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Hypnobirthing: Deep Breaths a Good Substitute for an Epidural?

Good. Now imagine you're in a serene environment, wading in knee-water that is pleasantly warm and calm as you bask in soft, midnight blue light.

At almost 19 weeks, Caroline is not even halfway done with this pregnancy. So it’s a little early yet to be focusing on the actual birth, itself. But given that she had a C-section to deliver the triplets, it’s hard not to think about what’s to come. And while I’m certain I’ll eventually write a “to VBAC or not to VBAC” post, this is not it. This post, instead, is going to assume that Caroline does opt for a VBAC, thus leaving her with yet another question: Is Hypnobirthing a good alternative to epidurals and other painkillers during a vaginal child birth?

For that’s the question I was left with after reading an interesting article just a few minutes ago.

The Telegraph reported that Britain’s National Health Service is launching an 18-month Hypnobirthing study in an effort to cut the use of epidurals and other painkillers during childbirth. In case you’re unfamiliar, Hypnobirthing centers around a key philosophy — namely that much of the pain associated with childbirth is actually caused by anxiety. This pain can be greatly reduced if not eliminated altogether by breathing techniques and other exercises in relaxation.

Dr. Grantly Dick-Read is regarded as the founder of this natural childbirth technique which was first prevalent in the 1930s. American Marie Mongan, a follower of Dr. Grantly Dick-Read, gave birth to four children using his techniques. She took Dick-Read’s work and developed Hypnobirthing which is now used in more than 26 countries.

As the Telegraph reports:

Some practitioners say self-hypnosis is intended to help women experience contractions not as pain but as “surges”. “When the ‘surges’ come, women learn to let go rather than fight them,” explains Renee Buchanan, a hypnotherapist from Scotland and member of the UK’s Hypnobirthing Advisory Board. She believes many first-time mothers are programmed to be frightened of birth which exacerbates pain levels.

Two quick points here. First, being a man who will never, ever give birth, I really am not qualified to chime in on this one. But second, being a man, I’m dumb enough to do just that. And giving birth would, indeed, seem like a painful process to me. Whether you’re frightened of it or not seems beside the point. I mean, hey, the thought of breaking my arm is a frightening one. And if a soothing voice emanating from a speaker could lead me to a peaceful and anxiety-free place in my mind that rendered me unafraid of such a fracture, I’m still pretty sure I’d scream “OWWWW!” the second someone snapped my arm in half.

But, again, as a man, what do I know? So I turn to my colleague, Danielle. She recently wrote about it on BeingPregnant, but more in the context of it just being another one of the choices out there for soon-to-be moms. Sierra, however, who wrote about actual Hypnobirthing over at StrollerDerby. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Sierra, you should know that she’s a very openminded person — the kind of person who would be prone to giving “alternative” techniques such as Hypnobirthing a chance. So it came as no surprise when I found out that she had done just that. Here’s what she had to say about it:

I’m all for Hypnobirthing, and Birthing in Awareness, or whatever path you want to take to a blissful birth experience. But I think any woman who goes into labor thinking her breathing exercises will take all the pain away is in for a rude awakening when the contractions start.

And that’s kinda where I am with it. If it’s something that a woman is hell-bent on doing, I’m all for it. But it seems to me that if such a woman is expecting a pain-free experience out of the deal, the she’s in for a surprise.

What do you think? Would you entertain Hypnobirthing?

Image: stock.xchng

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