24 July 2013

Review: HypnoBirthing by Marie Mongan

I'm at an age where everyone I know seems to be having babies, so when we finally got pregnant there were plenty of people ready to offer advice. One thing that came up repeatedly was HypnoBirthing - my cousin and a friend both found it extremely helpful before their births. So when Souvenir Press Ltd offered to send me a copy of Marie Mongan's HypnoBirthing book for review, it seemed an obvious choice.
Marie Mongan is one of the leading voices in the HypnoBirthing movement. She has used her experience as a hypnotherapist to build on the Dick-Read birthing method to form her own HypnoBirthing philosophy. The general premise seems to be that by using self-hypnosis techniques you can remain calm and relaxed, easing your labour and distancing yourself from the pain.

I have to admit I was a bit dubious. To get the full benefits of HypnoBirthing you really need to take classes alongside the book and you need time to practice the recommended skills. With just six weeks to go, I doubted I could really put HypnoBirthing into practice.

I was also a bit worried that HypnoBirthing might be quite heavy reading, but I was pleasantly surprised to find it light and accessible. I really enjoyed the first 50 pages which covered the history of child birth and how our perceptions have been influenced. Mongan suggests that birth doesn't have to be the terribly painful experience we often see on film - instead with practice birth can be embraced as a positive empowering experience.
While I may not be able to use the HypnoBirthing skills described in the book, I still found sections useful. We've also been attending the hospital antenatal classes, and I've found Mongan's descriptions of labour much more helpful. Rather than focusing on cervix texture and centimetres of dilation, there are explanations of how the muscles are working together to open the cervix and how you can help them work efficiently to progress your labour.

HypnoBirthing has also made me consider the skills I already have. Many of the breathing and meditation techniques Mongan recommends help you to stay calm and relaxed, which in theory reduces the pain you feel. I noticed there were similarities between the HypnoBirthing techniques and my experiences in Quaker worship. Though not immediately obvious, I discovered skills I hope may give me more control over my birth experience.

I think that's one of the books strongest aspects - it suggests that we can take active control of our child's birth. It also places a lot of importance on the support of a birthing partner, which can help engage husbands and partners - making them an integral part of the birth process.

Definitely an interesting book, HypnoBirthing offers an alternate perspective that may encourage you to look at childbirth with new eyes - though we'll have to wait a few more weeks to see if it's helped me. I'd probably recommend reading HypnoBirthing early on in your pregnancy, so you have time to find a class if you decide if it's something you'd like to explore further.

Has anyone else given HypnoBirthing a try?