Hypnosis for a Joyful Pregnancy and Pain-Free Labor and Delivery

Hypnosis for a Joyful Pregnancy and Pain-Free Labor and Delivery

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Pregnancy is filled with many joys and much wonder. But this miraculous journey can also be accompanied by a good deal of fear and anxiety. Will my pregnancy be difficult? Will my labor be painful? Will I be a good mother?

While Hypnosis for a Joyful Pregnancy and Pain-Free Labor and Deliver will not be able to provide answers to all of the unknowns, this unique and innovative book can teach you how to lessen the common complaints of pregnancy and ease the pain of childbirth. Step-by-step, you will learn how to use hypnosis to induce a state of calm and comfort during any stage of the journey. Hypnosis is a natural form of anesthesia, providing the added bonus is that you may get to fully experience the joy of childbirth, without the use of an epidural or narcotics.


- Are you a good candidate for hypnosis...will it work for you?

- Creative scripts for inducing a hypnotic state.

- How to put together a birthing team, including finding a qualified hypnotherapist.

- Tricks to treating morning sickness, heartburn, excessive weight gain, insomnia, leg cramps, and other discomforts of pregnancy

- When things don't go as planned; what to do if anesthesia is necessary.

Isn't it time you learned about all of your options? Hypnosis for a Joyful Pregnancy and Pain-Free Labor and Delivery arms you with what you need to know to make the best decision for you and your unborn baby.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312270230
Publisher: St. Martin's Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/02/2002
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 192
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.44(d)

About the Author

Winifred Conkling is a freelance writer specializing in health and consumer topics. She is the author of ten nonfiction books. Her articles have appeared in a number of national magazines including American Health, McCall's, Consumer Reports, and Reader's Digest. Winifred lives in northern Virginia with her husband and three children.

Read an Excerpt

Hypnosis for a Joyful Pregnancy and Pain-Free Labor and Delivery

By Winifred Conkling

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2002 Lynn Sonberg
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-7232-1



A Brief History of Hypnosis

For thousands of years, both men and women considered agonizing pain to be an inevitable part of childbirth. Suffering during labor and delivery was accepted as part of the price that all women must pay for original sin. Pain relief was considered a violation of God's will and a disruption of the natural order. In fact, women who attempted to use anesthesia or other means of pain relief were treated as heretics. For example, in 1591, a woman in Edinburgh, Scotland, requested pain relief while giving birth to twins. She was convicted of acts "contrary to divine law and in contempt of the Crown" and ultimately burned at the stake.

Fortunately, times have changed. Punitive suffering need not be part of modern childbirth. Virtually all midwives and health-care practitioners strive for relaxed, successful birth experiences, whether or not they use hypnosis with their patients. While the word hypnosis continues to conjure up images of entertainers who make willing subjects quack like ducks or perform other embarrassing acts, it is also used by thousands of medical doctors, midwives, psychiatrists, and psychologists.

Though the practice has not always been defined as hypnosis, the induction of a trance state is part of human nature. Mothers instinctively rock their babies back and forth and pat them on the back to sooth them and induce an almost hypnotic state of calm. Even though mothers have depended on such techniques to comfort their babies for eons, the actual practice of hypnosis was not formalized until about 250 years ago.

Meet Dr. Mesmer

Modern hypnotherapy started in the mid-eighteenth century when Viennese physician Friederich Anton Mesmer (1734-1815) set forth his theory of "animal magnetism." Mesmer hypothesized that the body contained a magnetic fluid that ebbed and flowed in accordance with an internal tide that responded to the tides of the oceans and the gravitational pull of the planets. He believed that illnesses were caused by imbalances of the body's tides and that a more harmonious distribution of magnetic fluid could cure disease. To patients afflicted with illness or disease, Mesmer offered a simple cure. He had them drink a potion that contained iron, and he created an "artificial" tide by attaching magnets to their bodies and transferring his fluid magnetism to them. This focus on magnets resulted in the term "animal magnetism."

