Challenging Our Views of Birth
If an understanding of birth as fundamentally painful and unpleasant can lead women to experience it as such, one has to wonder if this rule can be reversed. Are women who view birth as inherently comfortable -something to be embraced rather than resisted - and themselves as calm, confident and capable, less likely to have painful, difficult birth experiences?
This idea - that one can "deprogram" the mind of the cultural mindset that childbirth must be painful - is the basic premise of one particular approach to childbirth education and "pain management:" Hypnosis for Childbirth.
The Hypnotic Mind
Remember how in Part 1 I said that my own birth experience was virtually pain-free, drug-free and without any major medical interventions? In large part, I credit hypnosis for this.
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I won't get into too many specifics, or compare these programs here. There are plenty of other websites that do a much better job of that than I ever could, since I have only ever fully explored the Hypnobabies approach. What I will say is this: while there have been many other instances in my life where I have stepped outside my own worldview and experience (i.e., my cultural anthropological studies, yoga and meditation, travel), nothing compares to the process I went through being pregnant with my first child. The Hypnobabies program was a significant part of my "awakening" to the very pervasive cultural ideology surrounding pregnancy and birth in America: Birth is hard. Birth is excruciating. Birth (or pregnancy) requires "management" by professionals. Birth (or pregnancy) is something best left to those who know what they are doing.
Now, of course there is a very high degree of variability from woman to woman, and even from pregnancy to pregnancy. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, and what works for one person may not be ideal for another. The idea behind Hypnobabies, however, is that women can remove these cultural "givens." They can eliminate the expectation that birth is painful, that it is something to be feared.
Granted, at first I had a difficult time submitting to the "hypnotic suggestions." The idea of fully letting go and allowing someone to make mental "suggestions" to me made me highly uncomfortable. Once I got the hang of it, though, I began to relax. A lot. I would often fall asleep while listening to the hypnosis sessions. It was the most amazing, deep sleep I've ever experienced. And during childbirth? It helped me to be completely aware of everything that was going on around me, while simultaneously remaining very, very relaxed, calm, and comfortable.
Research and mainstream interest in the area of hypnosis - for childbirth, surgery, general health and beyond - is growing. From applications in brain surgery, to treatment for infertility, to pain-free childbirth and rotating breech babies, hypnosis is increasingly an option to facilitate pain management, minimize emotional distress and increase relaxation with minimal to no side effects. As general awareness of hypnosis improves, more creative uses are surfacing (i.e., improving undergraduate study habits; eliminating hot flashes in post-menopausal women).
Your Thoughts?This, of course, is not a comprehensive discussion of hypnosis or its applications in childbirth. Rather, my point is to bring attention to the idea that pain and fear in childbirth are not a given - these reactions to birth are deeply rooted in the media, in medical practice, and in our culture as a whole.
All that being said, I'm curious to hear your thoughts. Do you think that we can mentally separate ourselves from the idea that birth is painful? Would you ever consider taking part in something that claimed to "deprogram" you of your cultural mindset regarding birth and pregnancy? If not, what would your concerns be?