How to snooze through labor

The New York Times reports that an increasing number of moms to be are trying hypnosis.


Page Rockwell
April 28, 2006 2:47AM (UTC)

This week's Thursday Styles section of the New York Times has a fun piece on mothers who manage labor pain with hypnosis. Noting that hypnotherapy these days is less "someone swinging a pendant" and "really more about meditation and getting yourself into a calm, relaxed state," the Times nevertheless plays up the campy angle by titling the piece "You're in Labor, and Getting Sleeeeepy." In fact, the story suggests women who'd like to get some shuteye in the delivery room should book some hypnotherapy sessions pronto.

"I was so relaxed that I slept through the first stage of labor," says Kelly Yeiser of Ashville, N.C.

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And, the Times reports, "Jennifer Macris, 38, of Annapolis, Md., said that during the three-hour labor for her baby, born on March 26, she listened to a HypnoBirthing CD through headphones. She was so calm that nurses asked her husband, Jeff, if she was sleeping.

"'There was no pain,' she said. 'I felt a bit of pressure, and the baby was out. There was only a little tear that required one stitch.'"

What's cool about these accounts of hypno-birth bliss -- in addition to its being great that these woman had such positive experiences -- is that they challenge the media-fed perception that all births look the same. Thinking of labor as an individual process, with the various positions, durations and feelings being specific to each woman, might help prevent the potentially self-fulfilling prophecy that women must labor on their backs and in great pain.

The flip side, though, is that the mind-over-matter approach may not work for all moms; the appeal of meditating one's way through labor shouldn't prevent optimistic mothers to be from making some backup plans. To its credit, the Times acknowledges this point, quoting hypno-birth-friendly obstetrician Jeffrey Siegel clarifying that "women should not be set up to feel that they've failed if they can't follow through to a totally natural delivery."


Page Rockwell

Page Rockwell is Salon's editorial project manager.

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