Ecstatic Birth is not Hypnobirthing

Ecstatic Birth is not Hypnobirthing

I often get asked; Ecstatic Birth, is that like hypnobirthing?

No, not really from what I can tell. The emphasis with hypnobirthing seems to be on minimalising the intensity of birth. Instead of contractions, we’ll call them waves or surges. We won’t mention the words pain or fear, but instead focus on the positive. But my experience in hypnobirthing is limited to having heard a few tapes and doing a fair amount of plain old hypnosis. I may have this completely wrong and if that is the case, I’d love to hear from any practitioners/mothers who can enlighten me.

Throughout pregnancy and particularly when a woman enters the altered state of labour, releasing hormones, endorphins and even the psychedelic chemical DMT, any underlying fears and negative beliefs can start to manifest in the environment around her. If she has been avoiding these fears by focusing only on what is positive and affirming, she may get railroaded by them. Ecstatic Birth is about addressing fear at the root cause, (which is the impact of her own birth and the beliefs she has taken on about birth and life).

Women who prepare ecstatically, using Binnie Dansby’s approach, look forward to birth as an opportunity to experience their life energy in full technicolour. Some crazy folks invest a lot in getting a rush from paragliding, base jumping or mountain climbing. Here we have this amazing opportunity for exhilaration and empowerment available to us in a normal family event. More importantly, it is an opportunity for profound and fast-track healing of our core wounds that stem from the way we were welcomed to this world.

Hypnobirthing seems to be more about being ‘in control’ and staying calm, than relishing the opportunity to experience and surrender to these higher and higher levels of life energy.

 

I used to listen to these tapes to prepare for the birth. My partner would be fast asleep and I’d be lying there twitching and feeling anxious. Hypnobirthing didn’t address the fear and I didn’t feel calm!”

A mother discussing her first pregnancy

 

During an ecstatic labour, you would actively welcome the intensity. Really allowing and making use of the sensations, rather than concentrating the mind elsewhere. What this means is letting ourselves feel it; letting it expand even if it becomes overwhelming. And just noticing all those feelings with attentive curiosity, yet without taking them too seriously. What are they saying to you?

Another thing we encourage is that the woman keeps expressing how she is feeling, usually between contractions. Verbalising “I’m feeling scared” can be much more useful than allowing her mind, in isolation, to spiral into the fear. She chooses the breath rather than getting involved with emotions that come up. This is a powerful act of autonomy over her fears and conditioning. It says ‘I won’t get involved with these feelings, I get to be in charge of where I direct my energy and I choose to breathe right now.’ Making eye contact with a supporter breaks the illusion of isolation and the belief that ‘I have to do this by myself.’

To the untrained eye an Ecstatic Birth may appear a lot like a couple is using hypnobirthing. One midwife who was at a birth I supported decided to go on and train in hypnobirthing, assuming that was the influence. The mother will be relaxed, possibly chatting between contractions, taking it all in her stride. The difference is she is able to do so because she’s done deep work in preparation that leaves her mostly unafraid and any fears that do come up will be easily expressed and supported.

Often birth is painless or orgasmic when a woman approaches it in this way. She is safe with the energy of birth. Fear is what causes pain and without it, birth is designed to be immensely pleasurable. However Ecstatic Birth is not about having ‘the perfect birth.’ It is about being present with whatever comes up. There will always be echoes back to a couple’s birth and systemic imprint. The more they heal these, the less messily, dramatically and intensely they will show up. By using the immense creative energy available, it is possible to heal these echoes deeply. It may not always be possible to heal so much at a particular point in time that the experience is blissful. Yet if there is pain she still has a choice about how to react to it.

During my first labour I started saying “It hurts” and switched from a powerful, ecstatic place to being in victim consciousness. Predictably the labour became scary from that point and I gave up a lot of my power. The next time round, (which was mostly painless and felt delicious) there was one point where I was tempted to express “It hurts” and I forced myself to instead say “mashed potatoes.” I wasn’t denying the experience of pain, just making a choice not to get involved. “Mashed potatoes” meant fuck yes that was painful and big deal, who gives a shit really? I didn’t. Other powerful words to say are “yes” and “thank you”, especially when you don’t feel like saying them.

