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HypnoBirthing: The Mongan Method

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Childbirth is not something to be feared; it is a natural expression of life. With HypnoBirthing, your pregnancy and childbirth will become the gentle, life-affirming process it was meant to be.
In this easy-to-understand guide, HypnoBirthing founder Marie F. Mongan explodes the myth of pain as a natural accompaniment to birth. She proves through sound medical information that it is not our bodies but our culture that has made childbirth a moment of anguish, and that when we release the fear of birth, a fear that is keeping our bodies tense and closed, we will also release the pain
HypnoBirthing is nature, not manipulation. It relaxes the mind in order to let the body work as it is designed. The HypnoBirthing exercises - positive thinking, relaxation, visualization, breathing and physical preparation — will lead to a happy and comfortable pregnancy, even if you are currently unsure of an intervention-free birth. Your confidence, trust and happy anticipation will in turn lead to the peaceful, fulfilling and bonding birth that is your right as a mother.
More than 10,000 happy couples have had their lives changed for the better by HypnoBirthing.
More than 500 news organizations — including Good Morning America, The Today Show, Dateline, The Richard & Judy Show, Time, Newsweek, Parenting and Better Homes & Gardens — have joined the movement for better birthing.
Why is HypnoBirthing changing the way the world gives birth? That's simple. Because it works.

302 pages, Paperback

First published April 16, 1998

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About the author

Marie F. Mongan

23 books14 followers
Marie Mongan, M.Ed., M.Hy., of The Villages, Florida, is an award-winning hypnotherapist, who brings to her classroom over thirty years’ experience in education and counseling on the college level and in the private sector. As the most comprehensive birthing education program available, Mongan Method HypnoBirthing® offers women and their partners opportunities to explore their choices and develop the decisions-making skill necessary to achieve their birthing goals.
She is a former college dean who, early in her career, was named one of five outstanding educational leaders in New Hampshire and was awarded a Ford Foundation Fellowship to Harvard University.
Marie Mongan – Licensed, Certified, & Instructor
Marie (best known as “Mickey”) is licensed by the State of New Hampshire as a counselor and is certified as a hypnotherapist, hypnoanesthesiologist, and instructor of hypnotherapy. She holds several awards for distinguished service and achievement in the practice of hypnosis and is the 1995 recipient of the National Guild of Hypnotists President’s Award. In 2000 she was presented with the coveted NGH Charles Tebbetts Award for her contribution in “shedding the light” and advancing the awareness of hypnosis. In 2005 she became the first woman ever to receive the highest award given by the National Guild – the Rexford L. North Award.
Mickey is the mother of four adult children, all born in the late ’50s and early ’60s. She experienced all four labors without labor medication, using the theories of Dr. Jonathan Dye, of Buffalo, New York, and Grantly Dick-Read, of the UK, two pioneers in natural childbirth. Two of her birthings were entirely free of anesthesia at a time when it was unheard of, and her husband was by her side in both the labor room and the “delivery” room. Her book HypnoBirthing™–A Celebration Of Life, was written in 1989; her latest book, HypnoBirthing™ – The Marie Mongan Method, is now available in leading book outlets and through the HypnoBirthing™ Institute.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 874 reviews
Profile Image for Isabell.
228 reviews8 followers
August 20, 2017
Well, well. What to say about this book.

To preface, I should say that I grew up being told by my own mother exactly what this author is saying, namely, that contractions during childbirth don't hurt and that giving birth is just a lot of pressure "down there". My mom described the feeling of contractions to me as a heavy truck hanging from a rope that is attached at your cervix, pulling down into a deep abyss of nothingness, but not painfully. And so, for most of my teenage years I assumed that most other women who gave birth were just a little overly sensitive, imagining pain were in fact there wasn't any. Then I gave birth the first time, and I thought I had been lied to my whole life, because, oh man, did it ever hurt! In fact, hurt and pain were an under-statement, I felt. The second time giving birth, I came in more prepared, and I tried to do the things my mom told me she did while laboring with me (which was essentially a form of self-hypnosis and deep relaxation), and although it did help me stay in control of the pain, it did NOT take away the pain. But it did make the whole experience easier and more peaceful, at least up to a certain degree. (The last 15 minutes of an un-medicated birth are CRAZY, CRAZY, no matter how relaxed you are.)

A long preface to say: I came into reading this book without prejudice, but excitement to learn more about why I was experiencing pain in my deliveries when my mom didn't, and to find out what I was doing "wrong."

Pain during childbirth, the author claims, is something Western women experience because they fear childbirth, and it is this fear, not any physical reality, that tightens the muscles in the uterus, making labor painful (where really it shouldn't be, if one only kept the uterine muscles relaxed.) As proof for this claim she tells second-hand stories of "simple, uneducated, poor" women who give birth under a bridge, or in a ditch during WW1, or "African" women simply squatting next to a wall and having their babies with great ease, and mammals who calmly give birth, without pain and screaming. Not only are most, if not all, of these stories offensive, but they are also completely unscientific. First of all, who is to say that mammals don't experience pain during childbirth only because they are quiet during it? I once saw a cow giving birth on TV and it did not seem like that poor animal was comfortable. Secondly, who are these anonymous women whose stories she is telling us as proof, whom we know nothing about, who even the doctor who first told these stories knows nothing about, who were never asked about their experience, who never even told their own stories? How can some stranger, a random male doctor assigned to oversee their deliveries, tell how these "simple" women experienced childbirth? I was mostly quiet while giving birth, but I was quiet because it was hurting so much, and I felt like I was going to lose it if I let myself talk or scream or interact, in any way, with the outside world. Only because someone looks calm, doesn't mean they are calm. So, all these little anecdotes are really all beyond bogus and completely unconvincing to me. Also, err, if childbirth doesn't hurt in and of itself, why the need for deeper and deeper relaxation as labor progresses? Why the need for an imaginary "endorphine glove" with the power to numb your abdomen?

