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[Book Summary] HypnoBirthing: The breakthrough approach to safer, easier, more comfortable birthing

HypnoBirthing (1992) explores how expectant mothers can enjoy a more comfortable, joyful childbirth. These summaries provide simple hypnotherapy techniques that pregnant women can practice at home. They also uncover the guiding philosophy of HypnoBirthing and reveal how it can help women to have a natural, less painful birthing experience.

[Book Summary] HypnoBirthing: The breakthrough approach to safer, easier, more comfortable birthing

Content Summary

Genres
Introduction: What’s in it for me? Unlock the secrets of a joyful birth.
Childbirth should be a cause for joy, not trauma.
Fear makes childbirth more painful – and more dangerous.
Your mind has the power to give you a better birth.
Make time during your pregnancy to practice relaxation.
Your unborn baby needs a nudge, not a push.
Deep relaxation supports you during the most challenging moments of labor.
It’s normal to experience strange sensations and feelings during labor.
Final Summary
About the author
Video and Podcast

Genres

Parenting, Women’s Health, Pregnancy and Childbirth, Self Help, Family, Adult, Education, Children, Medicine

Introduction: Unlock the secrets of a joyful birth.

Welcoming her baby into the world should be a profound moment of joy and celebration in a mother’s life. But all too often, her baby’s arrival is marked by fear, pain, and even long-lasting trauma. Many women have a negative experience of childbirth and are left with permanent physical damage to their bodies to prove it. But what if there were a better way to experience labor – a gentler way that didn’t involve so much suffering?

Luckily, there is. In these summaries, you’ll learn how most women can give birth without drugs, medical intervention, or violent pushing. You’ll discover a simple yet profound truth: your body already knows how to have a baby, and your baby is perfectly capable of guiding itself out of your body without outside interference. You’ll uncover the simple exercises and techniques that can put your body and your baby back in control in the delivery room. Many women have been taught to accept pain as a rite of passage into motherhood. But when you’re equipped with knowledge of your body and the right strategies, you’ll realize that having a healthy, happy baby doesn’t need to be harrowing.

In these summaries, you’ll learn

  • how to harness the power of your mind for a better birth;
  • what fear does to your uterus; and
  • why you don’t need to push your baby out.

Childbirth should be a cause for joy, not trauma.

The author, Marie Mongan, was five years old when she overheard a conversation she would never forget. Marie’s mother and her friends were talking about childbirth, but they didn’t realize that Marie was listening. One woman described long and painful labor, in which the doctors had used forceps to pull her baby out. These forceps had badly damaged her pelvis, and she had been told afterward that she might not be able to have another child. Sadly, the woman Marie overheard that day was her own mother, and Marie was the baby she was talking about.

Learning about her mother’s traumatic experience gave Marie the determination to change the status quo. As she grew up, she set out to prove to the world that there was a better way of giving birth – a natural, more gentle way.

The key message here is: Childbirth should be a cause for joy, not trauma.

Finally, after years of research, Marie Mongan developed HypnoBirthing, a new philosophy, and approach to childbirth.

The cornerstone of this approach is that the mother’s body, and the unborn baby she carries, already know how to give birth. If the woman is healthy and the pregnancy is without complications, then it’s not necessary for medical staff to interfere with her labor. The human reproductive system is perfect and should be respected and left alone as much as possible. The expectant mother doesn’t need to be told to push, and she doesn’t need drugs or help from medical instruments to bring her baby into the world.

The HypnoBirthing philosophy believes that childbirth is a natural human experience, with its own flow and its own rhythm. Each unnecessary medical procedure and interruption risks undermining this natural process and setting it off-kilter. To avoid this, it’s crucial that each birth happens according to the mother and baby’s own pace. The birthing process might slow down, or it might speed up, but this is normal and natural. If there are no complications, then those outside the birth shouldn’t try to manage its time frame.

Finally, the HypnoBirthing approach regards the female body as sacrosanct. Nobody has the right to interfere with your body – especially when you’re going through childbirth.

Fear makes childbirth more painful – and more dangerous.

It’s a sad reality that many women are scared of giving birth. The author remembers talking to a young pregnant woman who was excited and prepared for her baby’s arrival. But when the conversation turned to the actual birth, the woman recoiled in horror. “Oh, I don’t want to talk about that,” she said, “I’m terrified!”