Undoubtedly hypnobirthing works for many women. I think there is definitely a place for tools that support those who aren’t willing or able at that point to face some of the scary deeper issues. As a culture we tend to shy away from what’s real and go for a glossed over, safe version. Its an illusion that it’s safer to avoid the hard stuff though. I have seen women getting to a certain point with hypnobirthing and then losing it and screaming for drugs. The real safety comes from addressing why she’s so terrified.

 

14 Comments

  1. Brilliant brilliant article! So happy to read this… this is so how I am instinctively working with the woman that I come into contact with.
    We do some deep relaxation sessions where mums are invited to make contact with their fears and embrace them. Recognise them for what they are and celebrate the understanding. We also do sessions on positive visualisation and having a space to celebrate what will come. I do use hypnotherapy techniques to achieve the relaxed state of mind!
    It’s so empowering to read someone else’s perception of fear and emotion in the birth room and it be so similar to my own.
    Thank you very much <3

    Reply
    • Yes Hanna, relaxation is always great! And I love that you are welcoming in the fear. Much safer that way. R xxx

      Reply
  2. Thank you for this – very inspiring. Would love to hear more about your “painless and delicious” labour please 🙂

    Reply
  3. I’m always suspect of a paradigm that must criticize and judge another approach and tout their own as “better”. Literally millions of women have benefited greatly from hypnosis for labor and delivery since the 1940’s. Ecstatic birthing may be for some, and hypnosis for others. Isn’t it wonderful to have many quality options.

    Reply
    • Hi Robert,
      I absolutely agree and my intention was not to portray Ecstatic Birth as better; just to debunk the confusion that it is the same thing and raise my concerns that hypnosis based approaches might not be adequately addressing the root cause of fears. I have since heard from several practitioners who say they do work on the systemic and pre/perinatal imprint, which is wonderful. As I say Ecstatic Birth will only appeal to a minority and it’s great that other options are available.

      Reply
  4. Hi Roma, I wanted to share some feedback on your article and comment here that Hypnobirthing absolutely embodies and supports a mother for an ecstatic birthing experience!!! The Hypnobirthing Australia program I teach by no means minimalises the power and intensity of birth. We teach women to surrender and let go to the innate power and wisdom of their birthing body and achieve this with a toolkit of processes that educate and empower mums to be able to release fears, subconscious, conditioned and at the cellular level of their being and be prepared to calmly meet whatever turn their birth journey takes. I also had two delicious pain free transformational births, using hypnobirthing as preparation and by no means felt that I was setting myself up for failure and I birthed in joy and surrender both times! There is no suggestion in the hypnobirthing program I teach that birth won’t be intense, challenging or indeed that it won’t be painful. Like you have noted, it is all about assisting mum to translate the sensations of labour e.g. does it have to be painful or is it pleasurable ?.Hypnotherapy is the ultimate way to do this, new beliefs about one’s ability to give birth, the sensations of labour etc created through conditioning are able to impress upon old beliefs/subconscious and inherited fears, and create new neural networks and a positive expectation that is there for mums when they give birth. During a hypnobirthing labour, every surge is welcomed as it brings baby closer, an affirmation I created for myself was ” I experience my surges as only pressure” and through conditioning that is all they felt like both births. Hypnobirthing is not about having ” the perfect birth” it is about knowing that you no matter what comes up for you spiritually, emotionally or physically during your birth , you felt empowered and pleased with the decisions you made and that you were fully present to the experience. This is a common misconception when using hypnosis, that you are not being mindful as you are in your “own world”. This couldn’t be further from the truth, hypnobirthing is an extremely lucid experience, we teach mothers to welcome and be totally present to their surging body, why say surges? because birth is a cosmic dance of expansion, not contraction, it makes sense and assists mums to open up if they are expanding into the harmonic experience of birth , rather than thinking they are contracting, I hope this dispels some of your assertions about hypnobirthing, many a hypnobirthing mum has experienced an ecstatic birth , love KK xxx