I'm not saying that pain-free labor doesn't exist, it probably does, sometimes, for some women. But nothing the author writes in the book proves to me that it is self-hypnosis that makes it so (no-one asked those "poor" women, or those "African" women or all the mammals in the world how, or whether, they did it pain-free, after all). And nothing she writes proves that it is fear that causes pain. I kept waiting for her explanation of why women experience after-pains, something that certainly isn't related to fear given that the birth is already over at that point and you have your lovely little baby in your arms... but she didn't mention the after-pains, not once, ignoring them completely.) Now, I have done years of yoga, and I know that you can stay in control and breathe through pain, to a certain degree. And as a former dancer I also know that relaxing tired, aching, tight muscles while you are using them can go a looong way in pushing your body beyond its own capacity. And I do believe that there is a body-mind connection that is lost on a lot of non-athletes.

So, in a way, I agree with some of what she is saying. I believe in relaxation.

But to claim that pain during labor is a social construct that you can just visualize away... and that most hospitals and practitioners are mostly there to make birth complicated for you and to make you feel powerless... well, that's simply irresponsible.

It's irresponsible and counter-productive because it causes what it seeks to prevent, namely fear of the system. And it also adds a whole ton of guilt, guilt about feeling pain, guilt about having chosen the wrong practitioner, guilt about not doing things right, guilt about drugging up your baby with an epidural (which, she says, is a terrible, terrible thing to do, making you an "unloving" mom before your baby is even born)... and so on. And I feel like we modern moms have quite enough of guilt to deal with already. We need to do and be so many tings before the baby is even born to qualify us as good mothers, from the choice of diet (she, of course, has a whole chapter to say about that, too), to the choice of diaper, to the choice of hospital, to the choice of underwear, that I sometimes wonder if the reason not more women have more babies is simply that they are tired of feeling guilty and useless.

The author talks of giving birth in a nice, trusting, positive environment, where you feel calm and loved and accepted. But she does very little to help you feel that way, making you think hospitals (where most of us do give birth) are evil, untrustworthy institutions and doctors unknowledgeable fools (a problem with most natural-birth advocacy books). I wish her book was more like that trusting place she describes, a place where women can go to feel hope and good about themselves, no matter how their deliveries go, where they can tap into their own maternal power. I do believe there is communication that needs to exist between mothers and hospitals/doctors/midwives. I do believe we need to be knowledgeable about our own bodies, I do believe we need to try to relax and trust our own strength, to have a say in our birth experience, and I can imagine that self-hypnosis might help some women go to that place of calm and peace, but this book, unfortunately, does nothing to create that trusting atmosphere or feeling of self-empowerment.

Instead of reading this book, I recommend listening to some relaxation or hypnosis videos on youtube. And do search for some that work for you, not everyone responds to images of lying in a rainbow field and turning the color of red or green or purple with feelings of calm. (I for one, must giggle). Anyway, I think, listening to a good relaxation video and doing a yoga class will get you in a much more at-ease, confident state than reading this book.

EDIT: Sorry about this blob of a text, I'm too tired to clean it up.
Profile Image for Meg Sherman.
169 reviews427 followers
August 21, 2008
Anyone who has given birth without drugs and tells you "It didn't hurt at ALL..." is FULL OF POOP (and you can tell them I said that). Newsflash: having a baby hurts! PAIN... That's what happens when something the size of a watermelon comes out of a hole the size of a quarter.

However, I did my second birth naturally by the Mongan "Hypnobirthing" Method, and I can tell you that natural birth IS POSSIBLE (even for Piglet-level wusses such as myself). This book is great... but the hypnobirthing class I took along WITH it was what really made the difference, so I'd recommend both the book AND a class. (I took a class in Orem, UT taught by Monica English). It probably won't work for everyone... but if you are one of those individuals with a lot of mind-over-matter ability, it'll do ya just fine.

The method mostly involves reciting positive mantras on childbirth, practicing self-hypnosis scripts with a partner (intended to replace the traditional "strings of expletives" method of childbirth communication, I think), learning to make birth plans, practicing positions and massages that ease the process (this is what helped me the MOST... as well as learning the "low moan"... yeah, you don't want to know...), adopting a more positive vocabulary for childbirth terms, and trusting your body and mind to take care of itself. I enjoyed it (well, maybe "enjoyed" is too strong a term)--but I recognize it's not for anyone.

How did natural childbirth go? I personally LOVED being more active and alert during the process... BUT DON'T YOU EPIDURAL OR C-SECTION MOMS LET ANYONE BELITTLE YOU!!! I'm sorry, but anyone who can produce a living body from their own--by ANY method--deserves some serious kudos. I'm just as much the mother of my epidural son as my hypnobirthed daughter.

Men: If you already haven't stopped reading, I apologize. This entire review probably falls under the category of "too much information."

Profile Image for Alexandra .
10 reviews
September 15, 2011
I combined this with classes from a HypnoBirthing practitioner. I am not anti-medicine or a hippy (I eat cows, wear leather, I rarely exercise let alone think of going near a yoga mat). It worked, because it does. There's nothing weird, anti-science or particularly flaky about mind over matter. Sports scientists, CBT therapists, people on diets all know this. Hypnosis is something we do all the time - the Mongan Method simply organises it into a programme for birth and adds that there's simply no point in being scared of birth. Your body knows what it's doing - let it do it, and let someone else worry about the what ifs. Only it's not as simple as that, because we've been told over and over - by the media, by 'helpful' other mothers, by people who heard this awful story once - that everything about birth is bad, bad, bad. So the Mongan Method adds in simple exercises to help remove that narrative and replace it with a positive one.

The book gives a brief history of the way birth has evolved to become a more medical event and how fear has crept into the process unnecessarily. it then goes on to discuss and describe relaxation methods and birthing positions that can be helpful. I would say it's not necessarily 100% helpful in isolation, as a lot of the practice is much easier with someone else to guide you. And it's not necessary to subscribe to every last detail to find it useful; while I'm totally on board with the hypnotherapy element, I'm not sold on the science of perineal massage.

There are two misconceptions I notice in a lot of the reviews of this book. The first is the dismissing of the theory about fear, and the second is the relentless focus on pain. The fact is, we know perfectly well that fear increases pain. The second is that women love to dwell endlessly on the 'reality' of birth, by which they mean all the things that can go wrong, even though that's actually not the reality for thousands of women. And the funny thing is, that you can do sod all about things that go wrong - there is no point in preparing for the worst. Your doctor and midwife are there to do that. So why not prepare for the best? That's what this book is about.

