How Hypnosis Helps Pregnancy and Birth Anxiety
The unspoken anxiety of pregnancy and birth
You’re expecting? How wonderful and joyous! What a beautiful gift!
You’ve probably heard these platitudes and more about how pregnancy is such a sacred and special journey, and how childbirth is a serene miracle.
There’s also another side to this.
The truth is, pregnancy and childbirth bring major life changes, and this can be a scary and anxiety-inducing time. Your body is changing on a daily basis, and you may be feeling uncertain about what the future holds — and that’s only after you complete the pregnancy and make it through childbirth.
You might legitimately worry about painful contractions, getting an epidural, complications during labor and delivery, or even not making it to the hospital in time. These are normal concerns, but sometimes anxiety can be problematic and even interfere with your pregnancy and beyond.
You might also have heard about hypnosis and hypnobirthing as methods of easing the process of pregnancy and childbirth. Are these options right for you? Let’s dig in.
Why pregnancy and childbirth exacerbate anxiety
It’s normal to worry during pregnancy. You’ve probably heard horror stories about what might go wrong, and it can be tough not to dwell on those unlikely outcomes. And even if everything goes right, welcoming a newborn into your life is a major change, from the impact on your finances and your daily existence to how having a baby will affect your personal and professional relationships.
Anxiety and depression can increase during pregnancy, as you make adjustments in your personal and professional life while also balancing medical appointments along with physical and emotional changes. Amid a flurry of societal expectations and media images of impending parenthood as a time of magic and bliss, you might end up feeling like you’re alone with your valid concerns.
Sometimes anxiety surrounding pregnancy and childbirth can wear you down and interfere in your daily life, work, and relationships. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) may be caused by hormonal changes in the first trimester. But anxiety can arise at any time during pregnancy and can manifest as physical symptoms like a racing heart, muscle tension, or panic attacks. Or you might find yourself feeling restless, unfocused, or irritable.
Unfortunately, anxiety can adversely affect the health of both the mother and the fetus, including an increased risk of lower birth weight, smaller head circumference, and premature birth.
If you have a history of anxiety, there’s a greater chance that you will experience anxiety during pregnancy. It’s important to talk with your doctor and trusted others about your concerns and to seek treatment early, if necessary.
Other supportive strategies to ease anxiety and increase comfort and confidence include taking a birthing class, consulting with a doula, filtering your exposure to triggering media, and postpartum planning.
Hypnosis and pregnancy anxiety
For years, hypnosis has been used to alleviate the discomforts of pregnancy — like sleep disruption and nausea — and is thought to be one of the best applications of hypnosis.
Hypnosis induces deep relaxation to counteract stress and anxiety. Hypnosis can help expectant mothers to control pain during pregnancy and childbirth, and even to reframe the entire experience to encourage a positive outlook, rather than a fearful one.
Pregnant women who choose hypnosis experience reduced physical and psychological symptoms, including vomiting and anxiety. A 2017 study on maternal stress showed that hypnosis lowered heart rates and decreased reported anxiety in pregnant women.
In a review of studies published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice in 2023, hypnosis was found to have a positive effect on relieving anxiety around giving birth. The participants felt more confident and empowered, and had improved postnatal wellbeing.
Hypnosis helps you visualize a positive pregnancy and birth for your child, and allows you to access inner resources to aid you through this process. When integrated with other therapy modalities, hypnosis can help you address your fears and concerns, stop obsessive thoughts surrounding pregnancy, and support you in your transition to parenthood.
Instead of feeling like you have no control over your body during pregnancy and childbirth, hypnosis can help you regain your sense of control during a time of significant change, thereby easing anxiety.
How hypnobirthing can help
In contrast to receiving hypnosis therapy for anxiety around pregnancy and childbirth, hypnobirthing involves learning breathing and relaxation techniques and visualizations as a means of pain management and stress reduction during labor and delivery.
Through these mindfulness practices, hypnobirthing brings you back into your body so you can focus on yourself and your baby, enabling you to feel calm and in control. As a complementary element of your birth plan, hypnobirthing can help you manage stress and anxiety, and it can be used in conjunction with other types of pain relief during labor and delivery. Hypnobirthing may even shorten your labor.
A study published in the Journal of Maternal and Child Health in 2016 found that hypnobirthing significantly reduces anxiety by allowing pregnant women to align with the natural rhythms of their bodies. Participants were able to reduce their sensations of pain during contractions by boosting endorphin levels. They also experienced reduced fatigue.
Hypnobirthing teaches controlled breathing — in through your nose, and out through your mouth — to allow you to remain calm during childbirth. Meditation helps you learn to relax your body so you can concentrate on your experience with confidence. You will also learn visualization techniques, in which you imagine specific positive outcomes related to birth — like imagining the weight of your baby on your chest immediately after being born.
In a 2015 study published in BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, participants reported feeling calm, confident, and empowered and found the training to be helpful during labor and delivery.
Some evidence indicates that hypnobirthing might reduce the risk of complications, make for a more comfortable recovery, speed up milk production, and lower your risk of postnatal depression.
Hypnobirthing can support mothers in many ways, including reducing fear, tension, and pain during labor; lessening fatigue during labor and improving alertness; and shortening the opening phase of labor by giving the mother an opportunity to breathe her baby down to the crowning stage. Simultaneously, integrated therapy can address the mental health issues that are common during this time, such as depressive, anxious and obsessive thoughts, relationship challenges, physical symptoms from pregnancy, work-related obstacles, and financial distress.
Both hypnosis and hypnobirthing can be helpful in addressing and easing fears related to pregnancy and childbirth. If you’re feeling anxious, don’t wait to talk openly with your doctor and support team about your concerns. Anxiety is common with pregnancy and childbirth, and the good news is that there is help available.
Our Pregnancy & Birthing Experts are Clinical Psychologists at NY Health Hypnosis & Integrative Therapy that specialize in combining hypnosis and therapy for the pregnancy and birthing process. To get in touch or learn more about how combining therapy and hypnosis can help you, please contact us here.
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