Hypnobirthing is a childbirth preparation method that harnesses the power of hypnosis and relaxation for those planning a natural childbirth in or out of the hospital. Despite its effectiveness at decreasing the fear and pain of childbirth, there are two things about HypnoBirthing that drive me crazy.
Benefits of HypnoBirthing
Before I get burned at the stake for criticizing this childbirth method, let’s talk about the benefits of HypnoBirthing. 😉
The doula clients I’ve worked with that took Hypnobirthing classes, listened to the tracks, read the books, etc., generally approached their labors with minimal fear and great confidence. This is wonderful because when women are less fearful, they often experience less pain, and their labors are more straightforward.
Speaking of pain, despite not using the actual p word, HypnoBirthing mamas are experts at pain coping in labor. With the relaxation techniques and self-hypnosis learned during pregnancy, they make childbirth look easy. I’m not exaggerating! Hypnobirthing mamas have the whole pain coping during labor thing mastered.
The Two Things About HypnoBirthing That Drive Me Crazy
The following two aspects of HypnoBirthing are something parents should consider before putting all their eggs in the one basket.
Singular Birthing Focus
When parents learn hypnosis for childbirth and then go on to have a natural birth, HypnoBirthing is great. But for the women whose paths go in a different direction, that’s where the problems start.
It seems that either HypnoBirthing teaches one way of giving birth – unmedicated, vaginal, with minimal intervention – or parents with this same singular focus are drawn to this childbirth preparation method. Either way, parents that identify with this method tend to plan for only one way of birthing. When plans change, as they sometimes do, women feel shocked, betrayed, confused, angry, and as if they failed.
Don’t get me wrong, there are many amazing benefits to a low-intervention, natural birth. Obviously, I’m a huge advocate of unmedicated birth! However, as a childbirth educator I know I would be doing a disservice to parents if I didn’t also teach the tools to navigate doing the next best thing if birthing plans change.
I find just as much satisfaction helping women rock unexpected birth scenarios, as I do helping parents have a natural childbirth.
Positive and Negative Self-Beliefs
The thing is, when someone is so singularly focused on one particular birth outcome and it doesn’t become their reality, postpartum struggles are likely. During pregnancy and with minimal awareness, self-beliefs form that go something like this.
“If I have a natural birth, then I am strong, capable, successful, and a good mom.”
If a natural birth doesn’t happen, these beliefs flip, and the self-talk goes in the other direction.
“Because I didn’t have a natural birth, I am therefore weak, inept, a failure, and a bad mother.”
Let me just say that these negative self-beliefs combined with sleep deprivation, hormonal fluctuations, relationship strains, and breastfeeding challenges, are a recipe for disaster. Becoming a mother is hard enough. Becoming a mother while believing to be weak and a failure is almost insurmountable.
NOTE: If you’ve had a traumatic first birth and are preparing for your second baby, pop on over here for some really great tips.
No Need to Push
Another idiosyncrasy about HypnoBirthing is the belief that actively pushing during the second stage of labor is not required because the body will do it all by itself. Again, the problem is not so much that this is a false statement, but that it’s teaching only one way of giving birth. Let me explain.
When a woman is fully dilated, she typically feels a strong, reflexive urge to push. This urge is involuntary, and something that the body just does. The fetal ejection reflex is a powerful, whole body sensation that guides women through the second stage of labor. For parents that have never given birth, I often compare it to the vomiting reflex – it happens all by itself.
On one hand, I understand where HypnoBirthing is coming from. In many cases, when it comes to pushing, especially with women that have already given birth, there isn’t anything extra to be done. All that’s required is to be completely in the moment as contractions literally eject the baby out of the body.
But this isn’t the case for every woman, especially for those that have not had a previous vaginal delivery. Many women need to put forth great strength behind each pushing contraction to birth their babies. Some have to give everything they’ve got, for hours of pushing. This may not be the average woman’s experience, but it’s well within the range of normal.
For HypnoBirthing parents, it can be a challenge to change gears if a different type of pushing is required. There can be a bit of a learning curve to switch to big, strong, gorilla-like pushes. However, once a woman realizes what’s working, there’s progress to be seen!
Final Thoughts on HypnoBirthing
Like most everything under the sun, HypnoBirthing has its strengths and weaknesses. Because it combines the power of hypnosis and relaxation, it’s a wonderful tool to help parents achieve a natural childbirth.
However, women should consider the effects of a childbirth preparation method that teaches a singular way of birthing. Parents are wise to pay close attention to their self-beliefs tied to any potential birth outcomes. It’s important to question any beliefs, and their sources, that call someone a failure.
What are your thoughts on HypnoBirthing? Am I totally off base? Leave a comment and let me know your experience. I’d love to hear your story!
