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    Hypnobirthing: The Mongan Method by Marie F Mongan (3rd ed.)

    This book is intended to serve as the textbook accompanying in-person Hypnobirthing classes, but also to introduce the concept of hypnobirthing to the unconvinced. Many women claim to have found the use of the book on its own enough to achieve the type of natural birth they wanted.

    The early sections of the book are devoted to an examination of “the birth of natural childbirth” as a movement in recent decades. Mongan relays several stories of “humble” and “simple” women who gave birth painlessly and easily in slums and on battlefields. A Dr. Dick-Read of the twentieth century is credited with “discovering” that it is fear of birth and the anticipation of pain that cause a woman’s body to tense during labor and therefore to work against the natural process of relaxing the muscles and moving the baby out. This is called the “Fear-Tension-Pain Syndrome.” Mongan also walks through “A History of Women and Birthing,” tracing how the birthing process came to be viewed as painful and perilous.

    Mongan relates her own varying birth experiences as a mother in the 50s, and how they laid the groundwork for her coaching her own daughter through the first “Hypnobirth” and launching the Mongan Method birth movement.

    The remainder of the book details the philosophies and techniques connected with the Mongan Method, which asserts that birth is a natural process that rarely requires intervention and does not need to trigger fear. Selecting a care provider who prefers a hands-off prenatal care routine is advised, and the psycho-physical response and how to use it to advantage during pregnancy and labor forms the heart of the work. The techniques themselves involve a variety of breathing, relaxation, and visualization practices. The book is sold with an accompanying CD with two tracks, one of positive birth affirmations and the other of a relaxation/visualization program.

    Nutrition, exercise, and perineal massage are discussed, as well as techniques for repositioning a baby that is not in the optimal position. The phases of labor, how to become comfortable in your birthing setting, and various laboring positions with the integration of the breathing and visualizations are all explained. The book then briefly discusses the ideal post-birth routine and suggestions for the first few weeks of nursing and bonding as a family.

    I went in with an open but skeptical mind and found a lot to like in this book. My Jedi meditation practice has been invaluable to me over the last several months, and during the first trimester, I remember meditation being the only thing that could lessen my nausea and give me some measure of energy back. I believe that the breathing, relaxation, and visualization techniques will be a great asset during labor. The concept of fear causing tension and tension being counterproductive to the birthing process makes sense to me.

    Some of the claims, however, just don’t hold up under scrutiny. Mongan’s assertion that animals don’t feel pain in labor has convinced me that she has never watched any give birth; I have. The goat I attended didn’t seem terrified and didn’t shriek agonizingly like laboring women in the movies, but she didn’t seem to be having an ethereal experience, either. She yelled and did not seem to be having a very good time until the kid had emerged. Mongan also claims that all references to difficult labor in the Bible were inserted thousands of years later by church leaders in the Middle Ages; I would like to see her citations for this. (There is an extensive bibliography at the end of the book, but there are no citations or footnotes, so finding the sources for individual claims is quite difficult.)

    And, of course, there is the simple historical reality that childbirth throughout the millennia often has been deadly for women and babies. Mongan easily acknowledges the necessity of modern medicine and surgical intervention in extreme cases. But she glosses over the fact that without them, many, many women and children did die in the course of this process that she claims never caused fear until a few hundred years ago. I find it hard to believe that no one feared birth until 1000 CE.

    Still, I found this book to be very helpful and encouraging, and I do plan to keep to the relaxation and preparation plan as outlined in the book as closely as possible. Before reading the book, I was absolutely planning on requesting an epidural. I may still choose to go the pain-relief route, but now I like the idea of first trying the meditation and breathing methods to see if they work for me.

    Kol Drake

    The ‘best’ thing ANY book can advise is ‘be in shape BEFORE and during pregnancy’ and learning how to go into a semi ‘zen’ mindset (meditation) so you can handle contraction episodes better. The rest? It is ‘the same’ but ‘not the same’ for every birth and every mom. Even when babies are pumped out like an automobile production line… each one has their unique flavor.

    What kept going through my mind was — this seems like an updated version of “the rice paddy birth.”
    “The rice paddy birth” is the long standing legend that usually goes something like this:

    “We make such a big deal about having babies in this country. Classes, hospitals, pain, blah blah blah. You know in country XYZ, women are working in the rice paddies and they just squat, give birth, pick the baby up and keep on working.”

    As so many wags say online (and in person) — if there aren’t pictures; it never happened.
    Not that there are a plethora of budding action photographers waiting in local rice paddy fields to snap such classic moments.
    To be fair, women have probably done this…. somewhere, at sometime.

    Women ARE strong. Birth IS a natural function. And “rice paddy birth” is not only possible but has almost definitely happened.

    One does kind of have to call “BS” on it though.
    First, it implies that birth is so easy that we could/should just jump back into our regular lives as soon as possible. And I happen to think this is totally bogus. That sounds more like some fat dude in the home office bitching because they lost ten minutes (or several days) to have that spot in the sweat shop production line ‘back up and producing’.

    You know what I think the truth is? I think if I asked a woman who had given birth in a rice paddy and kept on working WHY she did that the answer would be kind of sad. I bet she did it because she HAD TO in order TO SURVIVE. My guess is that women who have to resume work that quickly after giving birth do so out of necessity, not a burning desire to prove their empowerment. I also bet she is less likely to survive birth and I bet her baby is less likely to survive too.

    I have no doubt that a lifestyle filled with exercise, squatting and activity can make birth quicker and easier. I also have no doubt that birth is still hard work, hard on the body, and is designed to have a recovery period.

    My ex once said — try passing a tennis ball through your penis and then we can compare stories.


    Whatever your plans, be prepared to throw them out the window. I wanted natural. I got two epidurals. lol I was more afraid of the epidurals, but if I didn’t get them I absolutely would have needed a c section. This way I had a more ‘natural’ experience in many ways. I did try the laughing gas. It was a joke (haha). But it works for some people. So definitely go in with your ideal birth plan and adjust as you go. The key is to have a provider you can trust to steer you in the best direction medically.

    I know people who did the hypnobirthing prep. Don’t remember how it turned out for them though. I don’t see any harm in the preparation though. I didn’t do it because it just wasn’t my thing. I preferred the prenatal yoga which I enjoyed a lot. :-)


    Oh, yes, there was definitely more than just echoes of the “rice paddy birth” legend present in the book. While there were no stories of births happening in literal rice paddies, swap the setting out for leaning against the wall of a hut in Africa and there you go.

    I also have to question how multiple women apparently gave birth so serenely in trenches during WWI and then scooped up their hours-old infants and marched off. They might not have been afraid of childbirth, but, 1) What on earth were random female civilians doing wandering around a battlefield by themselves, especially in labor?; and, 2) Why did they then wander off back into no-man’s-land instead of asking the nice field surgeon to arrange transportation for themselves and their babies to somewhere safe away from the front lines? Just so strange.

    I am holding my “birth plan” very loosely. I hear that babies tend to come when and how they please! :)


    People did what they had to in war. They still do. Maybe they didn’t think they could trust the field medics. After all, propaganda was going around from all sides.

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