    Reply
    • Thanks KK for your share – very interesting

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    • Hi Katie,
      Thank you. I love your passion and dedication. Sounds like you are doing great work. I’m so pleased that you experienced two blissful births. It has been really interesting to hear from many hypno practitioners, from different approaches. As I said, my experience is minimal and I have only been able to go by what I’d witnessed. Perhaps some of this has been skewed by less bona fide versions available. It sounds like it has worked really well for you and your clients. I’m still feeling that there’s more of a sense of training yourself to believe a certain thing with hypno, rather than just being with whatever is coming up and yet making a choice to direct your energy in a powerful way. It feels more like positive thinking. What do you think? Either way, I’m glad women can benefit from the full-hearted support offered by folks like you. Thank you for reading and offering me more insight into what you do. Roma x

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  5. I agree adressing what is fearing the women is the number issue that needs to be addressed, gaining birth skills so things don’t get out of control, As a hypo instuctor I feel very strongly about women feeling in control expressing with movement body poisoning and breathing to allow the energy to move freely letting of tenesion that creates discomfort, I also work as a Doula and when a women is screaming, expressing fear this is not shifting it and her time of birth is no place to start looking at why she is terrified.
    if she’s scared her baby is scared hmm best to resolve/address this prior to labour day, then she can have her ecstatic birth indeed! I know I felt so bad screaming at my first birth and my baby screaming then for hours after I must have scared the crap out of him and his startle reflex was ridiculous this also effects how baby feels about its world its first impression .. I get that expressing your self is important Im a mother of four but give me a calm happy gentle birth apposed to a screaming out of control one ending not how one has planned any day.. our system unfortunately doesn’t cater to out of control mums having a drug free expereince they don’t go hand in hand..not in 2015 any way.

    Reply
    • Yes absolutely, the earlier the preparation can be done (ideal pre conception!) the better. I don’t think it’s so much the screaming that affects babies, but the fear that is causing her to feel so out of control and the stress hormones released. Thanks for sharing. x

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  6. Hey Roma, yes there is definitely conditioning training as part of the process of embracing hypnobirthing. The blessing of the training comes the fostering of the knowing, the belief in self and the ability to release fear that sees hypno mums go into their births with exactly the skills to powerfully be with whatever comes up! Not all women are able to embrace their true selves and walk in the light of their soul before they become pregnant or mother’s, many are unprepared for the transition to parenthood. The hypno course material gives them the opportunity to consciously connect with baby , their body , their partner and their vision for the birth and journey to parenthood. In my opinion, this makes a significant impact on the way they can adapt and be present to their birthing experience. I have known many mothers who have thought they will just be with whatever happens during birth , who have ended up having extremely traumatic and highly interventionist births. This is why I teach hypnobirthing as it prepares all mother’s, no matter their level of self empowerment and their companions with skills, mindset and practical information on the protocols employed by the models of care they have chosen to birth with , which as we know is so important today as the power to birth naturally and unmedicated is slowly being undermined. I definitely agree that other versions of hypnobirthing can project unrealistic expectations of the birth process, our Hypnobirthing Australia is not one of those, it is a pleasure to teach and empower families with our information. Great to interact and share our love for birth, love KK xxx

    Reply
    • I listened to a gorgeous cd from an Aussie woman during my second labour. One of her affirmations was something like “This is the time to ask for exactly what you need”. That was when I threw everyone out of the house! I will always be grateful to her, I would have been caught up in not wanting to disappoint anyone, she was like an angel in that moment. Thanks so much for telling me more about what you do, great to connect x

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  7. I teach HypnoBirthing (the International Mongan Method) and I encourage my women to roar like lions if they want to! I certainly do not teach that they stay calm and stay in control. All HypnoBirthing women are educated to know they must let go, relax and surrender to the birth process for their body to open.

    I also teach my women to express their fears throughout. And the hypnosis sessions during the five week course addresses root fears about past births and negative birth beliefs from other sources.

    The reason positive affirmations are used, is because as the OLD beliefs and fears are being addressed, it is important to reprogram new neuronal activity and positive affirmations can assist the woman to set aside old fears and bring in positive attitudes of trust for birth into her brain.

    We call contractions surges – not to “minimize” birth! But to more accurately describe the interplay of muscle action and cervix opening. Contraction just infers the tightening part of the action.

    From what I have read I would say that ecstatic birth and HypnoBirthing are extremely similar – which is a great thing for women – since the more programs following these great methods and philosophies – the better!

    Reply
    • Wonderful Natalie! It has been such a joy to hear from so many practitioners doing wonderful things. I feel so grateful there are such devoted supporters of birth out there. xxx

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