Saturday, September 24, 2011

Can Hypnosis Increase Your Chances of Having an Uncomplicated Birth?

The Hypnobabies (Official) facebook page recently shared a research study published in April 2004 in the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis.  I think the findings of the study were very interesting, so I am summarizing them for you here.

The researcher performed psychological evaluations on 540 women and randomized them to two groups:  one group received prenatal hypnosis to prepare for birth and the other recieved supportive pyschotherapy.  It compared these two groups to each other, and also to a third group of women who had no contact with the research.  The study used cesareans, pitocin use (for induction and augmentation), diagnosis of fetal distress, low apgar scores, and postpartum hemorrhage as measures of whether a birth was "complicated" or "uncomplicated."   The results between the no-contact group and the psychotherapy group were similar, with rate of epidural use being the only significant difference between the two.  I think the following findings of the study are significant:
  • The hypnosis group had a statistically significantly lower rate of complicated births than the other two groups.
  • Women whose psychological assessments showed psychological factors such as high levels of fear, poor maternal self-identity, negative beliefs about birth, depression, high anxiety, and high levels of stress were more likely to experience complicated births.
  • When compared with the supportive psychotherapy group, prenatal hypnosis was shown to decrease the negative effects of these psychological factors on rates of complications.
The findings of this research appear to support the theory that psychological factors (sometimes called the "mind-body connection") play a role in childbirth.  It appears that the way that hypnosis works to change subconscious beliefs can contribute to less psychology-related complications in birth.

In Hypnobabies, we use hypnosis to help women decrease anxiety and stress, change negative beliefs about birth, and identify and reduce fear.  I believe this contributes to the great outcomes Hypnobabies students experience.  Of course, not all complications are related to psychological factors, some are physiological.  We teach moms about how a healthy lifestyle in pregnancy can give them the best chance at staying low risk.

For those times when unpreventable complications requiring intervention occur, Hypnobabies has a wonderful Change of Plans script, included in the student materials, that can be read to the mom to help her accept changes and move forward.  I used the Change of Plans script with a doula client who had a lot of changes to her plans come up, and she later told me she thought it was very helpful.  In the end, this mom was satisfied with her unplanned cesarean birth and felt that everything that happened during it was for the best.

This study also looked at social support factors, such how well-supported the women felt by her family, friends, and partner.  It also found lack of support to be associated with more complicated births, which makes sense with what we know about the benefits of doula support.  The study found hypnosis to reduce complications in women with low support from friends and family, but not as much from her partner.

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