HypnoBirthing 101

A childbirth education course that emphasizes natural childbirth and teaches self-hypnosis techniques to combat fear and pain during labor.


Having a baby is one of life's greatest gifts, and the ability to create, nurture and eventually birth a brand new human being is nothing short of a miracle. Yet, when many women think about the actual process of giving birth, fear of pain (and how to avoid it) is at the forefront of their minds. Something as simple as the term labor can feed into the fear. Language is a powerful thing, and the very definition of labor is "physical or mental work, especially of a hard or fatiguing kind; toil."

Listening to too many difficult birth stories, coupled with routine hospital labor and delivery techniques can easily exacerbate these fears. Healthcare providers follow often medically unnecessary protocols such as constant monitoring, multiple cervix checks, the introduction of IV fluids, denial of food to the laboring mother, induction practices, elective C-sections and more. Staff may also be quick to offer drugs for pain relief or to take the edge off. But for expectant moms who prefer the natural route, there is another way, and the involvement of pain is not necessarily a given.

Enter HypnoBirthing: The Mongan Method. Created by Marie "Mickey" Mongan, M.Ed., M.Hy., a highly awarded hypnotherapist and Harvard University Ford Foundation fellow, this gentle view of childbirth takes the stance that both mom and baby's bodies were made to do this, and they work together in harmony. Through practiced deep breathing, visualization, prompts from their partners and labor comfort measures, mothers can train their brain to elicit a deep relaxation response on demand.

Instead of feeling pain, HypnoBirthing mothers often describe the experience as feeling pressure and use the word "surges" or "waves" instead of contractions. At the core, yes—it's mind over matter, and thousands of women have proven it works. Want to see for yourself? Check out some YouTube videos here.

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Words of experience

Kristen Olberz, R.N., C.H., H.B.C.E., is a labor and delivery nurse at Portland Providence Medical Center in Portland, Ore. and a certified HypnoBirthing educator; out of the more than 1,500 births she has witnessed, approximately 300 have been HypnoBirths. Olberz was drawn to this particular method because "It supports moms being okay with what's going on during labor, being fully supported by staff and loved ones, feeling safe and empowered." The experience of birth is raw and sacred, says Olberz, and those aspects cannot be fully realized and appreciated when terror and chaos dominate.

The main difference Olberz notes with families who choose HypnoBirthing over other methods (or no childbirth education): "They enter labor with tangible tools and working knowledge of what their body can do. Even when things take a turn [and natural birth isn't possible], my wish is that they feel prepared and able to meet those turns with grace." In other words, if a medical intervention does become necessary, mom and dad can still use the relaxation and comfort techniques that HypnoBirthing teaches to stay calm and present during a time that may become emotionally difficult.

"The mothers tend to exude a quiet strength," says Kim Wildner, a certified HynoBirthing educator in Appleton and Fond-du-Lac, Wis. and author of Mother's Intention: How Belief Shapes Birth (Intuitu LLC, Second Edition 2012). "The fathers tend to provide loving support that creates quite an intimate and relaxed birthing experience." Wildner sought out HypnoBirthing certification after seeing a TV segment on it. "I had been teaching childbirth classes for almost 10 years; however, I was not seeing the types of relaxed, more comfortable births that I saw in the video. Once I learned more about the mind/body connection, I began seeing those types of births as well, and my entire birthing paradigm shifted."

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Hypnobirthed babies

Both Olberz and Wildner describe babies born with this method as wide-eyed, present and more calm in general. "They look like they're ready to be here with their families," says Olberz.

"I have had parents with other children born under a number of differing circumstances, and they are the ones that bring up how different the HypnoBirthing babies' personalities are," says Wildner. "They're calmer."

HypnoBirthing can help postpartum, too

"If a women feels that she made her own best decisions for her particular circumstance, no matter how the birth then plays out, she has an easier postpartum period. If her baby is more easygoing and nurses better, which HypnoBirthing babies tend to be and do, it makes it easier on mom and dad! When a mother-baby is immersed in the ecstatic birthing hormones that nature provided, it seems easier for everyone, and moms seem transformed and empowered," says Wildner.

"I know that if a woman has a birth experience where she felt heard and supported, no matter what the actual birth looks like, she's less likely to have PPD or PTSD," adds Olberz.

HypnoBirthing offers postnatal support through CD's for deep, restorative relaxation once baby arrives, plus breastfeeding affirmations and CD's specific to making more milk and pumping.

To find a HypnoBirth class in your area, go to: hypnobirthing.com/directory