HypnoBirthing: The Mongan Method, A Review and Trip Into Hippie-land

I recently finished reading “HypnoBirthing: The Mongan Method” by Marie Mongan. Hypnobirthing describes child birth, not as something to be feared, not a medical process, not an illness to cured, but instead as a natural process, one that rarely requires outside intervention. It describes child birth as a gentle process that affirms life.

According to hypnobirthing, pain is not inherent in child birth. Instead it is a product of fear and anxiety induced muscle tightness which prevents a smooth pain-free delivery. It goes beyond promising no pain and promises bouts of euphoria!

It also states that, rather than being helpful, medical intervention causes a cascade of additional interventions leading to greatly increased pain and a greatly increased chance of ultimately requiring a caesarian delivery.

The book describes how, through relaxation and self hypnosis, it is possible to avoid or at least minimize pain. The book presents a range of techniques that can be used in preparation for birth and during birth itself to ensure a pain-free natural delivery.

Published in 2005 this book has been a revelation for many mothers-to-be.

Ok, that's the plot summary out of the way. What is it actually like?

It is refreshing to hear birth described as a natural and normal process, a process requiring calm concentration instead of an adrenalin filled sprint to the hospital. If its possible for my wife to serenely delivery a baby in an environment of calm relaxation I would certainly prefer that to her screaming “I hate you! I hate you!” like the women on TV.

But man oh man, there is a lot of anti-doctor ranting in this thing. According to the book doctors don't want you to have a natural birth. They want to intervene. They want to subject you to multiple medical procedures. They want to make their golf game no matter what so you must be on your guard at all times lest a doctor sneak into the room to dose your wife with pitocin and painkillers before prepping them for a caesarian, all while your back is turned!

Perhaps this caricature of doctors holds true where you are. Here in Australia it doesn't really tally with our personal experience. The maternity ward where we will shortly give birth is dominated by midwives. Doctors are available if needed but they aren't central to the process. They are available for emergencies and seem to be quite happy with this arrangement.

The more we got to know the midwives and how the maternity ward operated the more paranoid Hypnobirthing started to seem with its depiction of doctors being somewhere between uncaring and outright evil. By the time I was halfway through I was wondering whether the author was wearing a tinfoil hat while writing it. It was very odd but made much more sense once we watched Ricki Lake's documentary The Business of Being Born.

If you aren't giving birth in the US, take the medicine bashing with a fist sized grain of salt. If you are, well, good luck to you.

Perhaps it is just how my analytical mind works but I felt like the book was very sparse in terms of references to actual research supporting her claims. I found it troubling to be told that something and then expected to simply take her word for it. For example, off hand remarks about your baby experiencing emotional trauma during birth.

Fundamentally, I actually agree with a lot of Marie Mongan's points. Birth is a natural process. Most women very likely are capable of delivering naturally, particularly when in a calm fear-free environment. Such a birth is very likely better for both mother and child in both the short and long term. Woman have, after all, given birth for millennia. Pregnancy is not an illness that needs to be treated.

Unfortunately she rails against the medical system in a way that makes her seem like a bit of a loon.

Read this book if you or your partner are expecting a child. It will really open your eyes to what is (apparently) possible. Unless you are a hardcore hippie, be prepared to be annoyed by her sweeping anti-medical establishment claims.

You can get the book in paper form or as an eBook from Amazon.

Alternatively, you may be able to get it for free from your local library. Why buy the book when you can get the knowledge for free.

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