Our Unique Approach to Birth Hypnosis

I was a vocal performance major in college, specializing in classical singing and opera performance. At one of my first freshman master classes, the professor taught us something I’ve never forgotten.

You need to practice your singing technique so thoroughly and so consistently that when you get up on stage to perform, it’s all second nature. You shouldn’t have to think about it. You’ll just take a deep breath, and everything you’ve prepared and worked for in practice will just come out of you, naturally. Perfect your techniques in the practice room, and then onstage you can forget it all and just SING.

Throughout my college years I relied upon this approach to create success in my singing — my thorough mental and physical preparation and daily practice facilitated the joy of complete release and freedom in performance. The more prepared I felt, the more confident and fearless I was onstage. The more I practiced, the more second-nature my technique became, to the point where I no longer had to think about it or worry about it. I sang hundreds of scales and etudes to condition my voice so that performing could feel effortless. I also learned that it was vital not to judge my performance after the fact, or I would get terribly frustrated with self-doubt and regret about any perceived “mistakes” I may have made. Once I got off the stage, I had to accept whatever happened.

While the Curtis Method is a hypnosis-based childbirth education program, we use hypnosis a little differently than other methods. It’s a methodology similar to the one I was taught in college to prepare me for the challenges of live performance, and it works for birth just as well. You’ll commit to daily practice, thorough preparation and rehearsal with your birth companion so that, on your birthing day, all you have to do is BIRTH. The techniques will come to you naturally, and you’ll have learned to rely upon your intuition to guide your actions and choices.

To illustrate it another way, using hypnosis to prepare for childbirth is like practicing yoga to prepare for a marathon or other physical feat of endurance. The yoga will help train your mind and muscles for the work you are about to do, but you won’t necessarily be doing yoga as you cross the finish line! Similarly, we use the hypnosis to condition and re-program your mind and body for a healthy, positive birth. If you eat a healthy diet in preparation for labor, then you benefit from those healthy choices on your birthing day. If you exercise and keep your body fit during pregnancy, then you have the benefit of a strong, flexible body during labor. If you prepare mentally and emotionally for your birth using these techniques, then you benefit from that training during your birthing time, no matter how the journey unfolds. We don’t want to tell women what they “ought to do” in labor. Women should feel prepared and empowered to adapt their birthing techniques to whatever the situation calls for in that unique moment. Your body KNOWS.

Doing hypnobirthing is a little like learning to play a musical instrument. I could tell you how to play the piano in ten minutes, but it wouldn’t mean you could do it. If you went to lessons, you would progress. But if you practiced between the lessons, you would progress much faster. For some people, reading a book and listening to a relaxation CD is sufficient, but for most people it is not, and they need to do the whole course with a teacher. But nobody can say, until you have your baby, which category you are in. Hypnobirthing is made up of a lot of simple little things, because you can’t be doing with complicated things when you’re giving birth. But put together they make a very big difference. The more you practice the things I suggest, the better the outcome.

Katharine Graves

Two of my own births were so fast that I had little time to do many of the hypnosis techniques I had learned. But I didn’t need them. Mostly, I just breathed and followed my birthing instincts. Thanks to my prenatal hypnosis practice, I had already released all the fear and built all the confidence I needed for my birth to unfold as nature intended. Some of our moms listen to their relaxation recordings throughout their labors. Others use the hypnosis only to prepare mentally and emotionally for birth, and then use active relaxation, affirmations, birth instinct anchoring, deep breathing, endorphin massage, acupressure and counter-pressure as coping skills to get them through the journey.

It works either way. The goal is for mind and body will be so thoroughly prepared for labor that you’ll receive the benefits of your daily practice, no matter what happens on your birthing day.