Learning how to manage pain, control stress and control breathing: hypnosis is a method of birth preparation especially recommended for future mothers who can not or do not wish to use an epidural. It also provides valuable keys for all pregnant women who wish for a serene delivery day.
What is hypnosis?
Hypnosis can be defined as a modified state of consciousness, which is based on the dissociation between body and mind. “It’s a natural state, that we live regularly, for example when we’re driving on a highway and think about the dinner that we will prepare the same evening,” says Dr. Henri Bensoussan, an anesthetist, resuscitator and hypnotherapist at the Polyclinique de Riaumont in Liévin. Hypnosis makes it possible to create this dissociation voluntarily. One can arrive at a state of hypnosis alone (called auto-hypnosis) or accompanied by a therapist (called hetero-hypnosis).
Hypnosis as a method of preparation for childbirth
A resuscitator anesthesiologist for 33 years, Dr. Bensoussan has developed his method of hypnotherapy specifically for maternity, by becoming aware of the needs in obstetrics. Faced with women who can not or do not wish to use an epidural, hypnosis is indeed a powerful ally to manage contractions and bear the pain of childbirth. And for other future moms, it can also be a method of preparation that fits in the tradition of yoga, sophrology or acupuncture. “Even if the mother gives birth with an epidural, the hypnosis exercises are useful. They bring a real comfort, a little less stress, and tools to help her during the first hours of labor on delivery day.”
How do the preparation sessions work?
Dr. Bensoussan advises starting hypnosis sessions in the sixth month of pregnancy, at the with a one-hour appointment every two weeks. “You are essentially learning to manage pain.” Pain management takes time and requires familiarity with several techniques. Among the most used techniques: the transfer of pain. “It can be a matter of transferring your pain to another part of your body, an easy exercise when you are in a state of hypnotic trance: every time a contraction happens, the future mother can thus move the pain to her foot, for example; by creating a second artificial pain, she distracts her brain and no longer feels the contraction.” Another technique is to make the patient perform unnecessary tasks: while all her concentration is focused on this task, she will forget her painful contraction. “We can also ask the mother-to-be to imagine herself in a prearranged pleasant place, where she can take refuge when she feels the pain,” says Dr. Bensoussan.
Preparation with hypnosis also emphasizes the sensoriality, with exercises to work on the muscles of the perineum and dilation of the cervix. “For example, I ask my patient to visualize her baby, and the path that her newborn baby will travel.”
Recovery and breathing
Sessions can also provide advice to recover between contractions at the time of labor prior to delivery. “I teach my patients to alternate between a contraction and an immediate deep relaxation phase, a little like the power naps of navigators,” says Dr. Bensoussan.
Working on breathing is also important. “I teach my patients two techniques: the hypnotic technique with visualization, where we guide the future moms feel their breaths through metaphorical elements, by imagining air bubbles for example; and the technique of feeling, which means that you simply feel your breathing, that you accompany your breath, as you would do during a yoga or Pilates class.”
The day of delivery
If patients are trained in self-hypnosis, it is common for them to be attended by a midwife or hypnotically resuscitated anesthesia physician on delivery day. “For example, it is possible to have a hypnosis session at the time of the epidural placement, the use of suction cups or forceps, or in case of an unplanned caesarean section. Our role is to accompany the woman, to remove her from the technical gestures and to manage her stress. A dissociation is welcome to escape from a stressful context and this understanding can be used at any time of the birth, in particular in the obstetric block,” the doctor explains.
Translation: Ashley Griffin