This woman’s attitude might sound familiar, and even normal, but the truth is that it’s counterproductive. Why? Because women’s fears about labor often become a self-fulfilling prophecy. In fact, the more scared you are of giving birth, the more likely you are to have a painful, traumatic experience, and the higher the chance that your baby will be put at risk during the process.

The key message here is: Fear makes childbirth more painful – and more dangerous.

To understand why this is the case, we first need to understand the biology of childbirth.

For your labor to progress, the muscles that surround the opening of your uterus, known as the cervix, need to relax and become thinner. When this happens, the cervix can open enough for the baby to pass smoothly out of the uterus and into the birth canal. But when you’re feeling scared during labor, this natural process gets thrown off track.

Fear causes your body to start releasing large amounts of a stress hormone known as catecholamine, which triggers the fight-or-flight response. Instead of focusing on your uterus, your body now prepares itself to meet an oncoming threat.

As part of this response, blood is diverted away from all areas of the body that are not needed for fighting or running. But the big problem for laboring mothers is that these non-essential areas include the uterus. So right at the point when the uterus muscles should be working hard, they have their blood supply directed elsewhere so that they can barely function. This reaction can be so extreme that the uterus can actually appear white from lack of blood.

This restricted blood flow causes the muscles surrounding the cervix to become tight, and the cervix closes. When the cervix is closed, the baby cannot descend into the birth canal. And if the baby stays trapped in the uterus for too long, it may run out of oxygen, and the situation can become dangerous.

In the next chapter, we’ll explore how self-hypnosis can help women reduce fear and pain during childbirth.

Your mind has the power to give you a better birth.

What do you think about when someone mentions hypnosis? Most people’s only experience of hypnosis comes from entertaining stage shows, in which a volunteer is hypnotized into doing something ridiculous. But in reality, hypnosis has nothing to do with somebody else controlling you or making you do something against your will. In fact, all hypnosis is self-hypnosis. It’s about suggesting thoughts and ideas to yourself, which then influence how your body responds.

In the context of childbirth, self-hypnosis means flipping the script on all your preconceptions about labor. It’s about letting go of any thoughts of fear, pain, or disaster, and embracing positive ideas, thoughts, and images instead.

The key message here is: Your mind has the power to give you a better birth.

We can understand how self-hypnosis works by taking a look at certain laws of the mind that govern our thinking.

The first law of the mind is the law of psycho-physical response. This law states that for every thought and emotion you have, there is a corresponding physiological response that takes place in your body. So, during childbirth, if your mind is thinking frightening, negative thoughts, your body will react with defense response, and the muscles of your cervix will become tense and closed. But if you entertain thoughts and visions of a successful, pain-free birth, your body will respond by creating endorphins. Endorphins are natural chemicals that fight pain and foster a sense of well-being.

For a natural, gentle birth, you should also harness the law of repetition. This law states that the more you entertain and express a particular thought, the more deeply ingrained that thought becomes – so much so that eventually your mind and body will view that thought as reality. So, in the months before you have your baby, it’s essential that you routinely think about, and visualize a joyful, stress-free birth.

The law of attraction is also crucial for peaceful childbirth. This law simply states that what you put out into the world comes back to you. You can change what you’re putting into the world by changing your language. For example, if your goal is to avoid a medicated birth, then don’t use medical language. Replace it with more natural terminology instead. You could say “pressure” rather than “pain,” talk about “membrane release” instead of your “waters breaking,” and consider “special circumstances” instead of “complications.”

Make time during your pregnancy to practice relaxation.

A relaxation is a powerful tool. Watch athletes in the minutes before they start competing, and you might be surprised. Instead of looking excited or tense, athletes often appear utterly serene. Professional sportspeople know something that most of us don’t – that your body performs best when your mind is free from tension.

If you want your body to perform optimally during labor, you’ll need to teach your mind to relax during the process. Learning to relax isn’t difficult, but it will take some work. In the months leading up to the birth, you’ll need to undertake relaxation exercises that will help you enter a calm state of mind quickly. Later, when you’re birthing your baby, you’ll be able to call upon this relaxation training and dispel any fear or tension.