A good outcome does not mean natural birth only. I don't even like the term 'natural'. Let's be grown ups: a good outcome is not only vaginal birth. Admittedly this book stresses it because it's the physiological norm, but there are plenty of stories of C-section mums who appreciate this book.

As a result of the amazing impact this book and programme had on my daughter's birth (gas and air, not particularly painful), in fact, just today I started a course to teach HB. And guess what? Right next to me was another mum. She had been induced and had a C-section, but was totally convinced of HB's worth. Also around me were many midwives who'd seen it in action and know it can work extremely well.

The worst that can happen if you read this book is that you decide it's not for you. The best that can happen is that you have a better birth because of it.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
389 reviews88 followers
July 25, 2009
Are you kidding me??? I feel like I am being insulted at every turn in this book. Here's the problem, Mongan makes some generalized statements about "simple" women and "African" women that really put me off. She uses these examples as a means of developing her argument about the effectiveness of relaxation as a means of supporting women during delivery.

What bothers me most, is that there is PLENTY of evidence that suggests that when a person's cortisol, GH and norepinephrine hormone loads are low, individuals experience less pain. She does not need to tell the story of the "a couple from Africa in her childbirth class" that are quoted to have said, "WHAT EES ALL DEES STUFF? IN AFRICA WE DOAN HAVE ALL DEES STUFF!! WE HAVE DE BABEE!!"

AGHH!!! Africa is an entire continent. Her reference to women leaving a hut, squatting against a tree without pain is overly simplistic, uninformed and reinforces racist images that exist about women from the over 54 countries in Africa. It didn't help that she used "simple women" as the origins of the idea that birthing doesn't have to be painful. I wanted her to get to the business of explaining the hypnobirthing process without all the bullshit. I felt like her own story of being tied to a bed during delivery was strong and more personal stories like that would have better served her purpose.

Additionally, I appreciate that her goal is to help support pain free delivery. But her emphasis on the total absence of pain left me feeling pressured. I felt like if I experience pain then I must be doing something wrong. Also, where is her evidence that animals don't suffer from pain during delivery. I have watched a few of my domesticated animals give birth and they looked highly stressed and uncomfortable. I would love to see the science behind her claims.

In the end, her message and techniques about relaxation are not bad. I actually like many of them. I think ANYTHING in life that is accomplished with less stress is somehow a little easier. The way she delivers her message is lacking and detracts from some of her methods and ideas that might support women going into ANY type of delivery. She should simply deliver her methods without attempting to build an argument for them. She lost me in her overly simplistic, ill informed anecdotes. There exits a preponderance of strong, well informed research to support the effectiveness of relaxation and diminished stress hormones during life altering events.
Profile Image for Annette.
203 reviews15 followers
December 22, 2013
According to the World Health Organization, childbirth is the leading cause of death of women in developing nations. Is this just a "social construction"? Can we visualize this fact away?

I burned this book after giving birth. I didn't want anyone picking it out of the garbage and accidentally reading this.

This book is simply very unrealistic for what I'm betting is the majority of women who have waited til their 30s to get preggo. I would much more recommend a breathing course, and a course in ALL birthing techniques. That way you can be educated in the possibilities of what could (and often does) happen. This book only deals with the fantastical and rare time where women pop out a baby under an hour all while singing Kum-bay-ya and having multiple orgasms in a kiddie pool.

My husband grew up on a farm. On several occasions to save a cow's life, he had to put a chain up a cow's vagina and wrap it around a calf, then put the other side of the chain on a pick-up truck and drive away at about 1 MPH. So don't give me this BS (no pun intended) about animals doin' it "naturally." Crooked calves w/o intervention = dead baby cows AND dead mama cows.

On the flip side, I understand the theory behind this book, that women should not be scared of giving birth. It is one of the most exciting and powerful experiences in the world. My baby was not brought into the world through hypno-birthing, but she is perfect all the same. The authors would like for you to believe otherwise. That my baby would be better off if she came out "naturally." Well...naturally would have included a dead mom. If you can do natural, more power to you. But if you have to have a C-section or epidural, I really don't think that makes you less of a person, and shouldn't make you feel guilty like the authors imply it should.

Profile Image for Lindley Walter-smith.
202 reviews12 followers
November 5, 2012
This is a misogynist, woman-blaming text, with bonus racism, classism and heterocentrism. If I could give it zero stars, I would. Its philosophy is simple and based on that other horrendous book, "the Secret": if you feel pain, suffering or if anything goes wrong, it's because you deserve it, because your attitude was just not good enough.

There is very little actual practical help on self-hypnosis as a method of relaxation and pain control in this book. Instead, we get a lot of birth politics, plus an attitude based right on "the Secret" - remember that one? The one that posits that if you have cancer or were born in a war-torn fourth world country, it's because your thoughts attracted it, while conversely the rich and healthy deserve it because they thought positive?

Three examples of why I only gave this one star:

* Blaming a woman who has a breech or otherwise problematically positioned baby for sending magical metal waves that keep the baby in that position
* Saying that a woman who had a difficult birth did so because the drama was more important than her and her own child's welfare. Remember, ladies, any complications are your own fault. If your baby dies, you killed her, always remember that!
* And, as a hyperemesis sufferer, this really upset me:
If a pregnant woman wants and needs to be pampered, "waited upon" and coddled, and buys into the concept that pregnancy is an abnormal conditional and she is "ill", the attention that she gains during a troublesome pregnancy and a difficult birthing can definitely make it all worthwhile in her mind. She barely tolerates her pregnancy and constantly proclaims her annoyance at all the aches, pains and other "pregnancy disorders", while she uses body language that demonstrates her plight. Family members often contribute to this scenario by cautioning the woman that she must "give in" to her frailty during this precarious time of her life.

Mongan weights her dice by offering a painfree, complication free, perfect pregnancy and birth if you are a good girl and do (and think) exactly what she says, explicitly pooh-poohing all known complications and dangers, and then telling you that if everything isn't 100% wonderful, it's because YOU are a flawed and inadequate human being - not that her method is fallible or doesn't work for every woman. As a result, the amount of woman-blaming and hostility towards women inherent in this book is quite incredible.