Mesmer believed that the "magnetic fluid" could be transferred from one person to another, or, more precisely, from himself to his patients. Mesmer's healing rituals involved a dramatic display of hand waving and moving magnets in front of his patients while offering soothing words to calm them. He brought his patients into a state of focused attention; even today we say a person is "mesmerized" when he or she is entranced or in a state of deep concentration.

Mesmer's version of hypnosis became very popular for a time, but then his colleagues in Austria labeled him a charlatan. Still confident of his technique, Mesmer moved to Paris in the 1780s and was considered a miracle healer for a number of years. At the peak of his popularity, Mesmer held mass healings in which he filled large oak tubs with "magnetized" water, iron filings, and broken glass. As many as twenty people held metal rods that protruded from the sides of the tub. By touching the metal rods, people believed that the energy of the water flowed into their bodies and stimulated the circulation of the magnetic fluid within them.

While many people were impressed with Mesmer's abilities, others were less sure of them. One of the final straws came in 1784 when Mesmer suggested that women need not suffer pain during childbirth. That same year, a royal commission of Louis XVI, headed by Benjamin Franklin who was visiting overseas, determined that all that took place during one of Mesmer's healings was an "excitement of the imagination." Mesmer himself acknowledged that animal magnetism "must in the first place be transmitted through feeling." He recognized the importance of emotion in his healings, and he had an impressive, imposing air similar to that of a modern-day faith healer. He also was able to make pointed suggestions, often telling his patients in great detail what was going to happen to them. In essence, Mesmer's colleagues played down his success and attributed it to the placebo effect, in which a person's expectations trigger a response.

Refining the Practice of Hypnosis

Despite the scientific establishment's rejection of mesmerism, other healers were intrigued by the practice. One of the best known was a Hindu-Portuguese priest, Abbe José de Faria, who began to look at the practice in more analytical terms. In 1819 he concluded that the cause of the trance state (which he called "lucid sleep") was caused not by magnetism but by concentration by the subject. Faria had his clients relax, lean back, empty their minds, and concentrate on falling asleep, which most promptly did. He could then induce them to feel illusions of heat and cold and to experience various tastes and smells.

Faria had his patients stare at a stationary object, a hypnotic technique now called fixed-gaze hypnosis. He found that after his patients stared at the object and reached a point of heightened concentration, they were in a highly suggestible mood. At that point he commanded them to stop feeling their symptoms. In this way he produced near miraculous healings.

During this period, medical experts were gaining a greater appreciation for the mechanics of hypnosis. In the mid-nineteenth century, Dr. James Braid, a well-known surgeon from Manchester, England, coined the word hypnosis, after Hypnos, the Greek God of sleep. Rather than referring to what transpired in a trance as animal magnetism, he referred to it as "nervous sleep" brought on by hypnotic suggestion. Braid was also the first to attribute the success of hypnosis to psychological rather than physical variables.

Like his colleagues, Braid had been very skeptical of mesmerism and animal magnetism, but he was intrigued with the practice after watching a mesmerist from France in 1841. Braid then began to experiment with hypnosis, and he eventually refined his technique, then used it to perform pain-free surgery after inducing a trance in the patient by staring at his subjects with a focused, authoritative gaze. Braid used hypnosis routinely in his medical practice during the 1840s and 1850s. He knew from experience that he was able to bring on a relaxed, sleeplike state in his patients, but he did not know why he was able to do so. Braid appreciated that the mind and body were intertwined, but he did not understand how the two interacted.

Another major breakthrough came when word spread of the work of Dr. James Esdaile, a British doctor working in India who used hypnosis as anesthesia when he performed as many as two thousand major operations, including at least nineteen amputations. Dr. Esdaile either passed his hands over the affected body part or simply pointed his finger at the patient until he or she entered a trance.

