hypnobirthing and epidurals

Can you have a hypnobirth if you want an epidural?

Hey, you beautiful pregnant person! (Yes, you!)

As the person giving birth, it’s always you who ultimately calls the shots. You can have anything you want for your birth! Landing here on HelloBirth means you’ve come to the right place to find out if you can have a hypnobirth if you’ve also requested an epidural.

To put a finer point on it, you may be wondering if hypnobirthing means you’re guaranteed a quiet, “zen” birth. You may be wondering if a desire to minimize interventions means you’re in some way compromising safety. We will address both of those common questions.

In this post, we’ll focus on epidural safety.

Everyone wants a safe birth. That’s a given. Safety means different things to different people. To a healthcare professional attempting to practice according to evidence, this can mean controlling for as many factors as possible, which is a noble goal. What this can lead to is something in the research world known as “number needed to treat.” For example, this means that more than 400 inductions must occur in order to prevent 1 adverse outcome.

Let’s first clear the air a bit about epidurals.

The epidural is an incredibly useful tool which carries some benefits. As with anything, it also carries some risks.

While somewhat anecdotal in nature, here are some of the lesser-known truths about epidurals:

  • When speaking to individuals who’ve given birth more than once, some of those who’ve experienced both a medicated and an unmedicated birth say they prefer unmedicated, due to increased feelings of physical control over the process, as well as feelings of euphoria provided by hormones released by spontaneously occurring uterine activity and the resulting physical processes.
  • Sometimes the opposite is true. Some individuals feel more in control emotionally (and therefore physically) when they choose to give birth with an epidural. 

As for the clinical side of epidurals, here are a few key points:

  • The most common direct side-effect of an epidural is a drop in blood pressure. This is generally temporary and counteracted by adding another medicine to the IV to mitigate the effect, minimizing resulting risk to the baby.
  • The most common indirect side-effect of an epidural is the loss of physical control due to numbness and inability to walk and move. The benefit of gravity in moving the baby lower into the pelvis is lost, at least more so than with unmedicated birth.
  • Using an epidural means the following additional interventions are either mandatory or much more common:
    • IV fluids (mandatory)
    • Urinary catheter (mandatory)
    • Continuous fetal monitoring (mandatory)
    • Pitocin (more common)
    • Vacuum extraction / forceps / episiotomy (somewhat more common)

So as you can see, the choice to use an epidural is not exactly straightforward at all times. If it were, it would be a much easier decision to make, since epidurals do provide the most reliable form of pain relief.

As it stands, approximately 85% of birthing individuals use an epidural. And as a result, healthcare professionals in Labor & Delivery are accustomed to the clinical profile that comes with it. This doesn’t always leave a lot of time to explore or support alternatives, a product of their working environment. 

Of course the biggest reason people use epidurals is the fear of pain.

This common fear of pain in childbirth is something HelloBirth classes address head on. Not only does HelloBirth provide a huge opportunity to identify and work through fears associated with childbirth, we also provide hands-on techniques to actually change the brain’s interpretations of birthing sensations! 

HelloBirth participants learn the tools to experience birth in the moment as something much more positive than what they would be experiencing without this approach. Sounds a little too good to be true, right? Here’s a little research to begin building your confidence: Hypnotherapy in management of delivery pain: a review

HelloBirth believes strongly in a well-rounded approach which includes:

  • The use of clinical-grade techniques, the same ones used specifically for pain in the field of hypnotherapy.
  • The benefit of birthing classes across the board, for birth partners and birth-givers: knowledge, relationship building, and daily practice. This is a powerful prescription for increased satisfaction.
  • The benefit of working with a doula (birth support professional), ideally with some training as a hypno-doula, to support you every step of the way.

The ultimate goal of HelloBirth is to help individuals and their support system experience birth with more ease. We want the same things you want.

That means if you plan to get an epidural, we support your decision to attend a HelloBirth class to gain even more tools to manage your birth.

That means if you don’t plan to get an epidural but ultimately change your mind, we support you and we want to hear your story!

That means if you don’t plan to get an epidural and you succeed in having the birth that you’d planned for, we support you and we want to hear your story!

End of story! 

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