just a state of deep relaxation. While a person can be deeply relaxed, they are still aware of their surroundings and will only do things they feel comfortable doing.
The premise of hypnobirthing is really for a woman to be able to achieve a state of relaxation that she can maintain throughout her labor even as it intensifies. Once you take away the fear of pain and take the focus away from the contractions, there is virtually no pain, just an awareness of sensations in your body.
Another big tenet of hypnobirthing is that your beliefs will shape your experience. That is why there are certain positive affirmations women are encouraged to read several times a week, in order to truly internalize these messages. For example "Birth is a natural, normal and healthy human experience. Women's bodies are created to conceive, nurture the development of babies and to birth. Their bodies are not flawed and destined to malfunction..."
Hypnobirthing practitioners also encourage women to replace the medicalized language with terms that they perceive to be gentler and less harsh. They replace the word "contraction" with "uterine surge/wave" and instead of "pushing" call it "birth breathing". Initially I was skeptical about this change in terminology. It just seemed like semantics and an attempt to romanticize things. The more I thought about it, though, it did seem to make sense. The way we think and speak about things do shape our experiences, so it is important to really discuss birth in the most positive and affirming way.
I am not about to attempt to summarize 8 hours into one post, you can read more about Hypnobirthing on their website. For me, the course was a really interesting experience. I feel it gave me the tools to work with couples who would like to incorporate Hypnobirthing into their childbirth experience. In addition it had a lot of general valuable information that I can use in my doula practice. It also reinforced the general concept which is a key concept in my beliefs about birth- that child birth is really so connected to your mind/emotions. The way you feel about your labor, your surroundings, etc will most definitely affect your physical experience. The goal is for a woman to feel calm, comfortable and cared for- and whether she does it through a doula, hypnobirthing relaxation, massage or all of the above is irrelevant as long as she is able to get to that positive place.


  1. Maybe I'll try it next time around...although you've seen my inane contractions so it's kinda scary.

  2. yes contractions can be very intense. I have been there myself. But you mentioned the "scared" word- fear is often what drives our decisions about childbirth and that is not always the best place to make decisions.