I also didn't appreciate the relentless heterocentrism, which went beyond using "he" for your partner into constantly telling you that your baby was conceived through perfect lovemaking - no, he wasn't. That doesn't even hold true for all straight women, but she obviously finds the idea of lesbian and otherwise non-heterosexually partnered mothers completely inconceivable. It's also cringeingly racist. The "happy simple primitives speaking in broken English" she presents as totally real people she's worked with made me die a little inside. It Finally, it speaks only to wealthy women who have completely unrestricted financial choices about birth - she actually says that if you say you can't afford something, then it's your own fault that you're poor, because, you know, the Secret.

The actual practical content of this book consists of one short chapter on relaxation methods and one short chapter of visualisations. But it seems to be about selling her patented courses and CDs more than actually being of any help.
Profile Image for Heather.
Author 12 books54 followers
May 2, 2008
This another book that I feel every pregnant woman should read, even if she isn't planning on using hypnosis or even having a natural birth. The author talks a lot about overcoming fears, especially the fear of birth. There is way too much fear surrounding birth, especially for new moms, and she gives strategies for being prepared physically, emotionally and spiritually for birth. Why is it that no one would ever run a marathon if they hadn't been training (both mentally and physically) but we think it is okay to go into birth completely unprepared?
Profile Image for Laura.
125 reviews8 followers
October 14, 2008
First of all, there are good things in this book. The author puts forth an interesting philosophy, which is based on her own considerable experience - both personal and as a birthing 'coach', 'instructor', or whatever terminology you want to use - and the experience and observations of others. Her main point is that most of the natural world gives birth without medical intervention, and that we, as natural beings, should also be able to do this. Theoretically, I agree with this. I also agree that it makes no sense for childbirth to work as 'badly' as it does in our society today - there is no excuse for the high number of cesarean births, epidurals, epesiotomies, and other standard interventions.

There are also things in this book that make me cringe. It's a good thing that this is based on her own experience and not on any research, because real research is clearly not a priority here. Her chapter on the 'history' of childbirth pain was more painful, I think, than giving birth could ever be. I was literally yelling at the book and went off on a first class rant to my husband about why I would fail this if I got it as an essay. I might actually assign that chapter to my students as an exercise of finding everything wrong with it that they can. That in itself makes me doubt the validity of any of the science, as Mongan clearly is not interested in researching her topic before committing it to press.

But putting that aside aside - does the technique work? For me, no. Further, I find it a bit offensive that the premise of this book is that if you feel pain in childbirth, it is either because you fear the pain (I didn't, honestly) or because somehow you secretly WANTED the pain so that everyone would give you attention. I can only speak for my own experience, but I didn't fear the pain, I didn't want the pain, I really thought that the whole thing would hurt a lot less than it did, and yet, giving birth was the most painful experience I've ever had. And I almost lost a foot in a car wreck, and have broken more bones than is really normal, so I'm pretty familiar with pain. Visualization helped get me through labor a little, but not a whole lot - the breathing exercises I learned elsewhere were MUCH more helpful. Perhaps if I had paid for a special hypno-birthing class, I would have been proficient enough at the technique to avoid my epidural - but if a class is required to learn the technique, then the book shouldn't really be sold on its own.

Profile Image for Jill Miskin.
409 reviews12 followers
June 30, 2011
I waited to review this until after I had given birth-I figure beforehand would have just been speculation. Anyway, when I read this I thought some of the ideas were quite unrealistic. I was then surprised when some of the techniques worked really well. My delivery nurse is a hypnobirthing instructor and I was pleasantly surprised how well I could keep under control with the breathing techniques and how relaxed and calm she kept me. So even though I read the book and knew the techniques, having a well versed nurse who reminded me of what I needed to do was really essential. I listened to the cd that came along with the book and really had a hard time relaxing to it while practicing, but during labor it worked surprisingly well. The part I was most skeptical about was during the pushing stage of labor, the book says you can breath your baby down rather than spending a lot of time and effort pushing. My doc was at another delivery and I spent about twenty minutes with controlled breathing the baby down. Then only pushed a little at the last minute. It was a very strange feeling, but it worked a lot better than I thought it would. So three stars because the techniques work but for me only with a qualified nurse that knew what to do and what to remind me of, I don't think I would have remained as relaxed as I did without the human element.
Profile Image for Julie.
19 reviews
January 29, 2009
Awesome!! A little weird at the beginning but you gotta just let that go...to each his own. BUT....the relaxation techniques and the approach to labor and deliver is life changing. After reading this book, listening to the CD's and practicing the techniques I was able to endure a 30+ hour labor and I was successful in the end. I was able to completely relax my body so that I wouldn't fight against labor pains making it almost painless to go through labor and delivery. I lost sight of my goal during transition phase of labor when I was dialating from a 6-9 in about 15 minutes...but I had good support at the hospital to remind me to relax and use my hypnobirthing. I was able to deliver a 7 lb 14 oz baby in a foreign country without any meds. I thought it was pretty cool...and I would refer this book and technique to anyone...even if the techniques only help you to sleep through the night while 9 months prego...the book is well worth the read.
Profile Image for Myridian.
390 reviews42 followers
November 23, 2010
I wish that I could give this book both two and four stars as there are some things that I very much like about the book and other things that I very much dislike.

On the positive side, the research supporting the use of hypnosis for pain management is well established and many of the exercises in this book are excellent. While I have other relaxation and visualization scripts that I prefer, those presented here are good and the suggestions appear to be consistent with having a positive experience during labor.

On the negative side, the book seems to present a moral philosophy of birth rather than information based upon research or current understanding of medical practices. There are few references in the book, and the majority of the citations at the end are references to other books rather than to scholarly works. I tried to research articles that might relate to the ideas presented in the book, but the only things I could find seemed to indicate no real benefits to natural childbirth techniques over traditional childbirth preparation classes in the rates of epidural use. I did find an article that indicated that pushing may be contraindicated at least during the second stage of labor. Otherwise, there wasn't really anything that would support some of the claims that Mongan makes in the book. Again, it seems more like someone's ideas, and someone who isn't a physician, nurse, or midwife, rather than efficacy-based practice.

Mongan's recommendation that women not be told the problems that can arise during birth also disturbed me. While some individuals may be comfortable with less information, I for one want to know as much as possible about the process and intend to educate myself to the best of my ability. In doing that I hope to find out about both "normal" and problematic childbirth with the hope that I will be prepared for either.