The key message here is: Make time during your pregnancy to practice relaxation.

One useful technique is called progressive relaxation.

Start by finding a quiet, comfortable place to sit, where you won’t be disturbed. Then, assign the following numbers to each section of your body. Your head and neck are number five, your chest is four, your abdomen is three, your thighs are two, and your calves and feet are one. Now, take a deep breath and exhale. Visualize your exhaling breath sweeping downward over you and relaxing every section of your body as it goes.

After practicing progressive relaxation for a few minutes every day, simply start counting down from five to one. As you say each number, the corresponding section should instantly become limp and relaxed. The faster you count, the faster your body should relax. When the time comes for birth, you’ll be able to hypnotize your body into a relaxed state, simply by counting down from five.

Another relaxation technique is called anchoring, and it involves making an association between a signal and a particular mental state. To practice this technique, you’ll need the help of your birth companion.

You should practice anchoring when you are already feeling relaxed, such as after the progressive relaxation exercise. When you are in a relaxed state, get your companion to push down gently on your shoulders with his or her hands. This will create an association between this gesture and feeling relaxed. As your companion presses down, he or she will instruct you to relax twice as much. Eventually, with repetition, you will instantly feel twice as relaxed whenever your companion touches you in this way.

Your unborn baby needs a nudge, not a push.

When you think of someone giving birth, one word probably comes to mind: “Push!” For women around the world, it’s accepted – and expected – that labor will require pushing. But is this true? The author believed that telling mothers to push was unnecessary, and potentially dangerous.

So why are most midwives and doctors so focused on pushing? The answer lies in the murky history of birthing practices. Incredibly, for hundreds of years, doctors routinely and completely anesthetized women while they were giving birth and pulled their babies out with forceps. When this disturbing practice stopped in the twentieth century, many doctors still doubted that babies could leave the uterus and descend into the birth canal without any help.

The key message here is: Your unborn baby needs a nudge, not a push.

To help the baby on its way, doctors started encouraging mothers to push; this advice endures today. In many hospital births, women are coached by medical staff to push as hard as they possibly can, sometimes to the extent that blood vessels in the mother’s face and eyes start to bulge and discolor – a phenomenon known as “purple pushing.”

This violent pushing is not only stressful and uncomfortable for the mother, it’s also counterproductive. That’s because the stress of pushing causes the muscles of the vagina to close – blocking the path of the descending baby. As if that weren’t bad enough, strenuous pushing can also cause permanent damage to the woman’s pelvic floor muscles.

But worst of all, this damage and discomfort is completely unnecessary. Just consider the fact that women who have had epidurals cannot push, and yet they manage to have perfectly normal births. Amazingly, even women in comas have been known to give birth without medical intervention! These mothers were definitely not pushing.

In fact, your body instinctively knows what to do. There is a natural expulsion reflex that happens during birth that effectively yet gently moves your baby out of your uterus, down the birth path, and out through your vagina.

When you adopt the HypnoBirthing approach, you replace pushing with something called Birth Breathing. Birth Breathing involves drawing in short breaths through your nose and directing the energy of that breath toward the back of your throat, then down through your body, all the way to your vaginal opening. Afterward, you exhale a long breath through your nose and repeat the process. Birth Breathing doesn’t push your baby – it simply gives it a nudge in the right direction.

Deep relaxation supports you during the most challenging moments of labor.

HypnoBirthing gives you the opportunity to have a more joyful, less stressful labor. That being said, some parts of your birth experience will feel harder than others. When you’re in the later stages of your labor and your baby is descending through the birth canal, you’ll need your mind and your body to enter a deep state of relaxation to support you through the intense sensations.

You can achieve deep relaxation by practicing ultra-deepening techniques. These are HypnoBirthing exercises that will help you achieve an almost amnesiac state, in which you lose the sense of where you are, your surroundings, and even time.

The key message here is: Deep relaxation supports you during the most challenging moments of labor.

The first ultra-deepening technique is known as glove relaxation, and you’ll need to practice it with your birthing companion.

First, sit comfortably, and put yourself into a state of relaxation using the exercises in the previous chapters. Once you’re feeling relaxed, imagine you’ve slipped a silver glove on to your right hand. This glove is made of natural endorphins. At this point, your birth companion should start stroking your right hand lightly. As he or she does, suggest to yourself that the endorphin glove is making your hand go numb, as if you’re holding it in icy water. After a while, you should not feel any sensation in your hand anymore.

