On a rainy June night, six couples strained to get a better view of a home video of a woman, legs spread, giving birth. The room was hushed -- the couples' rapt silence matching that of the soon-to-be mom as she labored in almost eerie stillness. Aside from her steady breathing, the scene was quiet, as though someone had taken a sitcom birthing scene and pressed mute. This is both the seductive promise and allure of hypnobirthing , the method of self-hypnosis that had brought the couples to Brooklyn that night. In the current climate of record cesarean section rates and regular epidural use, it was possible, their instructor told them, to have natural birth with no drugs, no screaming and seemingly little pain. Hypnosis, with its focus on inner attention and concentration, offers an alternative.
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On a rainy June night, six couples strained to get a better view of a home video of a woman, legs spread, giving birth. The room was hushed -- the couples' rapt silence matching that of the soon-to-be mom as she labored in almost eerie stillness. Aside from her steady breathing, the scene was quiet, as though someone had taken a sitcom birthing scene and pressed mute.
This is both the seductive promise and allure of hypnobirthing , the method of self-hypnosis that had brought the couples to Brooklyn that night. In the current climate of record cesarean section rates and regular epidural use, it was possible, their instructor told them, to have natural birth with no drugs, no screaming and seemingly little pain.
Hypnosis, with its focus on inner attention and concentration, offers an alternative. Obstetrical hypnosis has long existed in many forms, but the best-known version these days is the trademarked "HypnoBirthing" or "The Mongan Method. In subsequent years, Mongan went on to study hypnosis and wrote several books, including "HypnoBirthing: The Mongan Method," which has become the central tome of Mongan's technique. By eliminating fear and tension, it claims, physical suffering does not have to be part of the birthing experience.
We say easier, shorter, more comfortable," Mongan said. I was one of them. I never felt a smidgen of pain. Pain-free versus not pain-free is a tension that pervades much of the hypnobirthing rhetoric -- tempering women's hopes so they do not expect a pain-free birth, while at the same time tantalizing them with tales of women who rave about calm, even physically pleasant experiences. Central to a woman's ability to enjoy a similarly gentle birth, Mongan said, is completion of the five-week class cycle, which women typically start in the second trimester or early in the third.
According to a HypnoBirthing Institute survey, more than 12, mothers completed the class in the last two years worldwide. Mongan said that the program has "grown and grown," largely via word of mouth, estimating that she sells upwards of 2, copies of her book per month. And celebrities, like Jessica Alba, have brought attention to the method, publicly supporting it. Though teachers can vary their approach, the core syllabus is meant to stay largely the same.
After a lengthy introduction to the method, students begin to practice a series of hypnotic relaxation and visualization exercises and work on breathing techniques. Over the weeks, they practice time distortion, making 10 minutes seem like five, and five like one.
They practice hypnotic anesthesia, making certain parts of their body go numb. And they learn to replace words common to labor like "contraction" -- which Mongan said elicits fear -- with terminology deemed more empowering, like "surges. At home, students practice with a CD dubbed "Rainbow Relaxation," in which they are led through a series of relaxing commands.
Your lower body becomes totally lose and limp, Mongan coaxes them, as music chimes lightly in the background. Picture yourself on a bed of strawberry colored mist. Such relaxation takes work, and daily practice is recommended. Women are encouraged to read the book several times throughout their pregnancy so that when it comes time to labor, they are adept at moving themselves into a state of deep relaxation relying on the techniques they learned and the help of their birth companion.
They are going to be successful no matter what. Hypnosis expert Carol Ginandes, Ph. D, a health psychologist affiliated with Harvard Medical School, explained that positive expectation is central to that success, adding that anyone with direct personal exposure to hypnosis -- whether via smoking cessation or just a gimmicky stage act -- will have internalized expectations.
Openness to the process is essential, she said. Ginandes also cautioned that the "alert awake hypnotic trance" that can accompany successful hypnosis means it is possible that "suggestions presented to [a person] may be taken in at a deep level of mind. A strongly-worded direct suggestion about the ocean could precipitate a panic response or a post-traumatic re-evocation of an old trauma. This, Ginandes said, is a potential issue with a "one-size-fits-all" approach to hypnosis, like The Mongan Method.
