Contrary to what you may initially envision, HypnoBirthing doesn’t require a swinging pocketwatch. The birth method does use hypnosis to help women have a pain-free labor experience, but by definition, hypnosis is actually a state of focused concentration where the mind and body are able to relax simultaneously (think, for example, about when you’ve arrived at your destination without remembering the drive). And thanks to the efforts of Marie Mongan, creator of the trademarked curriculum HypnoBirthing—also known as The Mongan Method—women are able to escape their ideas of a painful labor and give birth calmly and peacefully.
Time and time again, movies and television shows convey childbirth as a painful, drama- filled event that causes women of childbearing age to be terrified of the experience. Combine that with horror stories from grandparents who gave birth under completely different circumstances and anecdotes from girlfriends whose experiences were less than ideal, it’s no wonder expectant moms dread labor and delivery.
After studying the work of world-renowned obstetrician Grantly Dick-Read, who authored Childbirth Without Fear in 1944, Mongan set out to restore women’s faith in the process. “Every woman has within her the power to call upon her natural instinct to birth her babies in joy and comfort in a manner that most mirrors nature,” she writes in her book Hypno-Birthing, going on to suggest that all women have the innate ability to shut off negative stereotypes and redirect their thoughts to positive imagery.
Students of The Mongan Method learn to remove fear from the equation. “Fear causes the body to tense up—it’s the fight or flight response,” says Mongan. “By removing fear, a woman’s endorphins can take over.” Endorphins are peptides that bond to opiate receptors and act as a natural pain reliever in the body. “I had an epidural with my first birth but I wasn’t happy with the procedure,” reports Carolyn Baird, mom of two in Chicago. “I wanted to make sure I chose a technique that allowed me to feel the birth instead of the pain. I was thrilled that Hypno-Birthing allowed me to concentrate on the pressure, not the pain. My body was able to respond in a way that allowed me not to fear the process itself.”
So who does HypnoBirthing help? According to the HypnoBirthing Institute, “People who have chosen this method have long been searching for a way to give birth confidently and as calmly, safely and gently as possible, whether they have chosen to birth in a hospital, a birthing center or a home.” These women agree that there must be an alternative to the screaming agony that is so often portrayed in mainstream culture.
A gentle process
If you decide to try out the HypnoBirthing technique, your instructor should be a highly qualified birthing professional who has been trained through education and experience and certified by the Hypno-Birthing Institute. “I can’t say enough good things about my midwife, who was certified as a HypnoBirthing instructor,” says Allison Reynolds, mom of one in Nashville, Tennessee. “If I was about to lose control, she would bring me back to my safe spot and remind me not to push but instead to breathe the baby down. I learned enough in the class that I could have done it without her, but I wouldn’t have wanted to. She was a key player in the process.”
Though class time is recommended, especially if it’s your first pregnancy, you can also learn the HypnoBirthing method through literature that includes a CD with visualization exercises. “I used to listen to the CD on the L [train] on my way to work,” says Baird. “Sometimes I would be so caught up in the process that I would nearly miss my stop.” In-person courses typically entail five 2 ½ hour classes focused on five units of birth practice.
Unit 1: Building a positive expectancy
- Your body’s natural process of childbirth
- Ways to use visualization to achieve a calm birth
Unit 2: Falling in love with your baby / Preparing your mind and body
- Hypnotic techniques for relaxation and visualization n Your partner’s role in helping you find a trance-like state
- The benefits of massage and toning of the muscles
Unit 3: Getting ready to welcome your baby
- Creating your birth preferences
- Releasing your fears and other labor prep activities
Unit 4: An overview of birthing / A labor of love
- The stages of labor catered to your specific place of birth
Unit 5: Birth / Breathing love / Bringing life
- The final stage of labor
- Positions that help with the process
- The idea of breathing baby down instead of pushing
- Bringing baby to your chest postdelivery
- Family bonding activities
HypnoBirthing doesn’t guarantee things will go as planned or that you’ll avoid medical interventions, but it can help you no matter what transpires. “Unfortunately my baby ended up being breech and I had to have a C-section so I can’t speak about if HypnoBirthing would have helped my actual delivery,” says Amy Richter, mom of one with one on the way in Norfolk, Virginia. “But I can say it allowed me to handle the news of the caesarean and my time spent in recovery more easily than any other technique I tried during that birth. I will most definitely employ the self-hypnosis techniques with my next pregnancy.”
By exploring the HypnoBirthing method, you open yourself up to the idea that you can control your body through your mind with positive thinking, relaxation and breathing techniques. It allows you to take birth into your own hands and go confidently toward creating a calm and welcoming environment for your beautiful baby.