Hypnobabies classes teach medical-grade hypno-anesthesia techniques to reduce discomfort during labor. Find out more about the natural childbirth method and whether it's right for you.
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Nowadays, more than 60 percent of moms-to-be opt for an epidural during their delivery. But there's also a boon in the use of natural pain relief in childbirth—namely hypnosis courses such as Hypnobabies.  "There's been a big surge in interest over the last couple of years," notes Giuditta Tornetta, a birth and postpartum doula and author of Painless Childbirth: An Empowering Journey Through Pregnancy and Birth.

She attributes the attention to two things: celebrities and science. "It certainly doesn't hurt that Kate Middleton and Jessica Alba reportedly used hypnosis for their birth preparation, but there's also the fact that hypnosis really works," Tornetta says. "A number of studies have come out confirming that hypnosis during childbirth is beneficial for the relaxation of the mom, and promotes better outcomes, too." Keep reading to learn more about the Hypnobabies method, why it works, and how it differs from HypnoBirthing.

Using Hypnosis During Childbirth

Despite common misconceptions, using hypnosis during childbirth doesn't involve mind control or witchy rituals. "Hypnosis is very much like meditation," says Maeva Althaus, a certified HypnoBirthing practitioner who offers private and group classes in New York City. When a mom-to-be practices hypnosis, it's much easier for her to remain calm and focused during labor and delivery. "Essentially, she trains to keep her mind still so her body can do what it knows how to do," Althaus says.

When you're fearful during labor, you go into a fight-or-flight response, where your body produces stress hormones called catecholamines. "Your mind perceives what's happening as danger. Your body reacts by tensing up and your muscles can't do what they are supposed to do, which is relax so your uterus can open," Althaus explains. Fear also releases adrenaline, which can stop labor altogether. Hypnosis can work to counter this. "When a mom-to-be can stay relaxed, her endorphins and oxytocin will flood her body, bringing a natural high. She's more relaxed. Her body is less tense. She's more comfortable. Deep hypnosis techniques can teach her to desensitize or to mute painful sensations," Althaus says. 

In fact, brain imaging has shown that hypnosis can suppress specific neural activity, which inhibits the brain from interpreting pain. Women who use hypnosis during childbirth had significantly fewer complications, with less use of Pitocin and fewer C-sections, compared with women who simply received support, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis.

HypnoBirthing vs. Hypnobabies: What's the Difference?

Parents-to-be can find a few different hypnosis-centered birthing classes, such HypnoBirthing and Hypnobabies. There are a few key differences between these methods.

HypnoBirthing: This childbirth method is based on the work of English obstetrician Grantly Dick-Read, M.D. He realized that the "Fear-Tension-Pain syndrome" makes labor difficult, and that women could have a better experience by practicing self-hypnosis strategies like visualizations, affirmations, prompts from their partners, and controlled breathing. The idea is that entering a state of deep relaxation allows the muscles to work the way they're supposed to during childbirth, which eliminates some of the pain associated with it. Many women use HypnoBirthing as an alternative to medical interventions during labor. 

HypnoBabies: Hypnobabies recognizes that labor is an uncomfortable experience, and it helps women cope with the intense pain through medical-grade hypno-anesthesia techniques (rather than simple relaxation strategies). It also teaches comprehensive science-backed birth education lessons. According to the Hypnobabies website, "Hypnobabies teaches medical-grade, somnambulistic hypnosis techniques, which can be used for surgery without anesthetics. The amount of hypnotic depth that our students achieve when they learn, practice and use Hypnobabies (as directed only) can produce the same 'hypno-anesthesia' that master hypnotists use for their clients who are allergic to medical anesthesia and need to undergo surgery with hypnosis as their only medication! Our goal is helping families to 'enjoy your baby's birth in comfort, joy and love,' and Hypnobabies' medical-grade hypnosis makes it much easier to do so!"

Hypnobabies also helps women (and their partners) bond with their babies in the womb, increases confidence in the birthing experience, and promotes more physical comfort during labor. It's partly based on Gerald Kein's Painless Childbirth program.

What to Expect in Hypnobabies Classes

Before taking any classes, "Hypno-moms" get two audio tracks that allow them to practice their hypnosis techniques. Then, along with their partner, they attend 21 hours of classroom instruction. Expectant parents garner a lot of the same information they would from a standard childbirth education class, with an added focus on medical-grade hypno-anesthesia techniques and labor preparation.  

According to the Hypnobabies website, students learn two hypnosis cues and seven hypnotic deepening techniques. "These are important since each Hypno-mother's needs are unique during labor, and since she has learned and practiced these cues many times, she can choose which ones are most effective for her as she gives birth to her baby" the website says. Hypno-moms also get 16 deep hypnosis audio tracks with  "binaural beats" to encourage hypnosis, two affirmations tracks, one track for birth partners, and five somnambulistic hypnosis scripts in booklet form. Additionally, birth partners also receive comprehensive training through Hypnobabies (but single mothers can use the method, too!)

How Do I Sign Up for Hypnobabies Classes?

Hypnobabies runs for more than six weeks and each session is three hours.  Check out this link to find a Hypnobabies class near you. Expectant parents can also take a home-study course. Although Hypnobabies may be pricier than the standard childbirth course, it is covered by many flexible spending accounts. Check with your insurance provider.