Articles on Pregnancy, Childbirth & Infertility

by Dr. Simcha Sheldon

This article appeared in “Connections” magazine, Israel. July 6, 2006.

Hypnosis & Self Hypnosis Can Help Toward a Healthy & Enjoyable Pregnancy & Childbirth

By Dr. Simcha Sheldon

For centuries women were brought up to believe that childbirth has to be a very painful experience and therefore, were afraid during childbirth, thereby creating a lot of real pain. During the 1950’s, children in the Western world were born in hospitals while their mothers were often unconscious, under anesthesia. Then epidurals became the fashion, however they have an element of danger.

There is a very good alternative that can facilitate a childbirth experience, in which the mother is happy, conscious, relatively comfortable, and can actively participate in the process without the mother or the baby being exposed to potentially great risks and side effects of invasive procedures and medications used in the management of pain. Hypnosis and self hypnosis can be utilized throughout the childbirth process – starting with the earliest preparation for pregnancy, and continuing through pregnancy, labor and delivery, and even post-partum – to facilitate a very positive childbirth experience.

Applications include being emotionally and psychologically ready for the experience, including getting rid of any ’negative baggage’ that one may be carrying around regarding pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting; feeling physically and emotionally comfortable during pregnancy; having a good and successful experience during labor and delivery; and enjoying being a parent to your new child when you are home. Of course, hypnosis should be used within the context of professional, licensed, and competent psychological counseling. (I do not recommend just going out and buying a self help book or tape on hypnosis!)
During pregnancy. Up to eighty percent of women experience morning sickness during pregnancy. Self hypnosis is a wonderful way to feel better, and can be used for a variety of goals including, increasing energy, improving sleep, and enjoying deep relaxation. Some women have more serious challenges during pregnancy, such as hyperemesis gravidarum (HG – severe morning sickness) and premature labor – both can be debilitating. Hypnosis can be the treatment of choice for both.

Childbirth preparation. Hypnosis helps women (and their husbands) have a more enjoyable, comfortable, healthy, and meaningful pregnancy and birth experience. First, and most importantly, hypnosis can reduce, and often eliminate the need of pain medications, which often have dangerous side effects for the mother and baby. Pain during labor and delivery is mostly caused by fear and the subsequent contracting of muscles that should be relaxed, causing conflict and interference with the natural powerful contractions of the uterine muscle. Hypnosis allows the mother to be unafraid, relaxed, and more comfortable. Hypnosis can also reduce or eliminate the perception of any existing pain.

Effective preparation helps both parents to look forward to the birth experience calmly, with confidence, and positive thoughts and feelings. A husband can learn to be his wife’s self-hypnosis-coach as an adjunct to the techniques that may have been learned in their Lamaze classes.

Treating Complications of Pregnancy. Hypnosis can help women who are suffering from complications of pregnancy such as premature labor, morning sickness, delayed labor, prolonged labor, and repeated fetal loss. Hypnosis can often be the treatment of choice as it is not invasive, has no negative side effects, and is more satisfying to the mother. The most common treatment for premature labor is the use of medications, which have the side effect of tachycardia (increased heartbeat) in the fetus, which can be dangerous. Unfortunately, there are not enough health professionals trained in the proper use of medical hypnosis, even though research by agencies such as the NIH (National Institute of Health – US) has concluded that hypnosis is a very effective treatment for the above conditions.

Complications of pregnancy can be due to either physiological causes or certain psychological or emotional concerns of difficulties the mother (or father) are experiencing. Hypnotherapy can be very helpful in discovering and resolving such issues. For example, a mother’s ambivalence about her pregnancy or marriage can be the psychogenic cause of pre-mature labor or delayed labor. Even a scary recurrent dream during sleep can trigger contractions. Hypnotherapy can be an effective tool, as an adjunct to counseling, during pregnancy, to help parents deal with the various psychological or emotional issues that may arise.
Lifelong tools. Couples who learn how to use self-hypnosis for childbirth continue enjoying the benefits of self-mastery long after the baby arrives. Years later, they are using self-hypnosis to stay calm when their children become teen-agers.

