Hypnosis for pregnancy and childbirth

(10) into a guided journey through labor. Overall, I strive to create a subjective experience of having already mastered the birth process.

Women who have engaged in this form of hypnosis report that phrases and images from the hypnotic experience reemerge during labor. Many laboring women even feel that they are "reliving" the birth. My belief is that the sensation aroused by the hypnotic birth journey becomes encoded in the nervous system through the brain's memory tracings, and that the suggestions for coping with labor and birth become activated by the physiological processes themselves.

Whereas some forms of hypnotherapy involve dissociation from bodily experience, body-centered hypnosis deepens a woman's bodily sensation, taking her into a focused experience of physiological processes. Body-centered hypnotic suggestions are communicated, through a variety of images and sensations, to the visual, auditory and somasthetic cortices of the brain. Here, I believe, the images and sensations that carry sufficient emotional impact trigger the release of acetylcholine (a neurotransmitter involved in the formation of memories) through the hippocampus and into long-term memory storage. Later, the physical processes of the developing pregnancy and labor activate these hypnotic messages. If anxieties have been addressed successfully in hypnosis, then maternal anxiety lessens and labor is more likely to progress smoothly.

Hence, body-centered hypnosis mediates a woman's fears about childbirth and motherhood through bodily sensation and physical memory - and the effects are observable. Provided that pain has been adequately addressed, the flow of oxytocin during labor tends to be sustained and the ejectory reflex remains largely unimpeded. In addition, some birthing women retain a conscious awareness of the hypnotic messages given. Others do not; yet, upon recall, they will repeat a phrase or two, demonstrating that the messages have become an intrinsic part of their birthing experience. One woman reported the following recollection soon after her second birth: "And so 'straight down and out he came' (a phrase from her hypnosis session, used to help counteract the effect of her previous posterior birth) in a two-hour labor."

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