For some time, alternative medicine has become increasingly important in pain relief. My experiences of hypnosis in childbirth have convinced me that the use of hypnosis for pain relief should be more widely available.
Labour during the birth of my first child was long, painful, confusing and frightening. Despite having attended classes and read the right books, I found myself wired up to a foetal heart monitor that kept cutting out, needed banging to get going again and was not actually being monitored in any case. I used the gas and air for pain relief, but at one point the cylinder ran out and my husband couldn’t find any nursing staff to replace it for some time. Both these factors left me feeling frightened and extremely vulnerable.
Second time around, I was determined that I should feel more in control. My husband, a psychologist, was researching hypnosis at the time and I had already acted as his subject many times for experimental purposes. It was when I was using the gas and air, that the effects reminded me how it feels to be hypnotised. I decided that if ever I were having another child, I would give hypnosis a try.
We duly discussed our ideas with my G.P. and midwife and both were in agreement. Prior to the birth, my husband and I discussed the type of words or suggestions that might be helpful during labour. We came up with floating, drifting, warm and comfortable and so forth. I was also hypnotised and given a key or trigger word that would immediately enable me to go into a deeper hypnotic trance. In my case, we chose “OK relax”.
On the day of the birth, I went into the GP Unit of the local hospital and by 7.30p.m. the routine paper work was taken care of and I was settled into the bed. Time to begin.
At the start of the next contraction, my husband gave me the trigger words backed up by the type of suggestions already discussed. Once each contraction was over, I was able to chat normally to my husband and the midwife was able to examine me. This pattern continued until I was ready to push; at this point I felt no further need for hypnosis.
I found the whole experience intensely interesting. Firstly, even during the frequent and strong contractions near the end of the labour, I coped well with the pain. I knew there was pain, but I felt distanced from it and untroubled by it. During each contraction, I remained in exactly the same position – sitting up in bed with my hands resting on my legs. For some reason, this exact position became important. I also sweated quite a lot although I was not apparently moving at all.
The whole experience was relaxed and at times comical. On one occasion, my husband needed the toilet between contractions. On hearing me call him, as the next one was starting, he rushed out and caught himself in his zip. There he was, with the half-hypnotised midwife in hysterics, trying to keep a straight face as he put me into another trance.
Just one hour and 25 minutes after we started the hypnosis, Anna was born, without the use of pethidine or any other drugs. She was immediately alert and looking around the room – no doubt seeing what mischief she could get up to.
1 became quite a celebrity in the maternity hospital with doctors and midwives all interested in the use of hypnosis. A few were sarcastic, dismissing it as mumbo-jumbo, but most were supportive and full of questions.
I realise that because of my husband’s experience of experimental hypnosis we were in a special position. However, a good hypnotherapist should be able to provide a tape for use during labour and for some, practicing with self-hypnosis, backed up by suggestions of relaxation from the husband, might be very effective and certainly worth a try. After all, there is nothing to lose or to fear from hypnosis. Far from making the mother out of control, it does exactly the opposite.
Professional societies exist for doctors and dentists who practice hypnosis. Alternatively, your G.P. may be willing to recommend a reputable, private hypnotherapist, be it for labour pains or pain relief generally. A final word of caution, always check with your G.P. first and have the underlying cause of the pain checked out – and remember, before you spend good money, hypnosis may be available of the N.H.S.