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“As an OB/GYN, I really wanted to truly experience every aspect of my delivery.”

Mother and child hands

Image source: Thinkstock

I had been delivering babies myself for almost seven years, when I became pregnant with my first child.

Several experiences had influenced me to want to attempt having a natural delivery, with as little intervention as possible. I was inspired by knowing that my own mother had delivered her children without the intervention of pain medication.

From attending many births I knew that natural childbirth was definitely a reasonable goal, with adequate preparation. I decided to pursue hypnobirthing in order to prepare for my delivery. I had been present at several births where hypnobirthing techniques were used, and I noticed that these patients seemed to be in a truly calm and relaxed state, even during the active and pushing stages of labor.

Support staff in the room for these deliveries would often assume that these patients had epidurals, because they were so quiet and focused.

Several colleagues at the time — who had not witnessed hypnobirthing deliveries — questioned why I would want to attempt an un-medicated birth, when I could just have an epidural.

I would reply that I would be happy to get an epidural if I felt it was necessary.

As an OB/GYN, I just really wanted to truly experience every aspect of my delivery. I can’t say I was ever 100 percent certain that I would be successful before the delivery, but I knew I would at least like to try.

Learning about hypnobirthing

I started my hypnobirthing education by reading the hypnobirthing handbook, Hypnobirthing – The Mongan Method.

One of the main themes that was highlighted was the concept of using self meditation to release any fears or negative thoughts surrounding the idea of giving birth. Having been present for and actively involved in many emergent situations during my patients’ deliveries, I knew this was going to be a vital part of me having a successful natural delivery.

Next I signed up for a five-week hypnobirthing class. During these classes my husband and I learned several techniques for self-hypnosis, which is basically a form of deep meditation. In between the classes we reinforced what we were learning by listening to self-hypnosis or guided meditation CDs.

During the classes the instructor used videos of people delivering using hypnobirthing, to reinforce the idea that labor and delivery can be accomplished in a calm, relaxed and pain-free way.

Labor & delivery with hypnobirthing

On Nov. 9, 2008, I went into labor. I was 39 weeks pregnant. My water broke in the afternoon and within a few hours I started having regular uterine contractions. I started listening to my birth affirmation CD to get in a positive state of mind.

By the evening, I decided to go to the hospital. I was not experiencing any painful contractions, but I was leaking a lot of fluid with each contraction, so I felt I should be evaluated. I also wanted to get settled in at the hospital, so I could continue my self hypnosis when the more intense part of labor started.

By the time my doctor, who was my partner at the time, arrived and evaluated my cervix for the first time, I was close to needing to begin pushing.

I delivered my daughter – a healthy 8 1/2 lbs – shortly after midnight.

It never crossed my mind during the labor to get an epidural or IV pain meds, I simply didn’t need it. I don’t consider myself to have an exceptionally high pain tolerance, but I have always believed that pain is your mind’s interpretation of a physical sensation. If you can train your mind to see a sensation and normal and positive, then your body will naturally relax and the sensation will not be interpreted as pain.

I often use the analogy with my patients that having a natural delivery is like preparing to run a marathon. You can not just show up and expect to run the race if you haven’t prepared, but for those who put in the time to be both physically and mentally in shape, they will almost always cross the finish line.

For those who have no desire to have an un-medicated labor, the good news is that epidurals are available and are very effective at controlling the pain of labor. However, I often encourage my patients to pursue some type of child birth preparation, even if they know they want to get an epidural.

This preparation can be very helpful to manage the discomfort of early labor and again, can help release some of the anxiety that many women feel about giving birth.

Preparing for the unexpected

When I was pregnant with my second child, I was excited to again have the opportunity to use my hypnobirthing techniques to have an un-medicated delivery. I figured that the second labor would likely be even faster and therefore even easier.

At 36 weeks I was reminded that even when prepared, labor can sometimes be an unpredictable experience. I woke up in the morning to find that my water had broken. I was not having painful contractions, but quickly made my way to the hospital, knowing that second labors can often progress fast. When I was examined at that hospital I was found to be 8 cm dilated, but my daughter was trying to arrive with her feet first. I was quickly prepped for an emergency c-section.

Luckily the anesthesiologist was able to place a spinal block, with me lying on my side, so I did not have to be put under general anesthesia. I was very grateful to be awake to hear my daughter’s first cries as she was delivered. Even though the spinal prevented me from feeling any pain during the surgery, it was my hypnobirthing techniques that allowed me to remain in a state of calm during the delivery.

I think it is important for every woman to prepare for her delivery in the way that makes most sense for them.

Hypnobirthing was a technique that worked well for me for both my deliveries, despite being vastly different experiences.

This technique has been growing in popularity in Austin and around the country and there are several options for instructors in the area.

More information on hypnobirthing

About the Author

Dr. Allison Devine is an OB/GYN with The Austin Diagnostic Clinic. She writes about women's health topics, including pre-conception counseling and pre-natal care. Dr. Devine sees patients at ADC's Main Clinic location in north Austin, TX.