Find out if this natural labor pain-queller is for you.

By Holly Pevzner
June 01, 2014
pregnant woman in hospital
Credit: Blend Images/Veer

Just like epidurals, hypnosis-centered birthing methods like HypnoBirthing -- The Mongan Method and Hypnobabies, which focus on self-hypnosis and relaxation to help ease labor and delivery, aren't for everyone. But the big question is: Could they be for you? We asked the experts.

"I don't have a lot of time for birthing classes. Can I still try hypnosis?"

This may not be the right method for you. "It's not like you can show up to the delivery room and say, 'I'll have hypnosis, please,'" says Craig M. Palmer, M.D., professor of anesthesiology at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. "Hypnosis is not easy. It requires planning, a significant amount of time to learn, repeated practice, mental concentration, and a lot of diligence. Women who have the time, resources, and support to do so would be the best candidates." Maeva Althaus, a certified HypnoBirthing practitioner who offers private and group classes in New York City, notes that her moms-to-be take a series of five weekly 2 1/2-hour classes. "I also recommend they put 20 minutes aside every day to practice," she says.

"I feel I'm pretty in tune with my body. Will that make me a better candidate for hypnosis?"

"I think so," says Sheryl Ross, M.D., an ob-gyn at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California. "A great candidate for hypnobirthing is someone who knows her body well and is able to be completely relaxed for extended periods of time." Dr. Ross notes that those who have practiced mediation, mindfulness, and yoga in the past might have the most luck with hypnosis during labor and childbirth.

"I want a drug-free birth. Can hypnosis help me achieve that goal?"

Yes. In fact, research supports the notion that hypnosis during labor and delivery reduces the chances that mom-to-be will request an epidural. "Obviously, one of the purposes of hypnobirthing is to avoid interaction with an obstetric anesthesiologist like myself, which is fine," Dr. Palmer says. "But even the strongest proponents of hypnobirthing recognize that not everyone is successful at keeping drugs at bay. Some patients need other help."

"I'm not sure I want a 100-percent natural birth. Can hypnosis still help me?"

"Yes!" says Giuditta Tornetta, a birth and postpartum doula and author of Painless Childbirth: An Empowering Journey Through Pregnancy and Birth. "Even if you have a scheduled cesarean birth, hypnosis can make a huge difference. Hypnosis is there to help Mom learn to relax so she can have a better experience going through anything that comes her way, whether it is a natural drug-free birth, a birth with an epidural, or a medicated birth."

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