Another thing that bothered me about the book was the tone it took implying that if a woman was experiencing pain during labor she was obviously doing something incorrectly. This stance of blaming the victim goes against everything in the psychological literature relating to pain management. Everyone's pain experience is different, and the interventions required to manage pain are different for everyone, and just telling someone that they don't or shouldn't be experiencing pain is one of the least effective things that you can do. Additionally, the implication that the labor experience changes a child's personality throughout their life is ludicrous. No single medical procedure is going to determine personality, particularly in a pre-linguistic child.

Even still, I do plan to practice the relaxation techniques, take the remaining recommendations with a grain of salt, and work toward an epidural-free, natural labor experience.

In the interest of providing references, here are the two articles mentioned above:

Bergstrom, M., & Waldenstrom, U. (2009). Effects of natural childbirth preparation versus standard antenatal education on epidural rates, experience of childbirth and parental stress in mothers and fathers: a randomised controlled multicentre trial. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynacology, 116(9), 1167-1176.

Brancato, R.M., Church, S., & Stone, P. W. (2008). A meta-analysis of passive descent versus immediate pushing in nulliparous women with epidural analgesia in te second stage of labor. JOGNN - Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing, 37(1), 4-12.
Profile Image for Annalisa.
525 reviews1,350 followers
July 7, 2013
I feel like this book sets women up to fail. It claims childbirth doesn't hurt, at all, and if it hurts you, well that's just because you've been conditioned for birth to hurt. So you go into childbirth expecting all this new wave awesomeness and your body tenses up, a lot, and you start to stress because it kind of hurts and that's your fault and you must be doing something wrong. If you hurt, that's not natural but Western indoctrination. If you have the urge to push, that's not natural but Western indoctrination. But you have to read Mongan's book (and a take Hypno Birthing class) to learn the relaxation techniques for that easy, no-pain delivery that's supposed to come naturally.

The theory in there that if you relax and let your body work for you the experience will be much smoother is solid, but Mongan doesn't use a lot of technical information. She doesn't want to bog mothers down with terminology that will freak them out. So instead of prepping mothers with a lot of the science of childbirth, she glosses over a lot of the facts in favor of reminding you, often, that it isn't supposed to hurt. That may work for some women, to go into the experience with an ultra optimistic, happy thoughts mindset, but personally I'd rather know what I'm getting into. If you are like me, I'd also read Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way. A bit (or a lot) outdated, but it'll give you the nitty gritty facts about childbirth that Mongan glosses. I feel much better prepared about what to expect having read both.

Despite my turn offs with the tone, the relaxation techniques are helpful, although I can't stand the counting aspect to the breathing. I have major breathing anxiety (stemming from lung complications from needing to be induced with my first child) so the counting could just be me. I find it a lot more helpful to focus on deep long breaths than the actual length of those breaths. I found the CD with relaxation techniques particularly helpful in relieving any anxiety I feel about the whole experience. A good resource for natural childbirth, but go into the thing with open eyes, not rose-colored glasses.
94 reviews
May 16, 2013
I wanted to try an unmedicated childbirth with my 4th child, but I saw no sense in paying $150, plus the cost of babysitters, to take the class with my husband. So I read this book instead. I made the right choice; this book was enough to get me through it. However, I should clarify that I did not buy in to all of the self-hypnosis techniques, and I found some of the language and the alternative vocabulary a little laughable. Maybe I didn't believe it all, or I just didn't think I would personally be able to achieve it. What I did find extremely helpful, though, were the breathing techniques and basically all of the explanations about how your body works itself through this natural process and what you can do to "stay out of the way". The way these things were described by the author are consistent with what I experienced. I was very pleasantly surprised that labor and delivery were not as tough as I anticipated. )Of course, mine was a 4th child and was only about 9 hours from beginning to end, with about 2 minutes of "pushing"; I'm not sure it would have been the same for say, a first child.) I would recommend it as worth exploring for someone considering natural childbirth.
Profile Image for Lori.
116 reviews12 followers
May 6, 2008
If you are considering giving birth naturally, this book will give you the courage and determination. Although the techniques didn't really take away the pain, it did help remove all fear of childbirth. I know this sounds crazy, but I actually look forward to labor. It is such an amazing experience and surreal to give birth naturally. This book empowered me as a woman to embrace the pain and visualize the natural process taking place.

The hypnobirthing techniques do help with pain management but anybody who tells you the birthing process won't hurt is dishonest. It's how you view the pain that makes the difference. Each birth experience is unique and I wasn't able to have a natural birth with all 4 kids. There are so many factors that contribute to the pain level a woman may endure. (length of labor, size of baby, strenth of contractions, internal canal size, genetics, labor induction, etc.)

If anything, just read this book to empower yourself as a woman on the miracle of your body.
Profile Image for Kimberly.
36 reviews
June 12, 2013
I must confess, I didn't read this book in its entirety. I don't subscribe to "hypnobirthing" completely; there are certain aspects of it that I really liked, but I wouldn't (and didn't) go as far as to attempt to hypnotize myself out of feeling pain. I skipped all those parts. I do believe that this book helped me prepare for childbirth though. I learned a lot about the "fear cycle", where fear = tension = pain, especially where labor and birth is concerned. It helped me learn how to relax through the pain and work with the contractions, rather than tensing up with the pain and fighting them. It also gave me confidence in a woman's body to birth naturally. I gave this book 3 stars because it truly helped me cope with and actually enjoy my childbirth, but I don't agree with many aspects of the book. I think hypnotizing yourself during labor is just silly, and I DON'T believe that most women can erase the pain of labor completely. There are some really good things in the book that helped me though. So there ya go.
Profile Image for Natalie Omer.
82 reviews
April 27, 2010
It actually works! I had an emergency C-section with my first daughter. It was very traumatic and the recovery was long and painful. I couldn't hardly walk for 2 weeks! I vowed that my next birth experience would be as free from intervention as possible. After all, God made our bodies to do this right? A friend recommended hypno-birthing and it was awesome! The book was hard to swallow at times because Marie Mongan comes off as a man-hater (this is why I only gave 4 stars) but I can't say her information on hypno-birthing isn't right on. I have experienced birthing my last three children totally free from drugs using hypno-birthing and it wasn't painful. It wasn't a walk in the park but it was a wonderful, empowering experience. I'm not against anesthesia but I'm totally for hypno-birthing!
Profile Image for Chloe (thelastcolour).
405 reviews136 followers
January 25, 2021
i liked the idea behind hypnobirthing, having done yoga for years and recently trying to incorporate meditation into my daily life i understand the power of breathing and approaching any situation in a relaxed and positive manner. i am days away from giving birth and this book has definitely calmed me down but i am aware that childbirth will be a very intense experience and not without pain, i just need to learn not to fear it and to trust my body.
i found parts of this book to be racist, however, when discussing African women. Africa is a huge continent and to group all women together and calling them "simple" disgusted me quite a bit.
I hope i can incorporate some of the breathing and relaxation techniques into my labour but i'm aware that they are supposed to take weeks of practice and i've left things to the last minute
Profile Image for Blair.
29 reviews
April 24, 2021
I liked that this book helps to decrease some of the fears around child birth and suggests breathing techniques to help manage pain during labour. I didn't like that it discusses anything other than natural child birth in a very negative light and a lot of the book was too 'granola', even for me. I'm giving it four stars because overall I think it will be helpful, however I might suggest skipping the first 100 pages.
Profile Image for Lara Lee.
Author 8 books43 followers
January 7, 2019
I'm a little disappointed in this book even though it was recommended all over the internet for those who want to have a natural birth. I do congratulate the author on giving woman other options than medication to deal while the pain of labor. The problem is her biased narrative. Specifically, the chapter on the history of childbearing is bogus.