Birth is meant to be a spiritually and emotionally uplifting experience, filled with wonder and joy. Hypnosis can help make childbirth a wonderful experience for you. If you have any questions, please feel welcome to call me… B’Sha’a Tovah!
[The next article will discuss what hypnosis is and how it works.]

Dr. Simcha Sheldon is an Israeli licensed Clinical Psychologist, Medical Psychologist, and Hypnotherapist, a U.S. licensed Marriage, Family, and Child Therapist, and Clinical Member of the Israeli Society for Sexual Medicine, Israel Medical Association. Dr. Sheldon practices in Hashmonaim and Modiin. He may be reached at (08)-976-1056 For additional information about this and other topics see www.drsimcha.com

This article appeared in “Connections” magazine, Israel. June 1, 2006.

Behavioral, Psychological, and Hypnotherapeutic Treatment for Psychogenic Infertility

By Dr. Simcha Sheldon

Psychogenic infertility is a condition in which psychological factors interfere with the body’s ability to make pregnancy possible. Although it accounts for about 5% of all infertility cases, for those in this group, there are effective psychological strategies that can help. Many people know of couples who after years of unsuccessful medical intervention, decide to adopt, and afterwards have a surprise – natural birth.

It is truly amazing how our minds can affect our bodies. Effective caring psycho-emotional guidance, support, and/or behavioral therapy can be very helpful both for getting pregnant and for dealing with related problems, such as marital strife, low self esteem, deep frustration, anxiety, depression, difficulty relating to others (parents, children, friends), sexual dysfunction, etc. Couples need to prevent the difficulties of trying to get pregnant from hurting either of the two individuals who joined together in love and marriage.

The good news is that one can learn to positively influence one’s thoughts, emotions and physiology by approaching this life challenge in a healthy, helpful, productive, positive, and realistic manner.

The Mind-Body Connection

High levels of stress or depression can have harmful effects on the reproductive systems. Conscious and unconscious conflicts, fears, and guilt can also affect physiological processes. It is often difficult to know which came first – infertility, stress, or psychological difficulties – however, one does affect the other, in a negative vicious circle, which can be corrected.

Stress can cause infertility. The hypothalamus regulates stress responses and sex hormones. Excessive stress can suppress the menstrual cycle (e.g.“marathon runner’s amenorrhea”); cause an ovulation or irregular menstrual cycles; and alter uterine blood flow. Excessive stress can reduce sperm count, suppress libido, cause erectile dysfunction, and result in a reduction in the frequency of intimate relations.

Psychological difficulties can also contribute to infertility, such as fears (e.g. that the child’s arrival could create marital conflict; or fear of the process of pregnancy, labor and childbirth itself); guilt (e.g. negative sexual experiences such as incest, abuse); and strong conflicts with one’s mother. Also, many women start overeating in response to the stress of infertility, thereby increasing fat cells, which can disrupt the hormonal balance.

Suggestions: There are easy and enjoyable ways of reducing stress and anxiety hypnosis, self-hypnosis, biofeedback, visualization, meditation, etc. If one is suffering from psycho-emotional or relationship difficulties, a specialist who is effective and caring can help. One can either resolve or eliminate difficulties or one can learn to relate to them in a way that is helpful and healthy.

For example, one of my patients realized, through hypnosis, that she unconsciously did something that interfered with her body’s ability to ovulate. Yes, she did get pregnant and had a successful childbirth experience, Baruch Hashem!

Hopefully, with Hashem’s blessings, and with doing all that is reasonable, a couple can enjoy bringing additional children into the world and into their family.

Dr. Simcha Sheldon is an Israeli-licensed Clinical Psychologist, Medical Psychologist, and Hypnotherapist, and is a U.S. licensed Marriage, Family, and Child Therapist, in practice for 25 years. He practices in Hashmonaim and Modiin.

 Readers are invited to send questions or topics of interest.

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