Hypnosis in the Twentieth Century

Hypnosis remained in vogue in some circles into the late nineteenth century. At that time, a respected French doctor, Dr. Hypolite Bernheim, founded the Nancy (France) School of Hypnotism. One of Dr. Bernheim's students was the well-known Viennese therapist Dr. Sigmund Freud who was intrigued by the practice of hypnosis. Freud used hypnosis to help patients explore how their feelings about past experiences might contribute to their current emotional problems. As his practice developed, Freud turned from hypnosis to other techniques, such as free association and dream interpretation, which became the cornerstones of psychoanalysis, but Freud readily acknowledged that many of his ideas about the human psyche began with his interest in hypnosis.

Medical practices tend to rise and fall in popularity, and psychoanalysis and other practices overshadowed hypnosis in the early part of the twentieth century. Hypnosis fell out of favor until the 1950s when Dr. Milton Erickson began experimenting with it for the treatment of both mental and physical ailments. Dr. Erickson is probably the best-known hypnotist of the twentieth century; his research on the practice has influenced thousand of hypnotists, psychotherapists, and hypnotherapists. Dr. Erickson's work demonstrated that hypnosis could be used to help people internalize new ways of thinking and behaving without being aware that they were learning.

Dr. Erickson's work legitimized hypnosis in the eyes of the medical community. In 1955, the British Medical Association approved hypnotherapy as a valid medical treatment and an effective form of pain control during childbirth. The association stated, "In suitable subjects, it [hypnosis] is an effective method of relieving pain in childbirth without altering the normal course of labour." The American Medical Association followed suit in 1958, concluding, "The use of hypnosis has a recognized place in the medical armamentarium and is a useful technique in the treatment of certain illnesses, when employed by qualified medical personnel."

Today, the therapy is so widely accepted that the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis, a professional association of physicians, psychologists, and dentists, boasts more than four thousand members. Hypnosis is now mainstream. It is even recognized by many health-maintenance organizations.

When it comes to the use of hypnosis in childbirth in the United States, no one has contributed more than Dr. Joseph B. DeLee, an obstetrician who took the radical stand of openly arguing that a woman need not suffer in childbirth. He realized in the 1930s, when hypnosis was out of vogue, that with hypnosis some women could relax profoundly during labor and delivery. Dr. DeLee advocated hypnosis as being the "only anesthetic without danger" and told the profession: "I am irked when I see my colleagues neglect to avail themselves of this harmless and potent remedy."

In the past fifty years, thousands of studies have validated the experience of Dr. DeLee and measured the efficacy of hypnosis. Today most people accept the mind-body connection and do not find it extraordinary to believe that the way a person thinks can alter the response of his or her body's systems, including the autonomic or involuntary body systems (such as temperature and blood pressure). Many modern health-care practitioners may find this result unremarkable, but at the time this was considered an unbelievable, incredible, and unexplainable claim.

Now you, too, can capture the power of the mind-body connection and use it for a more joyful, pain- free childbirth. But first you have to practice the techniques outlined in this book, ideally with the help of a trained hypnotherapist. The next chapter will help explain the mechanics of childbirth and describe how hypnosis can be used as an alternative to anesthesia.



Childbirth Does Not Have to Be Painful

You already know a lot about giving birth, even if you haven't attended a single childbirth class or read a single page about labor and delivery. Childbirth is a natural process, although many treat it like a medical emergency. Women no longer rely on instinct and listen to their bodies to experience childbirth; instead, they approach labor with fear and anxiety and turn to doctors and anesthesiologists to orchestrate the process.

When thirty-two-year-old Sarah Rodgers entered the final stages of her pregnancy, her friends and family were surprised at her attitude about childbirth. "People told me that I should be scared and that if I wasn't frightened it was because I didn't know what I was talking about," she said. "Strangers told me stories about difficult births, but I remained calm. Childbirth just made sense to me; my body was designed to have a baby. The process is completely natural."

Sarah's confidence and calm demeanor, which were reinforced by regular sessions of hypnosis, helped her face childbirth with a positive attitude. She gave birth to her eight-pound, eight-ounce daughter in what she described as a pain-free delivery.