There is no time is recorded human history that people did not know intercourse led to pregnancy. Women were not in general worshipped as goddesses who spontaneously gave birth to children. Some of the cultures who had fertility goddesses were the cultures most cruel to women. Also, throughout European history, there was not a conspiracy from the medical world to keep women in pain. Many men then and today get into medicine because of deep compassion. The reason why women dominated the field of childbearing as midwives is because then as today, women are more comfortable with women looking at them bare during childbirth. It is well-known that many women prefer female obgyns to male ones even today.

Then there is the logic problems throughout the book. If women should instinctively know how to bear children without pain, then why criticize the men in history for NOT giving them painkillers. Then when they did give them painkillers, don't criticize them for hospitalizing when those painkillers had risks. Also, death in childbirth did not go up because of hospitals, they went down. Just look at the statistics of both child and maternal mortality in developing nations. It's huge!

Then the hyperbolic language drove me nuts! Even animals have discomfort when bearing their young. To say that it should be naturally painless is dishonest. If hypnobirthing is painless, hypnotism is not an instinctually learned skill. It may be natural in the fact that we do self-hypnotized when we zone out while doing a routine, but instinctually moving that to childbearing in not the same thing as natural. We have many ancient stories of female character giving birth with pain. It is also dishonest to try to redefine pain to not include discomfort. Everyone has different levels of pain tolerance, but you can't generalize the experience of those who have a high pain tolerance and avoided back labor.

The statement that natural human functions are all painless is also a lie. The menstrual cycle is not painless though many women tolerate it well. Various ways the body deals with stomach problems, bacteria, and growth spirts cause pain. Pain is a normal function of the human body.

I am reviewing this book very harshly, but I just can't believe that so many people accept these ideas. The chapters on self-hypnosis worth good and worth reading. She does continually say that one needs to practice this to use it well. This does contradict her assertion that it is instinctual. The stages of labor and the ideal way it should proceed was interesting as well. It does give a pretty and relaxing image of birth to contradict the terror-ridden blogs covering the internet. I think this book would have been much better if it had been half its size.

I don't regret reading this book, but as with all alternative medicine that paints the medical community as the enemy, one has to read this with caution. The medical community saved my son when he was born extremely premature. It was their knowledge, experience, and educated guesses that kept him alive. Doctors and nurses are not there to be the enemy. It is fine to turn down their care, but I wish books like these would give them a little more credit of the hard work they put into saving lives.

I will use some of the methods in this book in giving birth again, but I am still not certain I would recommend this. I only saw the problems in this book because of my own research into these issues.
133 reviews18 followers
April 17, 2010
This is the fourth or fifth time I have read this book. I first encountered it in preparation for the birth of my second child. I turned to Hypnobirthing after a very fast and painful first labor and delivery. I had used the Bradley Method and found that it left me with a profound fear of hospital birth and intervention and taught that birth is excrutiatingly painful. I was terrified by my delivery and when I was pregnant for the second time, I did some research online and found Mongan's book. I wanted a different perspective on labor and delivery and I wanted my second child to be born in peace not fear.

I found Mongan's CD and ideas to be very helpful in releasing much of this fear. I recall most of my labor as being painless. My baby was posterior, which I was taught during Bradley would be accompanied by painful back labor. I remember thinking to myself that the bed was a bit uncomfortable for my back but I had no idea I was experiencing back labor because my deep relaxation caused the contractions to feel like tightening sensations. There was no pain. Unlike my first delivery, I approached labor with enthusiasm rather than as a marathon event that I had to work through. Hypnobirthing REALLY WORKS, but you have to be committed to it. You need to practice relaxation every single day.

With my hypnobirthing delivery in 2006, I started out with this book and listened to the CD that came with it every night. However, I felt that I needed more and turned to a great CD from Giuditta Tornetta. As I got closer to the birth, I also bought the Come Out Baby CD from Hypnobabies. This CD and Tornetta's (I alternated them to avoid boredom) enabled me to relax deeply. I then used the Come Out Baby CD during labor and had a pain free labor until 8 cm. Unfortunately, I ended up losing my concentration due to some interventions from the hospital - I hadn't fully released my fear of pitocin - and could not reestablish my deep relaxation.

Now that I am pregnant again, I have turned to hypnobirthing for the second time. This time, I find that I am responding very well yet again to Mongan's CDs. I have also ordered her Rainbow Relaxation CD from her website to add to my repertoire of CDs. One thing I learned though: This book is not enough by itself. You really need to work with a partner and make sure that they know how to help you to find your deep relaxation if you lose your concentration. Birth is a difficult process and while reading the book leaves the impression that HypnoBirthing can be done on your own, I found that I lacked a partner.

