For those of us new to the topic, what is hypnotherapy?
Hypnotherapy is the therapeutic use of hypnosis. Hypnosis is an altered state of the mind similar to the day dreaming state which provides us the access to our own subconscious mind. The benefit of accessing this part of the mind is, we can change our own perception, therefore we can change our beliefs. A belief is a powerful thing which triggers certain behaviors (some wanted and some unwanted).
For example, it is accepted to the eyes of the society that a delivery should be a painful moment with all the screaming movie scenes we have watched over the years. It is a belief, an idea we accepted to be true. If a woman expects the delivery to be painful, she feels fear during childbirth, her body releases stress hormones that trigger the body’s “fight or flight” response. This causes muscles to tighten and interferes with the birthing process.
When a woman prepares for childbirth with hypnosis (hypnobirthing), she prepares to replace fear and expectations of pain with confident expectations of a safe, gentle – even comfortable – birth.
How is hypnosis applied to pregnancy, delivery and postpartum?
Hypnotherapy can help at many stages of pregnancy, delivery and postpartum.
People often refer to hypnosis as meditation with a goal. We enter a very high state of focus and can help connect better with the baby, sending the baby true feelings of love and a sense of belonging, which is one of the most basic needs for human beings.
Hypnosis helps the mother to relax her mind and also her body, her muscles. This relaxation is felt by the baby and delivers a sense of serenity and peace.
Hypnosis could be used, as well, as a tool to help flip a breech baby. I was once requested to do it together with an osteopath colleague; she used osteopathy while the mother was in the hypnotic state. The experience was not only fabulous for the mother, but also for the osteopath as she had a better feeling of the baby’s position through her hands.
Pregnancy is the moment to prepare for a comfortable delivery, and hypnotherapy helps train the subconscious mind by visualizing the delivery in a calm and serene way. The mother can easily control the state of her mind allowing for a smoother birth.
Women and their partners are also taught a new vocabulary to describe birth, to break the traditional association of birth with pain. For instance, women may call a contraction a surge or refer to dilation as blossoming.
We now know that what’s expected tends to manifest! The expectation of pain is more likely to provide pain, the expectation of ease is more likely to provide ease.
Hypnosis is one amazing tool to deliver ease to a birthing woman. A woman using hypnosis may concentrate on the sound of her deep breathing, taking her further into a hypnotic state, and visualize her baby easing downward with each breath.
You can be an active part of the process and help to create an environment where everybody can be calm. It is possible for all to proceed with the delivery in a calm way rather than perceive it as a painful moment where the baby is seen as a source of pain.
The postpartum is another opportunity for the mind and body to relax, and as the body recovers, it is truly asking to be relaxed (parasympathetic nervous system). It is a moment when the mother connects with her baby. A mom at ease will give her baby a very different look after the delivery, compared to a mom with a difficult delivery. The pride, the strength in her eyes is something the baby will pick up on. Training the mind will bring consistency in the emotions as well.
Why are more and more patients turning to these kind of practices in pregnancy and postpartum?
From what I see in my practice, and the feedback I get from the people who come to see me, they are turning more to alternative medicine because they feel a gap has formed from the doctor/patient relationship. The missing part that all human beings are seeking is a real human connection. They share that they wish they had more time to be heard, and seen for what they are going through.
Unfortunately, delivery rooms are made to facilitate the work of doctors and not the comfort of the mothers. Babies enter the world from a warm, humid, deemed cozy environment to a cold, neon lite hospital room. Even the position of the delivering woman was designed to facilitate the doctors’ work. More and more people want to go back to the basics, to what really makes sense to them.
In what ways have you helped pregnant women prepare for birth?
I intervene to teach both parents the natural power of their mind. We work together to not only imagine they can control their perceptions and expectations, but we make it happen to a point where they feel it in their body. Being able to affect parts of their body gives the mothers the necessary confidence to be part of the delivery and to decide how calm they want to be on the big day.
I help them connect and deliver the needed emotions to their babies through relaxation techniques. We go through the basic human needs to ensure they feel love which will generate confidence, and sense of belonging etc.
In what ways have you provided tools for women to bring to their birth?
The best tool anyone can give a women to bring to their birth is peace of mind. Knowing everything is going to be as she expects it to be. Pregnancy and delivery is often a mixture of joy, fear and apprehension. When she experiences joy together with calm, serenity, control, confidence, she is equipped to facilitate the work of the medical team, her experience and of course the baby’s experience. The baby finally gets to see the love of their parents through their own little eyes.
How have your practices served new parents?
We very often develop trauma during our childhood, and most of the time, no one was even aware of it. It wasn’t intended of course but yet it occurred. Life brings along numerous events that can either create comfort, reassurance, confidence or feeling of being not good enough, not lovable etc. The outcome often depends on the manner the situation was handled by the parents. These moments are important to reassure the child that they are loved, and that they belong in this family and the world.
We study to work, we learn to drive, but we do not learn anything about natural occurrences such as how to handle emotions, how to become a good parent etc. Knowing the basics about the emotions, and what happens in the human mind when they take an action, or when they speak, helps the parents feel more comfortable about their parenting.
Sylvain Coulon is a Certified Medical Support Hypnotherapist, with a private practice in Central Park South, New York City.
Sylvain sources his own happiness in helping people using their mind to reach their goals.
A Fellow of the International Board of Hypnotherapy (accredited by NIH), Sylvain shares his expertise and speaks about hypnosis at symposiums, radio shows and conferences, including Harvard. Sylvain recently received the 2018 New York Award for best Hypnotherapy Service.
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