After three pregnancies, I’ve realized there is always more to learn to prepare for labor and delivery. There is so much information, and so many differing views swirling around. It gets confusing to sift out the important things. Hospital vs birthing center vs home; hypnobirthing vs Lamaze vs “bear down & count”; epidurals vs analgesics vs unmedicated; delayed cord clamping, Vitamin K shots, to circumcise or not, etc, etc, etc. It’s exhausting.
That’s why I started this blog. I’m here to tell you about the important things I wish I knew the first go-around, which might have changed events surrounding my first two deliveries. Here’s how Hypnobirthing can help.
*Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. This means that, at no added cost to you, I may receive compensation for products you purchase through links found on my blog. (Thank you, thank you!) This in no way affects the products I recommend (I only recommend the best)!*
*Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, so please consult your physician before attempting any of these suggestions. Use your best judgment. What worked for me may not work for you. Each body is different and unique. Do what you feel is best at your own risk. I am not liable for any consequences. I am a blogger. This is a blog meant to provide opinions, suggestions, experiences, and information. Not medical advice. I am human and make mistakes, so information may not be 100% complete or accurate. Thank you, and enjoy!*
Hypnobirthing the Mongan Method
What is Hypnobirthing?
Hypnobirthing is simply teaching your mind and body how to relax- specifically during labor. We live in a time where relaxing isn’t seen as a priority or even a necessity. Despite countless experts and studies telling us stress isn’t healthy and self-care is vital, we don’t really make the needed life changes.
Hypnobirthing the Mongan Method strives to change that.
It emphasizes months of practice (so important) with guided meditations and affirmations to train ourselves to think positively and give our muscles permission to release & relax.
It also emphasizes women educating themselves on their own bodies and how normal birth works. The first class goes over the three layers of the uterus and explains the differences between Braxton Hicks contractions and labor contractions.
Here is my list of excellent birthing books you should read, but specifically “Birthing from Within” (written by a VBAC mom) and “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth” (written by a nurse midwife) pair nicely with Hypnobirthing. Ina May specifically talks about women’s bodies and the normal processes of birth. She explains that Obstetricians, Family Doctors, and Certified Nurse Midwives who train in similar settings as OBs are not taught or even shown a normal birth during school, and therefore treat birth as a pathology- not as a normal bodily process (along the same lines as pooing, peeing, orgasming, etc). Midwives (especially Direct Midwives, which means they went straight to midwifery, not detouring through nursing school) are more likely to have witnessed and assisted in normal birth, which makes them more likely to believe in the woman’s ability to birth her own baby (midwives don’t “deliver babies” they “attend births”).
How Does Hypnobirthing Help?
The Mongan Method claims that with plenty of practice, their method will reduce pain by decreasing contraction (what they call “surge”) length, reducing “pushing” time (they don’t even believe in pushing, but in “breathing” the baby down), eliminating or reducing the cascade of interventions, and decreasing the risk and severity of tears. All of this, while reducing C-Section rates.
Seem like a lot? Let’s break it down.
1. Pain Reduction
I can attest that while using their breathing techniques I was able to have shorter contractions. If I braced myself against the “surge”, I was in sharp pain for longer than if I looked at the ceiling, swelled up my belly inhaling as big as possible, and exhaled my lungs while swaying my hips and relaxing. I was impressed by how a simple mind-shift and breathing technique could change things so much. The contractions were in no way pain-free, but they were definitely less painful.
Hypnobirthing teaches that getting out of the fight-or-flight mode is vital for the delivery of a baby. Typically, pain is caused by things that harm your health, but it is crucial to make the distinction that the usual pains of labor are normal and that your life is not in danger. This can help your body turn off that fight-or-flight mode, which focuses on saving your own life and turn your body’s focus to the important task of moving Baby down and out (which takes a lot of energy & resources).
Being in fight-or-flight mode also takes blood away from “non-vital organs” (like the digestive system and uterus), so the poor uterus is left with reduced oxygen, instead of receiving the full nourishment and attention it needs. Less oxygen causes it to contract less effectively, and more painfully. This is why deep relaxation and feeling comfortable during the birthing process is key to having a better experience.
