Katy is a good trance subject, and we had done deep trance work in the past, so I knew that it would be possible to make the birth of her baby a more comfortable experience. Katy was booked into Queen Charlotte’s Hospital in West London, about 20 minutes by car from her home. Queen Charlotte’s has a Birthing Suite where they encourage the mother to adopt any position that is most comfortable, and where water birthing is also available. We had a first session in month seven, revisiting deep trance states and also discussing Katy’s expectations. Katy wanted to stay at home as long as possible (this is what the Hospital prefers also); and to have as little intervention as possible, although she reserved the right to have pain medication at the time if necessary (and I think all clients should take that view — they do not have to help their hypnotherapist “prove” anything).
“There is evidence for the use of hypnotherapy
for turning a breech position”
By month eight the baby was in a breech presentation position. Many hospitals now take the view that it is safer to do a C-section rather than a vaginal breech delivery. The evidence for this has been questioned but, in the meantime, the obstetrics skills needed for breech deliveries are less widely available. For a commentary on this, and advice about changing a breech position, see www.gentlebirth.org. Katy was keen to avoid a C-section so we worked on turning the baby. There is evidence for the use of hypnotherapy for turning a breech position: see Archives of Family Medicine, volume 3, October 1994, “Hypnosis and Conversion of the Breech to the Vertex Presentation” by Lewis E. Mehl. In this study 81% of breech positions were converted using hypnosis. We used imagery, with suggestions to both the mother and the baby (named “Bump” for this purpose), of being in your own swimming pool, and being able to turn somersaults, and of having your head near the exit from the pool. This imagery was also put on to a CD for Katy (and Bump) to listen to. We continued to work on the instant self hypnosis technique, with imagery of a light switch that can be used to turn off unwanted sensations from the lower part of the body, as taught at the Institute of Clinical Hypnosis. With practice it was possible for Katy to go into this state while being able to have her eyes open, move and be able to respond to any instructions from a midwife.
By the ninth month the baby had turned from the breech position, and now we were working on imagery for the birth itself. There is a short article in Contemporary Hypnosis (1996) Volume 13 number 3, pages 202 to 204, by Karola Dillenburger and Mickey Keenan entitled “Obstetric Hypnosis — An Experience” which describes hypnosis being used for a particular birth, and it uses some beautiful imagery of entering a river with flowers floating in it, the flowers having an analgesic effect. Later the river enters a cave, and regular waves begin, and in due course, you are propelled through the narrow exit of the cave into the calm sea beyond. We developed this imagery and put it on another CD for Katy to listen to regularly. In all we had four sessions, with Katy’s husband coming to the fourth session for some hypnotic experience and to hear about the approach that was being used.
“a short period of labour is characteristic of Hypnobirthing”
In the 41st week Katy started to feel contractions at 6:30 a.m. By 9 a.m. the waters had broken and Katy was advised to go to Queen Charlotte’s. Travelling was uncomfortable, as was the walk to the Birthing Suite, and the baby was born within seven minutes of arrival. So Katy achieved her objective of staying at home as long as possible; there was minimal intervention, and no pain medication prior to the birth (though there was some local anaesthetic for stitching subsequently); and the short period of labour is characteristic of Hypnobirthing. A shorter period of labour is likely to contribute to a quicker post-natal recovery.
If you would like more quantitative data there is an interesting article in the October 2007 American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis: see “Hypnosis for Childbirth: A Retrospective Comparative Analysis of Outcomes in One Obstetrician’s Practice” by Leona VandeVusse and others. This was a comparative study of childbirth outcomes between 50 women who elected for antepartum hypnosis preparation and 51 who did not. Prenatal hypnosis preparation resulted in significantly less use of sedatives, analgesic, and regional anaesthesia during labour and in higher 1-minute neonatal Apgar scores. In addition, the hypnosis-prepared women who delivered vaginally experienced an average 2.2 hour shorter labour length than the comparable women without hypnosis preparation.
PS (June 2013): An app on childbirth river imagery is now available to those with Apple iPhones or iPads – go to the Apple App Store and search on Patrick Browning.
Website: www.Browning-Hypnosis.co.ukArticle Posted – 30th January 2008.
Copyright Patrick Browning