For this third delivery, I plan to work more with my husband so that he can help me deeply relax if my concentration is lost. I have also looked on youtube and watched videos of HypnoBirths to give myself a sense of how the partner can play a role in delivery. There is a marked contrast between HypnoBirthing deliveries and other natural births - for people who really practice, delivery is very peaceful. However, for this to happen a good coach or doula is very important.
Profile Image for Kat.
10 reviews
April 17, 2012
I've just finished reading this booking in preparation to support my friend who is using hypno-birthing for the birth of her baby in the Summer; we are also attending hypnobirth clases.

To reflect on what others have said, while the book is a great aid in itself, it really comes into it own alongside the classes. It has also been helpful to mine information out of the internet too. There are very many videos of Mum's have wonderfully peaceful, pain-free labours and deliveries using the method. Seeing is very much believing and I can honestly say I'm blown away everything I've read and seen so far surrounding this approach to positive childbirth.

I've had three children myself, two of those VBAC's, back when one had to fight to get them. In spite of a very traumatic first pregnancy, and two subsequent labours that were far from ideal, but relatively complication free, I've always had a very positive attitude to labour and birth which included a strong belief that the pain of labour was a necessary part of a life process to deliver a miracle; naturally I felt infinitely empowered when I had two VBAC's against medical advice that for women like me it was always a case of 'once a caesarean, always a caesarean'. Yet to an extent I came away from both births somewhat dissatisfied. Almost like I knew there was another way, but didn't know what it was.

I wish I'd had access to this information years ago and I feel elated that women do have access to it now; that they can take and use this information to transform beyond all recognition the birth experience they share with their babies as they arrive 'earth' side :) As I touched on earlier, I really believed (very positively in fact) that pain was a normal natural part of labour, a good and fair price to pay. I no longer believe that to be true. There is another way - I believe that way is hypno-birthing and I feel quite sad that I won't ever get the chance to put it to the personal test myself, though I wait with excitement to see how it works for my friend in a few weeks time. No doubt I shall edit this review in good time after the big event! :)
Profile Image for Kelly.
863 reviews111 followers
April 28, 2022
A really interesting and enlightening read. Before picking up this book, I was sure I'd go the "normal way" - epidural, etc. - but this book makes a lot of sense. In fact, I've already registered for a tour of a natural birthing center within my hospital to see what they're all about and how they support hypnobirthing/water birthing/and natural birthing.

I think if you're even remotely interested in the subject, read the book. It's clearly and simply written. There are a lot of positive reinforcements and messaging here that are helpful towards changing your attitude and directing your birth-related fear to a better place. Just reading about the relaxation techniques made me so calm that my eyes were drooping while reading. I love the positive birth language ("uterine surges" rather than "contractions"). A lot of the birth positions are illustrated for extra guidance. The book will also help remind you that you'd physically prepare for any strenuous activity - a marathon, etc. - so "training" for your birth, whether it's practicing breathing techniques or literally limbering up your legs with squats and butterfly sitting, is something that every woman should do prepare. I'm now squatting, breathing, visualizing, and stair-climbing and it feels good. Mostly, I liked being presented with an alternative to the epidural/screaming/pushing/forceps scenario. There are definitely takeaways that are worth learning about regardless of what kind of birth you plan to have, because, c'mon, every pregnant woman could do with a little more relaxation and nipple stimulation!

I'll have to reread this book closer to labor and review after the birth, depending on how it goes. But I'm pretty happy that I read this and I found it to be very helpful and encouraging!
Profile Image for Headle10.
13 reviews2 followers
May 12, 2009
One of the greatest lessons I took away from this book is the concept of breathing through difficult moments, in parenting and in life. This definitely applies to childbirth (which was the primary focus) but I have found it very helpful in my day to day parenting.

The idea that we can manage stress, anxiety and fear through educating ourselves, relaxation and conscious living seems intuitive enough, but putting it into practice really changes the way I SEE challenges. These relaxation techniques have helped me approach moments where I would of otherwise lost patience or felt discouraged, instead feel calm, creative and even find humor.

After practicing the breathing techniques very diligently during my pregnancy, I had a harder time implementing them during labor than I thought I would. I think having a doula or midwife who is well trained in this method along side of me would of helped tremendously, or having prepared with my husband by taking a class together also could of helped. I made it a lot further along naturally because of my hypnobirthing preparation though than I ever would have otherwise.

I read and re-read this book several times! Great book!

Profile Image for Jill.
187 reviews18 followers
November 10, 2019
A great step-by-step guide to Hypnobirthing and its pillars. If you are trying for a natural, unmedicated birth, this is a great book to get you started and help you prepare for that. I read this in tandem with taking a Hypnobirthing class, and it was very helpful. Great breathing and relaxation techniques to help you get in the zone. There's also a section about what to expect after birth and how to care for your baby. Highly recommend!
Profile Image for McK Jones.
23 reviews
February 10, 2022
Great resource but I’m not sure I can actually rate it honestly until after birth.
Profile Image for Bridget Jack Jeffries.
127 reviews3 followers
November 27, 2014
I picked up Hypnobirthing because, of the major methods of dealing with pain in natural childbirth (Bradley, Lamaze, etc.), hypnosis sounded most attractive to me. I do believe that relaxation, visualization, and self-hypnosis can reduce pain, and I know all too well that psychological factors can cause muscles to tense up and trigger pain. That said, there were so many things I did not like about Hypnobirthing:

- The history chapter is almost entirely made up. To suggest that pain in childbirth is some kind of Western construct that was invented by early Christians is pure rubbish, and the idea of pain in childbirth as a Western construct has a rather alarming history steeped in racism.

- Mongan doesn’t document anything at all. Okay, she cites a study here or there. I think the entire book contained less citations than I could count on one hand. Not nearly enough for the extent of the claims she is making.

- In some places, Mongan is just plain ignorant of human anatomy. For example, she repeatedly calls the vagina a “sphincter” or refers to “the sphincters of the vagina.” But the vagina isn’t a sphincter.

- The book trumpets that this method can entirely relieve the pain of childbirth. Somehow I find this really, really hard to swallow. I certainly believe the techniques can reduce pain, but eliminate it? I haven’t researched this extensively, but the Wikipedia page on hypnosis in childbirth reports that there have been several studies which found no sufficient evidence that the method is effective at relieving pain.