2. Reduces Contraction Length
I didn’t understand how breathing could shorten contractions, but it does! Their deep breathing kind of like unwinds and evaporates contractions. It was the opposite of what happened when I braced myself against them. When I didn’t breath and relax, the contractions would end longer and harder. When I breathed them away, they would be shorter and kind of ebb away.
3. Less Pushing
I never got to this point, but many mothers and providers agree that women who utilize the Mongan Method of Hypnobirthing have shorter “pushing” times. Women who practice and utilize the Mongan Method of Hypnobirthing don’t usually “push” because they train themselves to breathe the baby down with what is called ‘J’ breathing.
4. Decreases Risk and Severity of Tears
This technique (J breathing, and resisting the urge to push) is said to significantly reduce the severity of tears. Most women simply report getting “skid marks”- little tiny tears, or nothing at all.
5. Reduces Cascade of Interventions
This study found that women who took Hypnobirthing classes had an epidural rate of 20% and IV analgesic rate of 10%. Women who did not take HypnoBirthing class had an epidural rate of 76%, and 22% used some kind of narcotic.
6. Halves C-Section Rate
This study indicates that Hypnobirthing the Mongan Method had a C-Section rate of 17%. This was almost half the national average of 32%. To reduce your C-Section rate the most, get a doula. In a study the group of women who were induced had a 58.8% C-Section rate without a doula, and 12.5% with a doula. But on average, doulas reduce the rate by 39%.
So, imagine what your risk for C-Section would be if you combined HypnoBirthing with a doula? According to the Evidence Based Birth calculation (link), if your base C-Section risk was 17% with HypnoBirthing, then having a doula would bring it down to 10%. Numbers get wobbly when you add your risk for C-Section as a VBAC mom, but here is a fabulous post written by the VBAC Link about what is wrong with the “VBAC Calculator.”
7. Reduces Hospital Stay
Save yourself money with less time in the hospital! Apparently, in small studies, women who started practicing hypnosis in the 1st and 2nd trimesters, or who attended 4 or more classes stayed at the hospital for less time than the control groups.
I found this was true even for C-Sections! After my first I was in the hospital for 4 days after my C-Section (5-6 days total, because I labored for 20 hours in the hospital). After my second (after taking HypnoBirthing), I went home on the second day after my C-Section (3 days total, or 2.5, because arrived in the afternoon, and left in the morning). This was also probably due to other factors, such as confidence in myself as a mother. [After my first I was super overwhelmed with the idea of going home with a newborn after a major abdominal surgery. I was also terrified of living without the mechanical hospital bed and nurses not waking me up every time I was scheduled for more pain meds.] Time #2, I knew my bed at home was SO much more comfortable than the hospital one. I also knew I could take my meds when I woke up to breastfeed just fine if I felt it was necessary.
However, other repeat C-Section moms stay in the hospital an average of 3-4 days after their surgeries. So maybe HypnoBirthing did contribute to my confidence in leaving the hospital sooner? Who knows. All I know is that after 2 days in the hospital, I was ready to leave, and that’s what I did.
Those 7 things are all great. Is there anything I won’t like?
As with all things, there are some drawbacks to HypnoBirthing the Mongan Method. All of these drawbacks can be changed with awareness, and with making other concentrated efforts in the areas HypnoBirthing lacks. Here we go:
Cons of Hypnobirthing the Mongan Method
Of course, everything has cons, so here is a break down of ways the Mongan Method does not help.
1. Could potentially increase labor time
Time in labor most likely increases because Pitocin is used less often, for shorter amounts of time, and providers are less likely to pressure the mom to follow a certain timeframe. Time in labor is used loosely in the studies. If you begin the clock as soon as contractions start coming 10-15 minutes apart, then I can see why women who learn HypnoBirthing have longer labors. Moms who have no other education don’t know that it is okay and encouraged to labor at home as long as possible. They (myself included) assume they should check on the baby and make sure everything’s going well. But once you get admitted, the OB’s stopwatch starts, and they will start recommending Pitocin, pain meds, etc.