Now, visualize yourself putting this hand on other parts of your body – such as your pelvis – and transferring the numbness to wherever your hand is resting.

When you are in childbirth and approaching the point at which you need to start your Birth Breathing, get your birth companion to begin stroking your hand lightly. If you have been practicing, that touch will act as an anchor and instantly put you into a state of deep relaxation. You’ll be able to visualize your endorphin glove and provide yourself with relief from the pressure and discomfort of the final stages of your labor.

Another ultra-deepening technique is time distortion. Time distortion is especially helpful in the final stages of childbirth. To practice this technique, first, bring yourself to a relaxed state. Once you have achieved this, say to yourself that every 20 minutes will now seem like 5 minutes. Keep giving yourself this suggestion. Later, when you are in the most difficult stages of your labor, your birthing companion should instruct you that every 20 minutes will now feel like 5 minutes.

It’s normal to experience strange sensations and feelings during labor.

When your baby decides that it’s ready to be born, it will be time to put all your breathing and relaxation techniques into practice. As we’ve learned, there is no need to fear what comes next. There are, however, a few final things you should know before the big day arrives.

First, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with some of the hallmarks of labor, so that you don’t feel shocked or surprised when certain sensations arise during the process. Try to think of these hallmarks as exciting, and get your birth companion to point them out to you as they occur.

One hallmark of labor is swinging between extremes of feeling hot and cold. At some moments you’ll want to push all the bedding away from you, and at the next moment, you’ll want to be under a warm blanket.

The key message here is: It’s normal to experience strange sensations and feelings during labor.

You might also find blood on your sanitary pad or your underwear during labor. This is nothing to worry about – it simply means that your body is shifting things downward. It’s also not unusual to burp, hiccup, or vomit as your uterus starts to contract. This is simply your diaphragm reacting to your body’s pulsations, and these side effects shouldn’t last long.

Finally, don’t be alarmed if – even in the midst of your gentle, natural HypnoBirth – you suddenly feel the urge to flee from the room and escape the situation. For example, you might even think, “I can’t go on any longer!” It might seem hard to believe, but this hallmark is actually a cause for excitement. Why? Because when these thoughts set in, it’s a sign that your baby is about to be born. And what could be more exciting than that?

As you prepare for the big day, you may also want to consider using a birthing pool. Water birthing and HypnoBirthing are powerful combinations. The warm water deepens your relaxation and gives you a wonderful sense of weightlessness during your labor. Many women report that the water makes their muscles feel softer and ushers in a feeling of sensuous pleasure and well-being. Finally, giving birth in water means that your baby will have a smooth transition from the waters of the womb to the outside world.

Final Summary

The key message in these summaries:

For hundreds of years, expectant mothers have been drugged and damaged by a medical profession that has doubted their ability to give birth naturally. But you can flip the script, simply by trusting your body and your unborn baby. The power to have a healthy, natural birth lies within you. To harness this power, all you need to do is forge a strong connection between your mind and body. By learning simple HypnoBirthing techniques, you’ll enter the delivery room feeling strong, relaxed, and in control.

Actionable advice:

HypnoBirthing methods are not a substitute for medical advice.

HypnoBirthing exercises and techniques are tools that can help you have a better birth. But they are not intended to replace medical advice. Pregnant women are recommended to seek advice from a certified healthcare professional before they undertake any pregnancy or birth program.

About the author

Marie Mongan, M.Ed., M.Hy., is a lifelong educator, former college dean, clinical hypnotherapist, and Director of the Hypnobirthing Institute. She is the recipient of the 1995 National Guild of Hypnotists President’s Award and received the coveted Charles Tebbetts Award in 2000 for the recognition she has brought to hypnotherapy. Ms. Mongan lives in New Hampshire but spends much of her time on the road training new instructors in the techniques of hypnobirthing. She is the mother of four adult children, all born using the techniques upon which hypnobirthing is based.

Marie F. Mongan | Website
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Marie F. Mongan | Email
Marie F. Mongan | Email

Marie Mongan, M.Ed., M.Hy.

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