Stop Telling Women They Don't Have to Push! | Mother Rising
Wednesday 26th of August 2020
[…] my opinion, one of the problems with HypnoBirthing is that they teach to not push during the second stage of labor because the body will do it all by […]
Sunday 29th of December 2019
That's why I could no longer teach HypnoBirthing (Mongan Method) and developed GentleBirth that is inclusive of ALL birth experiences. Too many women were coming out of their birth experience feeling like they failed. Not all HypnoBirthing classes are created 'equal'. Be sure to talk to your Instructor about their philosophy around medication....if they tell you that you won't need it if you practice hard enough or believe enough find a class with a more flexible approach.
Friday 27th of December 2019
Hypnobirthing failed me. After an entire pregnancy of believing I could have a "pain free birth" though preparing with Hypnobirthing, I then experienced the worst pain of my life with my first few contractions. Thus, as things progressed (and got more and more painful), I felt terrified that something was going horribly horribly wrong with my birth. It was extremely traumatic, and the birth ended in a C-section. Now having had two more children through VBAC, I realize that nothing was wrong with my body or my birth, it was Hypnobirthing that over-promised what I now believe to be impossible. My next birth I allowed myself to acknowledge that there would be pain, and while affirmations helped a great deal, it was very difficult - but overall a very positive experience. Not quite sure what to make of people who swear by Hypnobirthing. I make allowance for the fact that people could have very different experiences from me - apparently they do, if they love Hypnobirthing! Though I do feel like there is a badge of honor for those who claim their child birth was easy-peasy, a walk in the park, they didn't even break a sweat - and I can't be sure people who say things like this are being entirely truthful, or that that are honoring the heroism of women who do something that is truly hard - bring life into the world! Why can't we just admit that even with affirmations (that are truly helpful!) birth is painful, and that is ok! I suppose that every birth is different and maybe my body just can't cut it when pushing out babies, but I'm highly suspicious. Pain has a very important use in our bodies. If we didn't feel pain when we broke our arm we wouldn't think to fix it. Many people who have reduced feeling in extremities end up with burns or other injuries that result in limb amputations. I'm sure pain in child birth also serves some important purpose. Perhaps it alerts us to the gravity of the situation - of safely bringing a new life into the world! P.S. Your stages of labor articles helped me so much to eventually have some positive birth experiences! Thank you so much! Also, where are they?! Trying to find them for a friend.
Friday 27th of December 2019
Thank you for sharing your experience. I know there are more stories like yours out there. It's not just you! (There's a search function at the top of this website. Type in "stages of labor" and you'll find it. Let me know if that doesn't work. :)
Thursday 24th of October 2019
My husband and I took a hypnobirthing class and it prepared me so well for labor, which was 53 hours of painful back labor (painful except for the pushing, which was a welcome relief from the back labor!). At around hour 48, had to receive Pitocin to augment my labor. Although it was painful, I did not need an epidural, and I was so glad to be able to walk around throughout most of my labor. My instructor (who was also my doula!) was awesome and definitely let us know when there were things that she disagreed with about the official hypnobirthing approach, so perhaps I went into it knowing that it wasn't the only way. We also had a very difficult road to getting and staying pregnant, so by the time I actually gave birth, I had definitely internalized the idea that you can make all kinds of plans, but who knows what will actually happen. The one big divergence was that the class kept emphasizing that early labor was a time to rest, sleep, and eat, to gear up for active labor. From the very beginning of my labor, my contractions were excruciation in my back and I threw up anything I tried to eat, so there was no rest to be had. But I'm glad I didn't expect this going into it, because I would have been afraid! And oh yes--I definitely had to push WAAAAYYY harder than the class led me to believe, haha!
Monday 28th of October 2019
I'm so glad for your insight and sharing your story. It's helpful to hear from someone who used HypnoBirthing - the pros and cons! Thank you!
Thursday 24th of October 2019
Hi! I teach HypnoBirthing , and I focus on all types of birth possibilities, it is about instinctive birth and understanding what is happening in the moment and accepting any situation and working to get the best experience out of it. There’s no question about how someone approaches a situation that can affect its outcome. That is what we teach. I had a woman take my course because she wanted to be calm after for nursing, not even during the birth. (She was a multi-para)..It has definitely helped with postpartum recovery as well.
As far as Not pushing the baby out, many childbirth educators, including Ina may Gaskin, the famous Midwife, refer to the NER- natural expulsive reflex. We do not teach to do nothing but rather to breathe the baby down as opposed to pushing and I’ve heard a lot of men that come to the class that report that this has worked for them in the bathroom LOL. I was at a recent birth that was very long and challenging and she actually didn’t push but did Bree the baby down, a first time mom and she literally had one stitch and she feels great! There’s no question that securing a supportive caregiver and provider makes all the difference! I think unless someone has properly taken the full course from an instructor it’s can possibly be misunderstood. If those are the two drawbacks you mention, then I think this is still a phenomenal way to have a baby… I used HypnoBirthing for my youngest two, I wish I had known about it earlier! (I have 9 kids!) I hope this was helpful and thank you for posting- I enjoy reading what you write!
Monday 28th of October 2019
Hey! I'm so glad for your comment and insight. Thank you! :)