When I was pregnant with my first child, I mentioned to my midwife that I’ve suffered panic attacks in the past and she suggested that I might be prone to a panic attack while in labor and therefore would be a great candidate for hypnobirthing. Hypnobirthing is defined by its founder, Marie Mongan, as a unique method of relaxed, natural childbirth education, enhanced by self-hypnosis techniques.
Although skeptical at first, I decided to at least reach out to a hypnobirthing instructor for a free introductory phone call. During our call, my instructor explained that animals give birth outdoors in nature and if a predatory animal comes near the birthing animal, she becomes afraid and her body releases adrenaline as part of a “fight or flight” response. Essentially, all the blood will leave her core and go to her extremities so that she will be strong enough to run away. This release of adrenaline effectively stops her labor and gives her a chance to get to a safe place where she can then continue her birthing. In the same way, if a woman is feeling anxious or scared during labor, her labor will “stall” which usually leads to interventions that might not have been necessary.
Another major tenant of hypnobirthing is that the language we use about birth deeply effects how we feel about it. For example, “contractions” are referred to as “surges”, the logic being that the word contraction is actually a poor word to describe what’s really happening. The pain of a contraction is instead called a “surge”, since the cervix is actually becoming more and more open rather than closed or contracted with each one. After our call, I decided to go ahead with the training.
My instructor came to our apartment and guided my husband and me through hypnosis, deep relaxation, guided meditation, and light touch massage. I would share my fears as they arose and she would lead me through “fear release” meditations. As fears arose, I could pick up the phone anytime and call her and we would do the exercise over the phone. In addition to our in person and telephone sessions, I read through the guide book, “HypnoBirthing: The Mongan Method: A natural approach to a safe, easier, more comfortable birthing”, and listened to hypnobirthing affirmations on my iPod every night before falling asleep.
So did it work? In a word, yes! I gave birth to Henry at home, as planned, and it was calmer and more peaceful than I could have ever imagined. I breathed through all my surges and practiced being grateful for each one, knowing it meant the end was nearer. Sure, there were one or two times when I couldn’t stay relaxed and just needed to curse or throw something, but overall it was a calm, peaceful, positive experience. I got into the birthing pool to start pushing at 6:40 and he was born at 6:55, that’s right just 15 minutes…thank God because we all know that pushing is not fun.
You don’t have to have a homebirth to use hypnobirthing. Many moms use it in the hospital. My friend Lisa Flaherty used hypnobirthing in her hospital birth and she had this to say about her experience: “Hypnobirthing allowed me to release the tension and fear I had associated with birth, and replaced it with positive imagery and calming affirmations. Consequently, I embraced my laboring experience and my daughter entered the world peacefully and drug free.”
The movement is catching on; with celebrities like Jessica Alba, Tiffany Amber Theissan and Miranda Kerr all say that they’ve used it. If you’re interested, a great first step would be to check out the book, visit the website where you can access a list of certified hypnobirth instructors in New York, or if you want to see hypnobirth in action, there are tons of uploaded YouTube videos from devotees.
To find one near you, visit Hypnobirthing.com