Through a five-week series of classes, HypnoBirthing aims to provide what mothers have been seeking through the centuries — relaxation and control during childbirth.
Fairly new to Salem, HypnoBirthing educator Liz Williams holds a master’s degree in Social Work and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She became a certified hypnotherapist after using HypnoBirthing techniques while giving birth in Colorado to her daughter, Marin, in 2012.
“I used hypnosis, and it worked. Naturally, I wanted to practice what I preached,” she said.
She received her hypnotherapy training and has been offering birthing and weight-loss classes using the fundamentals of self-hypnosis for about one year in Salem.
“(Being) a LCSW … I was immediately inspired to become a certified HypnoBirthing Childbirth Educator. In Salem, where there was no HypnoBirthing class, couples were driving to Portland to take HypnoBirthing classes.”
But, HypnoBirthing is not the same as hypnosis performed by actors on stage dangling a pocket watch, telling an audience volunteer to quack like a duck when a bell rings.
HypnoBirthing is science that starts with education, teaching relaxation techniques and ongoing practice. Williams leads her classes in the open gathering area of the repurposed house that is home to Silverton Health Midwifery & Women’s Wellness in Salem. Some HypnoBirthing moms also are patients of those midwives, while some will have a physician assist with the birth.
Williams said, “It is about giving birth back to the moms. The mom decides how the birth will go.
“We spend time dispelling the myths and fears of childbirth,” Williams said. “During the classes, we sit in a circle. There is a lot of talking, breathing work, visualizations and (verbal) affirmations. … It’s practice, a lot of practice.”
Each class features five sessions of 2½ hours each, held over a five-week period. Typically, the birth mother attends with the birth partner.
Orlando and Veronica Bravo attended HypnoBirthing classes last year during their pregnancy. “It definitely gave me peace of mind,” Orlando said. “It helped me be calm through the process. Being our first baby, you get tense. You get nervous. You don’t know what to expect.”
They certainly didn’t expect their daughter, Dahlia, to be a celebrity as the first baby born at the Silverton Hospital Family Birth Center in 2014.
The Woodburn couple came upon HypnoBirthing by chance. While Veronica was looking at childbirth books at Portland’s famed Powell’s Books, she saw a selection about HypnoBirthing. Wanting to have a natural birthing process, she was open to the idea. Later that same evening during her pre-natal yoga class, she learned some calming methods found through self-hypnosis.
With those two brushes with the science of merging hypnosis with childbirth, Veronica returned home and researched HypnoBirthing online. She found a listing for Williams’ classes in Salem.
“It just stood out to me,” Veronica said. “It goes back to the basics. It’s not a new-age method. It’s biological and natural. … It’s relaxation and breathing. A lot of it is getting over the fears (of childbirth).”
She added, “The class gave us the confidence that we already know our body and our body knows what to do.”
To reinforce that knowledge, whenever she veered off track, they used the affirmation, “I’ll have a smooth, easy birth.”
Nicholas and Melissa Barwig also chose HypnoBirthing when they were preparing for the arrival of their first child, Stella, who was born in Salem on Jan. 26. They were in the same five-week class as the Bravos. They first saw Williams’ brochure for HypnoBirthing while visiting their certified midwife for prenatal care at Silverton Health Midwifery & Women’s Wellness
“Doing (HypnoBirthing), we are actually going back to how birth was supposed to be,” Melissa said.
Nicholas said their key word was “relax.” He and Melissa would follow that verbal statement with a cleansing breath or a light-touch massage on the shoulder. Nicholas said, “That’s all it took.”
“We empower women and their partners in the birthing process,” Williams said. “The partner’s voice becomes a natural trigger for relaxation once the techniques are learned and practiced.”
Nicholas said Stella seemed to carry her parents’ relaxation during and after her birth: “She seemed not super stressed. And I was not stressed.”
Melissa said, “If we hadn’t been taught those things, we wouldn’t have been able to get that relaxed.”
Williams explains that when the body is tense, it produces more adrenaline, which furthers a pain response. Relaxation brings on more endorphins and a resulting pain relief.
“Studies have shown that through hypnosis,” she said, “you work through two levels of the mind, the conscious and subconscious.”
What: Five-week classes offered about three times each year, though more may be scheduled if enough interest. Private sessions are available.
Cost: Class is $226 with required early registration
Online: Go to salmoncreekcounseling.com for more information and registration.
In addition to the HypnoBirthing classes, Liz Williams also is gearing up for her “Achieve Weight Mastery,” a weight-loss class using individual psychotherapy and hypnotherapy to help people improve their physical health. That class starts Wednesday.