She says that many lay hypnotists, meaning people who are not state licensed health care providers or affiliated with The American Society of Clinical Hypnosis, are experienced, well-intentioned and can have good results. But some may not. To become a practitioner of The Mongan Method, instructors have to complete a four-day program, which includes a hour introduction to hypnosis for childbirth or birthing basics, depending on the student's background.
It also includes a hour certification program and additional reading. In the four years that she has taught HypnoBirthing, Quittner said she has had few bad experiences. She estimated that she has led at least 50 classes in that time, and has only had two couples who did not complete the program.
Even students who did not necessarily have the results they dreamt of -- like the woman who had four previous C-sections, wanted a vaginal delivery, but ended up in surgery again -- were pleased with the overall sense of calm they maintained throughout. I was calm. I had a positive experience. One key consideration for women interested in pursuing the method is selecting a doctor or midwife who is accepting of it. Laura Riley, medical director of labor and delivery at Massachusetts General Hospital and author of "You and Your Baby: Pregnancy," said that for many doctors who may not necessarily know a lot about the method, that means simply staying out of the way.
If things are going well, I tend to be really quiet and spend as little time in the room as possible, to not interfere. Mary Murry, a certified nurse midwife and co-editor of the "Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy," said that in hospitals, it's the labor nurses who really need to be on board. They are the ones who spend the most time with women throughout the process. Both Riley and Murry said they have seen an uptick in patients using the method in recent years, although neither believes it has crossed into the mainstream.
Murry estimated that some 10 percent of the births she sees now involve some form of hynpobirthing; Riley said she has only seen 25 to 30 over the last 30 years.
Both medical practitioners consider themselves to be fans of the process. Indeed, in spite of many of the sweeping claims of pain eradication that float around hypnobirthing, learning to calmly cope with contractions or "surges," as they're sometimes known is at the true heart of the technique.
Which is why it appeals to women like Nadine Niznik, 32, a public relations professional in Manhattan who said she has no interest in greeting her birth with fear. Niznik explained that the biggest thing she and her husband -- who initially saw the practice as "pretty out there" -- have learned is to really relax. She is able to better listen to herself, both tuning out external factors and tuning in to her body.
She said she finds herself using the methods she learned in Quittner's Brooklyn sessions in other situations, like when she has been able to ignore the person fidgeting next to her on the subway, or when she has soothed her body after a long day at the office. I don't have any fear. News U. HuffPost Personal Video Horoscopes. Newsletters Coupons. Follow Us. Part of HuffPost Parenting. All rights reserved. Huffington Post. Suggest a correction. Newsletter Sign Up.
Special attention is paid to your preparation during your pregnancy for childbirth and the consciousness of the pre-born baby. For those who would prefer to have a drug-free and natural birth, HypnoBirthing Cloud offers you access to a full course in the convenience of your own home or anywhere you are with a high-speed internet connection. My HypnoBirting journey started with my own pregnancy. When I was pregnant with my son, I was living in Hong Kong, where the most common method for giving birth was by Caesarian Section When I was pregnant with my son, I was living in Hong Kong, where the most common method for giving birth was by Caesarian Section. I neither wanted to undergo an operation just to give birth, nor was I comfortable with the idea of handing over control of my birthing to a surgeon.
A Quick Guide to HypnoBirthing and Its Benefits
By Marie Mongan. Upload Sign In Join. Home Books Wellness. Create a List. Download to App.
Private Classes. Drop-in Pricing Advanced Registration. Retail Items Purchase a Gift Credit. She realized that when fears in pregnancy are acknowledged and women supported by loving, calm partners, then pain in childbirth could be lessened or eliminated. Millions of families have utilized this process all over the world to help them have beautiful, calm and satisfying births. This method was traditionally a "Natural Birth" method of Childbirth preparation, however, we know today that every family needs the helpful processing and planning that HypnoBirthing can offer.
Hypnobirthing: Is Pain-Free Birth Acheivable?
We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Celebrities from Jessica Alba to Kate Middleton have supposedly used hypnosis and related techniques to prepare for labor and delivery, ease feelings of fear, and — yup — even naturally manage pain. Hypnosis during birth? Well, yes. But, no.