| Maren Hennemuth |
BERLIN (dpa) – Agreeing to go under hypnosis while you give birth does not convert you into a zombie controlled by the hypnotist, says Claudia Mueffler, a midwife who works at the St Sixtus Hospital near the German city of Dortmund.
Mueffler offers hyponosis for mothers eager to reduce their pain and fear. They can remember everything afterwards including labour. “It’s a state of deep relaxation, somewhere between consciousness and sleep,” explains Mueffler.
“Many birthing women compare the experience of a hypnotic trance with the pleasant state just before you fall asleep,” adds Helga Huesken-Janssen, president of the German Society for Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy (DGH).
Hypnosis has long been used in hospitals.
“Self-hypnosis can be an effective measure to reduce tension and fear during labour,” agrees Ulrich Freitag, board member of the Occupational Union of Gynaecologists (BVF). But proper instruction beforehand is key.
Mueffler learnt her technique at a 40-hour course of training with a hypnotherapist. Women are taught to link certain things with relaxation so that they can reach that state on their own.
Instead of a hypnotist’s conventional pendulum, Mueffler uses her hand.
“I hold my finger over their forehead and they have to focus their eyes on it without lifting their heads. The women learn to let themselves fall and feel warmth and weight at the same time.”
As part of the preparation for a birth under hypnosis, women undergo practice “labour”.
The DGH is sceptical about midwives who have learned the skill on a crash course.
It advises that only qualified hypnotherapists should be trusted, meaning those who have a certificate from a respected hypnosis body which guarantees that the therapist has completed proper training.
The BVF is even stricter, cautioning that therapeutic hypnosis should only be carried out by qualified psychotherapists or doctors.
Because, according to Freitag, there is always the risk that if a woman completes just one course of hypnosis before giving birth, hoping to activate her strengths, a session could instead “stir up extremely unpleasant feelings and experiences”.
Those who have previously suffered a psychological illness such as depression are not eligible for hypnosis at St Sixtus Hospital.
“We look very carefully at the medical history of the woman,” insists midwife Mueffler.
There have been few studies of the effect of hypnosis during labour. But initial results show that hypnosis reduces fear and means women need fewer painkillers, says gynaecologist Joscha Reinhard of the St Marien Hospital in the city of Frankfurt.
A German mother, Marion Schulze-Efting, reports she learned the hypnosis method during her pregnancy.
During preparation, the hypnotherapist always used certain key words.
“Then, when the midwife told me that the cervix was open, I automatically went into a state of trance,” she says, adding that she had not been afraid.
But does the technique work in cases were the hospital staff have not been trained in it?
Berlin midwife Jana Friedrich, who has worked with women who have taken hypnotherapy courses before giving birth, has her doubts.
“I had a feeling they were just running through a list in their heads of how the birth ought to proceed,” she says.