Most women don't have the confidence in their bodies that Sarah exemplifies. Instead, they have accepted the notion of agonizing labor portrayed in television sitcoms. As a result, they bring with them to the delivery room a significant amount of fear and insecurity. In many cases childbirth classes validate these feelings by presenting a picture of childbirth that involves fetal monitors, forceps, vacuum extractors, caesarean deliveries, and epidural anesthesia. All too often, what "prepared childbirth" classes prepare a woman for is a very medicalized and invasive birth experience.

In truth, the average woman is capable of giving birth without medications or interventions, as long as she is supported throughout her labor and trained to keep her mind focused by using a technique such as hypnosis. However, without an appreciation for the natural process of childbirth — and without confidence in their bodies — many women enter the delivery room in a state of terror, which only exacerbates their discomfort. This rapidly becomes a negatively reinforced cycle of fear and pain, which typically ends with a woman requesting (or begging for) anesthesia to control pain.

When we doubt ourselves and our ability to give birth, we also increase the chances that we will need medical interventions during the delivery. Of course, special circumstances can demand medical intervention, but most women have the potential to give birth naturally and without extraordinary measures.

Hypnosis helps a woman achieve her goal of natural childbirth by giving her an appreciation for what her body can do on its own. "Hypnosis is usually used by women who have had a baby and didn't like the experience, and by first-time mothers who are frightened," said Nancy Barwick, a hypnotherapist in Virginia who is trained in the hypnobirthing technique of hypnosis for childbirth. "Hypnosis gives women the confidence they need. It can make all the difference in the world in how a woman experiences childbirth."

Childbirth 101

Every pregnant woman needs to understand the mechanics of labor and delivery so that she can appreciate what is happening to her body during childbirth. Knowledge builds confidence and diminishes fear, allowing a woman to work with her body. The more you know, the less labor hurts, and the more effective hypnosis will be.

Even though every labor is different, in general, first babies take about twelve to fourteen hours of labor. Second and subsequent babies arrive after eight to ten hours of labor. However, as you know from hearing other mothers' birth stories, there is a wide range of experiences; some women are fast and give birth after five hours or less, and others can experience light labor for twenty-four hours or more.

In each of these labors, however, a woman's body goes through three very specific stages.

Stage 1: Opening of the Cervix

When your baby is ready to be born, he or she will let you know. For many women, labor starts with a feeling of discomfort or cramping in the lower back. It is followed by a tightening of the uterus, which makes the entire abdomen feel as hard as a basketball. Many women describe labor as severe menstrual cramps, which grow increasingly regular and rhythmic.

Most women experience some early irregularly spaced contractions on and off during the last month or so of pregnancy. These practice contractions help to get the uterus ready for the big day. They tend to be noticeable but mild.

Unlike these early contractions, the contractions of true labor are fairly evenly spaced. They may start out as much as twenty minutes apart, then become more frequent. They also build in intensity and duration as your body gets into its own rhythm.

Keep in mind that the purpose of labor is to allow your baby to pass through the expanding birth canal. The first step is to get the cervix, the neck of the uterus, to open wide enough to let the baby through. The uterine contractions gradually force open the cervix, but the process takes hours in most women.


Excerpted from Hypnosis for a Joyful Pregnancy and Pain-Free Labor and Delivery by Winifred Conkling. Copyright © 2002 Lynn Sonberg. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Foreword by Nancy Barwick D.C.H.,
1 MESMERIZED: A Brief History of Hypnosis,
2 GREAT EXPECTATIONS: Childbirth Does Not Have to Be Painful,
3 "YOU ARE FEELING SLEEPY": Are You a Good Candidate for Hypnosis?,
4 SPECIAL DELIVERY: Using Hypnosis to Prepare for Delivery,
5 ON YOUR OWN: Hypnosis Scripts You Can Practice Without Professional Assistance,
6 BEFORE THE BIRTH: Treating the Common Complaints of Pregnancy,
9 WHEN THINGS DON'T GO AS PLANNED: If Anesthesia Is Necessary,
Recommended Reading,
Web Sites,

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