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Like so many other women, Murphy’s original vision of labor involved one of the foremost deterrents of opting for a natural childbirth: fear.
“Women who have unmedicated births—natural births, empowered births—come away from those births feeling very, very different, much more powerful,” Houston said. “Clearly, it’s transformative, and I think that we’re wired for this. This is our physiology. The culture has given us a sort of propaganda—the danger, the fear, the pain, the complications. The truth of the matter is that most births are completely normal. And it absolutely needs to be supported by well-trained, attentive, skilled birth attendants, preferably midwives.”
Murphy gave birth to her child in December, using HypnoBirthing, the Mongan Method. The primary tenet of the approach is that mothers can birth without severe pain by reducing fear and tension through education and practice of visualization and relaxation techniques. She studied the method during private classes with Jency Elliott, a HypnoBirthing practitioner in Woodstock, and at home, through literature and relaxation CDs.
“I always looked toward the upcoming birth very positively,” she said. “I remember people would always ask, ‘Are you scared?’ I could honestly answer no. They always wanted to convince me that I should be scared. People would ask me if I had chosen a method. When I would tell them about HypnoBirthing, more than one person responded, ‘No matter how you do it, it’s going to hurt!’ I had to laugh inside. It always amazed me how hard it was for most people to accept a woman birthing fearlessly. Most people would rather try to convince me to be afraid.”
Elliott probably wouldn’t be surprised to hear this. “Birth acts as a magnet,” she said. “Everyone will tell you their stories and a lot of them are scary because of the fact that the parents were afraid.” But Murphy said that through the HypnoBirthing classes and making informed decisions, her labor couldn’t have gone better. She spent the early stages of labor at home before transferring to a hospital. Once there, “I focused on visualizations to help relax my muscles and allow them to work together,” she said. “I didn’t experience what I would describe as pain. It was more like pressure, very bearable.” Her daughter, almost 10 pounds, was delivered without any dose of pain medication—not even a Motrin afterward, Murphy said.
“What you will not learn is how to ‘deal’ with the pain, as that concept means you are already anticipating and expecting to be miserable,” said Elliott of the HypnoBirthing method. “However, you will learn comfort measures and ways to ease your mind, thereby easing your birthing body.”
Aid from Acupuncture
Studies on the effects of acupuncture during labor are also raising hopes that the practice may be an effective alternative to pain medication. A report prepared by the obstetrics and gynecology department at Saint Vincent de Paul Hospital in Paris cited a number of studies that showed the use of acupuncture during labor significantly reduced the use of epidurals and seemed to lessen pain, with most participants reporting better overall relaxation, too.
Jipala Reicher-Kagan of Transpersonal Acupuncture in Kingston performed acupuncture on herself when she was in labor with her children with positive results. “In my first pregnancy I did a series of prelabor treatments that start in the 36th week to prime the body for labor,” she said. “I also received treatment the morning that my labor started to get the qi moving and open up the pelvic area.” She used acupuncture during her second pregnancy to induce her overdue baby, and delivered within 48 hours.
Therese Sibon of Body Mind Spirit Acupuncture in New Paltz provides acupuncture services for pregnant women, especially for inductions and delivery of breeched babies, which could help avoid the medical interventions designed to deal with these situations. “Acupuncture isn’t going to force the body to do something its not able to do,” said Sibon. “It catalyzes the energy that’s in the body to do what’s beneficial for it.” Through needling, moxa, and demonstrating massage of specific points, Sibon has helped a number of local parents naturally bring their babies into the world.