Labor & Delivery

How Self-Hypnosis Can Relieve Pain During Childbirth

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By Henry Ford Health System Staff

HypnoBirthing® sounds like something from a sci-fi novel, but it’s an empowering skill that helps pregnant women have a more comfortable labor and birth experience.

“HypnoBirthing was developed by Marie Mongan, M.Ed., who used it when she gave birth to her own children in the 1950s and 60s,” says Kelly Strawser, CNM, a Henry Ford certified nurse midwife who is certified to teach mothers and their birth companions the Mongan Method.

Many of us are only familiar with hypnosis through entertainment. Maybe you’ve seen a person on a stage who was hypnotized, then did things they wouldn’t normally do. But self-hypnosis is different.

“You are fully in control at all times, and no one can make you do anything you wouldn’t normally do,” explains Strawser. “You teach your mind how to relax, use visualization and imagery, and learn to shut out environmental stimuli to reach a state of your own subconscious. You can easily return to a fully conscious state.”

According to HypnoBirthing: The Mongan Method (2015), the benefits of HypnoBirthing include:

  • Less pain
  • Promotes oxygenation to the baby and uterus
  • Helps labor progress
  • Decreases vaginal tearing for the mother
  • Decreases chance of C- section
  • Much lower incidence of postpartum depression

“The body knows what to do during birth,” says Strawser. “Self-hypnosis helps remove the fear, tension and anticipation that make pain worse. It allows a woman’s natural hormones to support the process, which keeps labor progressing.”

Strawser emphasizes that HypnoBirthing does not mean a mother-to-be cannot use other forms of pain relief, such as medication or an epidural. In addition, there are still times when the need for a C-section arises. Keeping the mother and baby safe is the ultimate goal.

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Techniques in HypnoBirthing are taught by a trained expert through a course that meets several times. Women bring a dedicated birth companion with them to class, who learns to support the mother through the process.

“Self-hypnosis takes dedication and practice, and not everyone can do it well. About 10 percent of women can get into a deep state of self-hypnosis and report a pain-free birth. The key is to practice the techniques on a daily basis,” she says. The techniques learned in class can also be used after delivery for managing many of life’s challenges.

Henry Ford offers a five-session HypnoBirthing course at several different locations. Find out more. It is not necessary to be a patient of Henry Ford physician or a nurse midwife. Mothers-to-be who would like to use medication or an epidural during labor, and even those with a planned C-section, also benefit from HypnoBirthing in some circumstances.

To make an appointment with a certified nurse midwife at Henry Ford, visit henryford.com/midwives or call (248) 661-6425.

Kelly Strawser, CNM, is a Henry Ford certified nurse midwife who became interested in teaching HypnoBirthing after she used it in the birth of her own child. She is certified in the Mongan Method and teaches all HypnoBirthing classes at Henry Ford. She sees patients at Henry Ford Medical Centers in Dearborn and Troy.