Deep breathing and relaxation are very important skills to cultivate for life in general, but doubly so when preparing for birth.
My first therapist, a LCSW, introduced me to guided imagery relaxation techniques in 2009. At the time I was very leery of anything that remotely seemed like hypnosis for religious reasons.
Over the past few years, I’ve come to be more open to some of these ideas and recognize the value in learning to relax my body and mind and focus my mind on positive thinking. I found this to be true especially in 2011 when my husband was deployed to Afghanistan and I had a lot of trouble sleeping. At that point, I found Relax by Andrew Johnson and started practicing guided relaxation regularly to alleviate stress as well as using his Deep Sleep app to aid with sleeping.
I’m very picky about the relaxation apps I choose to use, avoiding anything that talks about “going into trance” or makes me feel like I’m losing control.
What I do like is being given prompts and cues to help me focus on different areas of my body and learning how to relax them individually – then the body as a whole. I tend to hold stress in my body, and unless I literally force myself to take the time to relax, I won’t relax completely.
Throughout my pregnancy I used this app called Calm Childbirth: A Hypnobirthing Programme. This was, by far, my favorite app. I liked it for several reasons:
- It was inexpensive. The Coaching Session and Peaceful Sleep for Women tracks were free and the others were fairly inexpensive. Using this app didn’t require signing up for a course or reading anything.
- There were tracks for childbirth preparation, daily affirmations, and sleep. I used all three!
- It was accessible – no CDs required. It was all right there on my phone.
- The tracks never made me feel out of control. While I would often fall asleep during listening, I never felt uncomfortable or hypnotized. Simply relaxed – which was my goal. In fact, the affirmation used in all three tracks repeatedly was, “I am calm, centered, and in control.”
*Note: All of these tracks take you into deep relaxation and/or sleep and must be listened to at a time and place when you can lie down or sit with eyes closed. The Hypnobirthing Session and Daily Affirmations track will wake you up at the end of the track while the Peaceful Sleep track does not. This makes these tracks great for power naps!
The only criticism I have of the tracks is that there’s no way to skip the instructions at the beginning of the tracks.
This is another free app (with in-app upgrade purchases). The affirmations and music tracks are free. The full version of the app is $3.99. I chose not to upgrade because I was primarily using other apps.
I liked this app because the affirmations track moves fairly rapidly. Thus, I did not like it for naps or sleeping. However, because the affirmations track does NOT guide you into deep relaxation or sleep, but I listened to it frequently while walking. I also like that the affirmations are repeated three times within the track.
Earth Mama Angel Baby VBAC Preparation CD
I mention it, though, because I was able to get my hands on a copy through the North Charlotte ICAN lending library.
I didn’t like these tracks quite as well as the Calm Childbirth tracks (these were more specific in how to relax and more involved as far as counting down to relax, which felt a bit forced to me). However, the last track (track 4, I believe, it’s 20:28 long) had a lot of beautiful imagery of being in a flower garden which I found to be very relaxing. (This also ended up being the only track I actually used during labor.)
I also loved that these tracks were VBAC specific, which was very important to me.
If you can get your hands on this CD through your local ICAN or other birth network group, or your local library, definitely check it out.
Other apps and programs
Hypnobabies and Hypnobirthing are two birth hypnosis programs that have been popular for several years at least. I have not used them nor can I speak to their efficacy, but this post would not be complete without at least mentioning their existence.
Positive Pregnancy is another app by Aluna Moon. I did not like this app as well as Calm Childbirth, but did use it on occasion.
There are several other apps in the app store if you search under “pregnancy relaxation” or “hypnobirth.” Let me know in the comments if you find other relaxation apps that you like.
*This post contains iTunes affiliate links.