- Hypnobirthing terminology is weird. I agree that language matters in cultivating a positive attitude, but I think Mongan renames way too much stuff. I was most alarmed when she suggested that “pain” should be renamed “pressure.” If this method is supposed to eliminate pain altogether, then why is there a need to rename pain? Now, when I read testimonials from Hypnobirthers and they talk about “pressure,” I’ll just be wondering if they really meant pain.

- The book is written in a rather saccharine tone that I just can’t stand. It’s like listening to a crazy great-aunt explain childbirth with stars in her eyes, and even though you know that half of what she says is nonsense, you just smile and nod because you’re trying to be polite.

- This is a technical point, but Mongan’s use of gender-inclusive language is very inconsistent. Most of the time, hypothetical unborn babies are referred to as male. Since this book was last updated in 2005, there’s really little excuse for this. I believe that Mongan has probably made enough money off of the Hypnobirthing empire to hire a competent editor and fix this.

The entire book wasn’t bad. The material on nutrition, exercise, breastfeeding, and positions in labor seems solid enough, and I do believe that the hypnosis techniques can reduce pain in labor. I may still use it, although I almost certainly won’t pay more money for a Hypnobirthing class. Since I already plan to hire a doula, at best, I’ll hire a doula who knows something about Hypnobirthing and let her help me with the visualization and self-hypnosis.
Profile Image for Laura.
108 reviews24 followers
May 4, 2010
The concept of hypnobirthing sounded like a good one to me to aid in the accomplishment of natural birth. Perhaps if I had taken a series of the classes, I would have liked the techniques and it would have proven worthwhile. I did not find this book helpful at all, however.

Filled with redundancies and irksome phrases like "Hugs before drugs" (Yes; used several times!), this book reads more like a hoakey, overly simplistic pamphlet. It continually references you to take the classes, so it is more of an advertisement for them than a teaching tool of its own. In the brief paragraphs that touch on the different visualization techniques, they are vaguely described and poorly explained. While urged to practice them often, they are not taught well enough that I would know if I was doing them right or what Mongan even means by certain instructions. Therefore, I feel if I tried to practice the techniques as outlined in the book, it would be a waste of time. It often states that your birthing companion will guide you with prompts, but you won't find those in the book. Nope; you have to spend more money to take the classes.

There was a little bit of useful general information in there that falls in line with my personal low intervention philosophies toward births that aren't presenting complications. However, none of it was new to me and it wasn't presented as well as in other sources like Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way. In fact, much of the information in here contradicted points I've read in the Bradley book, Active Birth , or other sources, which left me frustrated and confused about which advice to follow. Considering that most of this book was poorly presented and generally weak, I will choose to defer to the other sources. I was hoping I'd be able to use features from various approaches, but hypnobirthing is not really cooperative enough with the other methods.

Ultimately, I'm not saying that hypnobirthing techniques don't work, just that I found this book a poor source for learning them. It gave me no new information of use to prepare me for labor.
Profile Image for Ailina Willis.
31 reviews3 followers
March 6, 2010
This book was gifted to me by a friend who delivered her second child at home. She knew I was researching natural birth and home birth materials and thought I might benefit from reading this book by Marie F. Mongan. I did!

I hadn't personally considered "hypnobirthing" as a method option until I began reading this book. The title led me to believe hypnobirthing entailed something mystic and high-maintenance. Nothing could be further from the truth.

"Hypnobirthing: A Celebration of Life" is above all a book about deep mental, emotional, and physical relaxation through accepting and embracing the body's natural flow through labor and delivery -- essentially, melding with the process of labor, rather than trying to manage it or overcome it.

Practical relaxation and visualization techniques in "Hypnobirthing" are abundant and entirely accessible. There are at least a dozen original techniques a laboring mother may utilize. She need not utilize them all, but rather, choose one or more that are especially effective for her and practice them as needed.

Preceding the practical working chapters were several chapters on the psychological, social, and religious history of labor and delivery. The information included is intensely interesting and informative (although I did find it a bit biased).

Overall, "Hypnobirthing" might be categorized as a "positive affirmation" labor and delivery book. I highly recommend it for mothers considering a more natural birthing experience, and also for first-baby mothers as a valuable inclusion in their research of the many options available to them.
Profile Image for Brandy.
Author 2 books116 followers
December 15, 2009
I'm giving up. I can't take any more of this über-crunchy hippie-dippy nonsense. While I can get behind the idea that birth doesn't have to be scary and horrible, and that the scary parts can be eased with self-relaxation techniques, I just can't read any more of this book. Even the sections that could make sense, I have trouble parsing, thanks to the reinvented lingo (for instance, I won't have "contractions," I'll have "uterine surges." There will be no "pushing," only "birth breathing"--because it's apparently my lungs that will be responsible for getting the baby from the inside to the outside?).

Then the directions on how to properly breathe to achieve that meditative state only cause me more stress because I can't do them properly (hey, while your diaphragm is being pushed 2" higher due to that baby right under it, take the deepest, slowest breath you've ever taken and expand the diaphragm all the way down into your pelvis!) (note: it does not actually advocate for expanding your diaphragm into your pelvis, but it does seem to suggest doing the impossible.)

I'm okay with a certain amount of crunch, but HypnoBirthing is way, waaaaaay over that line. I tried, but I really need something that has facts in it. I will be more relaxed if I know exactly what can and will happen, rather than attempting to BREATHE my child to the outside world.
Profile Image for Amy.
246 reviews4 followers
January 24, 2011
I read this book a few months before giving birth the first time. It was the first book I read about natural childbirth, and it was radically different from what mainstream America thinks about birth, but the principles seemed so right for me. I balked a bit about some of the specifics, but the general concepts were appealing. I ended up listening to the accompanying CD often, although I always fell asleep after the first 5 minutes. Those first 5 minutes were crucial later, though, when I was in labor and began mentally clinging to Marie Mongan's relaxing hippy voice in my head. Thanks to her, I had a calm, drug-free, satisfying, and happy experience giving birth.

Later, I read much more about natural childbirth and found that whatever the specific method (envision a field of strawberries, breathe in special rhythms, don't allow anyone to mention the words "pain" or "contraction" around you, etc), the point is that babies come out fairly easily if the mother is relaxed and if doctors don't get in the way. I'm not sure I recommend this book above any other particular method of natural birthing, but it has really worked for me twice now, and I'm expecting it to work again in a few months.

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