How do I know that my hypnobirthing practice is working?
By Sophie Fletcher
Sophie Fletcher is the author of ‘Mindful Hypnobirthing’, founder of Mindful Mamma birth classes and lectures regularly on the use of hypnosis and mindfulness for birth. @mindfulmamma facebook.com/mindfulmamma
So you’ve read a hypnobirthing book, done the class, you’re doing your hypnobirthing practise and listening to your mp3s every night. Or at least you think you are. You make yourself comfortable, put them on and wham, then the next thing you know is that you wake up. You may feel warm and fuzzy, perhaps a little bit like you’ve been asleep. You can’t remember anything, your partner says “you sounded like you were asleep”, you may think, ‘this is pointless, it’s not working’.
STOP, let go of the need to analyse it and trust that your hypnobirthing practise it is working. It’s most likely that you are not asleep. When we go into a very deep state of hypnosis it can feel like sleep, we may act like we are asleep. Once in a class of 10 people, everyone went so deeply into hypnosis that they looked as if they were asleep, even some were snoring. When I gave the command for them to come up out of hypnosis, everyone did. Although they couldn’t remember what I’d said, and most felt as it they had been asleep, they obviously weren’t as every single person responded to the hypnotic suggestion “come back to the room awake and alert”.
Even if you are asleep it is still working. This is why. Your unconscious is always listening out, even when asleep. We have evolved to be alert to changes in our environment even when we are in a state of sleep. This is an evolutionary survival instinct.
Many years ago I was at a hypnosis conference where Tom Nicoli, a well known US hypnotist used this description.
“Imagine that you are in your bed, tucked up, warm, comfortable, safe and there is a huge thunderstorm. You wake up the next morning, amazed that you slept through it. The truth is you had no need to wake up, you knew you were secure and safe. On the other hand, if your toddler were to walk up to your side of the bed in the middle of the night when you are deep asleep and whisper, “mummy, mummy,” you would be awake straightaway, a bit drowsy maybe but awake”.
So the first rule of hypnobirthing is to trust that your unconscious is listening to the suggestions and making changes that they are expected to and that are consistent with your intentions around birth.
Sometimes I feel really awake and my mind is wandering.
Sometimes women, go into a much lighter state and although this is more unusual, they will tell me that they hear everything, may not feel particularly relaxed and start to question if it’s really working. Relax, let go of the myths around deep or light hypnosis states. I frequently have people in my practice who claim they were never in hypnosis but still make profound changes. Depth of trance state is not an indicator of whether it’s working.
“When I do my hypnobirthing practise I don’t feel any different, is it working?”.
If this is happening to you, let go of ‘trying’ to make it work, or worrying that it isn’t and go with it. Keep practicing. All repetitive hypnobirthing practise is conditioning.
However you react to hypnosis, your body will be conditioning a response to the background music, the words, and the voice on the MP3. It may not be always obvious that this is happening, but it does. Your muscles react positively by letting go of tension, without your conscious mind even needing to know about it.
This is a description from someone who had been doing their hypnobirthing practise for 2 weeks.
Just wanted to share with you the experience I had tonight with hypnobirthing. Usually I listen to my tracks (following the mindful hypnobirthing programme with Sophie Fletcher) in the bath, or going to bed at night. I have never found myself in anything more than a very deep state of relaxation or asleep. Nothing I would describe as trance like or anything approaching hypnosis. I thought that’s all I’d ever get to and that I’d not ever experience anything else so I always wondered secretly how effective it would be come labour…TILL TONIGHT. I relaxed, hot myself comfy, hit play on the iPod and breathed deeply. Within about a minute when she spoke about feeling the warmth of the Sun on you, I could feel what I can only describe as a warm glowing peaceful wave very very gradually sweeping down from my head to my feet.
Very slowly, as it did my whole body became light and limp. The next thing I was actively aware of was the fact I was barely breathing (I’m guessing that’s because when you’re that deeply relaxed your muscles etc stop requiring as much oxygen so you need the smallest amount?) but as I became aware of that, I was back in again. I was definitely not asleep, this was an altogether different beast. I then came back to awareness properly just before (10 seconds maybe) she started the count UP back into full consciousness. But even then I CHOSE not to return properly and carried on listening to the 3rd track (pregnancy affirmations) of which I was aware of it starting but can’t now recall more. The next thing I was aware of was hubby coming in the bedroom but still I CHOSE not to open my eyes till he was on the bed bedside me, gently stroking my arm back into reality. Even now I’m feeling quite spacey and oh so chilled. But not sleepy, just have oxytocin in my veins making me want to cuddle up with hubby. I think this was a turning point and shows that even if you end up falling asleep (deliberately because it’s bedtime or just because you’re tired and it helps you relax), your body and mind are practising the techniques.
Things to you can do when you do your hypnobirthing practise
- Make sure that you are doing your hypnobirthing practise regularly
- Do your hypnobirthing practise in different rooms at home at different times of the day
- If your mind wanders don’t fight it, let it
- Trust that the conditioning works. It does!
- You are in control of allowing yourself to go into hypnosis.
- If you feel anxious starting out. Take it one step at a time, get a rhythmic breath, maybe listen with your eyes open. Then close them on a day when you feel comfortable and just go with it
- Remember your unconscious will always bring you back to the room if it needs to
I’d love to hear your experiences of practising with hypnosis and things that you think would be useful to share with others.