Women who attend HypnoBirthing classes know that laboring at home as long as possible is ideal. They know birth is not an urgent, fast-paced, dangerous procedure, but a slow-moving (usually), gentle, normal, marathon-of-a biological function. They know their baby will come in their own time, and their focus should be on staying relxed and “in the zone”. This study actually found that time between 5cm and Baby out was on average shorter in the hypnosis group. So labor, in general, might be longer in HypnoBirthing Mamas, but time in Active labor is shorter in HypnoBirthing Mamas.
2. Focuses on ignoring fears, instead of working through them
My biggest frustration with HypnoBirthing is how they handle fears. A fear meditation we did in class made you go through a book of all your negative memories, negative stories, and fears. Then it made all the pictures in your book fade away. My biggest fear and negative memory was my son’s birth. It was a C-Section. I was terrified. I could just see my Cesarean unfolding in the pages of that imaginary book. Then I had to let the images fade away to nothing. I was like, “Uh… it’s my firstborn’s birth?! Why would I let the memories of my first born’s birth fade away???” So yeah. There are much better ways to handle fears, worries, and traumas.
I go through my healing process a bit in my 3 part blog post series “The Heartbreak After the C-Section.” But I have found many other resources since then. I definitely recommend these 5 best VBAC/ Pregnancy Daily Affirmations & Meditations and 3 Best C-Section Trauma Meditations. I also recommend my mother’s book “Freedom From Self-Slavery: the 7Rs Method.” My favorite part is when she talks about reframing the memories. Instead of erasing them, you change your perspective to see them in a positive light. I feel much more comfortable reframing my son’s birth, not erasing it.
3. Shown to have no effect on birth satisfaction
This was another thing I found incredibly ridiculous and frustrating. One of the ladies in my HypnoBirthing class was a repeat student. She had used HypnoBirthing the Mongan Method with her previous delivery and was pregnant again, so she wanted to get a refresher. She spent the whole time complaining about how she didn’t get the perfect birth because her midwife was not the one on call and because her nurses were not perfectly supportive, blah blah blah. I get it. I had a turd for a nurse during triage and the first 7 hours I was in labor. My usual provider was also not the one available to me. I also didn’t have the birth experience I expected. But mine ended in a C-Section. She, on the other hand, had a fabulous, uncomplicated, vaginal delivery.
Why does HypnoBirthing not teach to have a positive birth experience regardless of what happens? Theoretically, it does. In the textbook, Marie Mongan gives the affirmation “I will accept whatever turn my birthing takes.” In the affirmation recording, she also says “I will _________” They definitely do not focus on this in class or in the rest of the book or affirmations. The Mongan Method focuses most on having the ideal birth while shoving your fears and worries away (In addition to all the physical health and relaxation).
As Pam England & Rob Horowitz say, worrying is the work of pregnancy. Fear shouldn’t be ignored. My philosophy is that every pregnant woman should make 3 birth plans. Click here to read my blog post dedicated to the 3 birth plans every woman should have.
So… Is a HypnoBirthing class worth it?
Yes! Although there are certain drawbacks, overall it is worth it.
Do you want to learn how to feel less pain during labor? Do you want to know what to expect during labor? Want to learn how to relax and have a reduced risk for tears, fewer interventions, and less risk for C-Sections? Want to spend less time in the hospital? Then take a HypnoBirthing class. If you don’t have a local HypnoBirthing: Mongan Method class (cost ~$200-$300 depending), I have heard HypnoBabies online course is pretty good. If you are thinking you want to- for sure- have an epidural, then look into HypnoBirthing: Curtis Method classes.
Do I think HypnoBirthing is the end all? NO! It is just another tool that should be added to your birthing toolbox! I think the knowledge and experiences they share are very valuable and well worth the class-time and investment. For a list of the other birthing tools I recommend, check out my Ultimate Guide to a Natural VBAC Childbirth.