There are various options you might choose to prepare for the birth of your baby. What should you do to prepare for your baby's birth? This chart helps you figure that out by factoring in what you want or need to know in order to be ready to give birth. If you would prefer to give birth without pain medication, a class specifically geared toward unmedicated childbirth can be particularly helpful. Women are more likely to have positive, unmedicated births when they have effective labor tools and education about the benefits, risks, and alternatives to every choice they may need to make during the birthing process.
Natural Childbirth Books
There are lots of good options. My top five picks for what to read in preparation for a natural unmedicated childbirth are:
- The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer
- Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin
- The Birth Book by Dr. Sears
- Your Best Birth by Rikki Lake and Abby Epstein
- Active Birth by Janet Balaskas
Hypnosis for Childbirth
Hypnosis for childbirth sounds strange and perhaps even alarming to those unfamliar with it. I was quite skeptical when I first heard that some women learn hypnosis techniques to reduce or even eliminate childbirth pain. I had an epidural with my first baby. While I did not enjoy the side effects of the epidural, I did enjoy the pain relief. I was willing to give hypnosis a shot because I wanted to avoid the risks of pain medication and have the most comfortable birth possible. The two most commonly known childbirth hypnosis programs are HypnoBirthing® and Hypnobabies®. I ended up using and teaching both programs, so I am intimately familiar with what they teach and how effective women tend to find the techniques.
What is hypnosis?
Many people think hypnosis is like the stage hypnosis shows they've seen where people seem to be unable to control themselves, act goofy and provide entertainment for the audience.
In reality, hypnosis is a state of focused concentration where the body and mind relax together. It is a natural state of being in which the body and mind are extremely relaxed while the mind is also highly aware and focused. You have experienced hypnosis while watching a movie, reading an engrossing book, or "automatically" driving yourself home. Your mind was so intensely focused that you weren't consciously aware of other things happening around you because they didn't matter to you at the time.
Hypnobabies® feeds the subconscious mind with positive suggestions and beliefs about childbirth and teaches you how to instantly relax physically and mentally so that you can have an easier and more comfortable birth.
Read birth stories of moms who used HypnoBabies by clicking here.
My Experiences with HypnoBirthing® and Hypnobabies®
My perspective comes from taking the HypnoBirthing® classes as a pregnant mom (2002), using Hypnobabies® materials as a pregnant mom (2002, 2004, 2006, and 2008), teaching HypnoBirthing® classes for two years (2004 - 2006) and attending HypnoBirthing births as a doula (2003 - 2006), and from teaching Hypnobabies® (2006 - 2010). I do not write this to "bash" HypnoBirthing®. I do not believe there is one right way to prepare for birth for any woman, but I do sincerely hope a woman has all the information she needs prior to making her choice on how to prepare. I write this to explain why I switched teaching methods (since many have asked). I took HypnoBirthing® classes with my second baby and did have a comfortable unmedicated birth, which is why I went on to become an instructor. My lovely birth experience, which utilized additional supplemental materials from Hypnobabies®, was not typical of what moms experience who rely solely on HypnoBirthing®.
I had such a great birth experience that I felt inspired to work with pregnant and birthing women. I first became a doula and then started teaching generic natural childbirth classes. I really wanted to teach Hypnobabies®, but they weren't certifying instructors yet, so I certified to teach HypnoBirthing® instead. My own personal frustrations as a student were simply magnified as a teacher.
Birthing Classes Should Give Moms Helpful Tools and Information
The course material in HypnoBirthing® is very limited and omits some key childbirth education information. It is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a complete childbirth education course. Because of this, MANY HypnoBirthing® instructors alter the class by adding information and scripts. They are not supposed to do this and still call the class HypnoBirthing®, but I understand that they do it because they want their students to succeed. I'm aware of a few certified HypnoBirthing® Practitioners who teach GREAT hypnosis for childbirth classes that they call HypnoBirthing®, but the course content holds very little resemblance to the HypnoBirthing® course outline. What I'm saying is that an individual HypnoBirthing® instructor may teach an excellent class, but the program itself is very lacking and I cannot recommend it.
According to the 2005 HypnoBirthing® Institute statistics, which I was privy to as an instructor at that time, only about a third of women birthing at home as I did have comfortable births and even fewer women have comfortable births in hospitals. I was very disappointed when I learned those statistics, but they did match what I was seeing in real life with my HypnoBirthing® students. I was also really frustrated that there’s virtually no consumer info in HypnoBirthing® classes.
The lack information in HypnoBirthing® left my students unprepared to navigate their birth options, which led to unnecessary interventions and increased pain. HypnoBirthing® had a check-list style birth plan worksheet that did outline various options, but there was not a thorough discussion of the benefits and risks of each option. What that translated to was many women submitting to medical procedures that neither they nor their babies really needed, in many cases because they didn't have the information necessary for intelligent discussion of their options and alternatives.
Birthing Classes Should Be Updated
While Mongan did finally update the book and add another CD in 2005, she didn't really see the need to do so. I began to feel like I was hurting my HypnoBirthing® students by telling them that a comfortable birth was possible without really giving them the tools to achieve that. Some of my students did have comfortable births, but most of them did not. I decided I couldn't teach HypnoBirthing® anymore.
I knew hypnosis could improve the birthing process, however, so I looked at Hypnobabies® again. Hooray! They were certifying instructors! I was beyond thrilled to find a program that not only taught very powerful hypno-anesthesia tools (far deeper than the tools taught in HypnoBirthing®) but also included all the childbirth education information missing from the HypnoBirthing® program. The structure and materials of Hypnobabies® Childbirth Hypnosis makes it easy for moms to use it and have more comfortable births. Hypnobabies® gets updated frequently based on feedback from moms and instructors.
Why I Switched from HypnoBirthing® to Hypnobabies®
- Whenever I read a discussion on online bulletin boards at pregnancy sites, I consistently read stories of women who have used both and preferred Hypnobabies® because it is more effective and comprehensive. In real life I know of midwives who strongly recommend Hypnobabies® over HypnoBirthing® as well due to the more effective Hypnobabies® techniques. I think this is largely due to the hypno-anesthesia techniques taught in Hypnobabies®. HypnoBirthing® teaches really good relaxation (as do other childbirth programs), but it deliberately avoids teaching anesthesia techniques out of a fear that the idea of anesthesia will cause women to experience more pain. Relaxation is not enough for most women to experience totally comfortable birthing or we’d see it more often with other natural childbirth methods that utilize relaxation techniques. Hypnobabies® uses the same hypno-anesthesia techniques as patients planning unmedicated surgery. It’s powerful stuff!
- Hypnobabies® gives moms many more recorded materials with which to practice as well as written out scripts for their Birth Partners. There are now two CDs with HypnoBirthing®, but I and many other women found the limited materials to be insufficient for practice. I actually bought a supplemental set from Hypnobabies® when I was planning my first birth using hypnosis. Maybe that’s why I had a painless birth with that baby. My husband and I got so frustrated trying to figure out how to make a script out of the little blurb descriptions in the HypnoBirthing® book, so we appreciated the written scripts we were able to get through Hypnobabies®.
- Hypnobabies® includes consumer information. Yay! This is vital. How do you make an informed decision if you have no information? While you definitely should choose a supportive provider you trust, if you’re in an area where most providers are medically-minded you are probably going to end up choosing someone who isn’t 100% philosophically aligned with you. You need to know your stuff so that you can intelligently navigate the many options that will be offered to you. HypnoBirthing® doesn't cover consumer information because of the concern that a fear of birth would be replaced by a fear of hospitals/doctors/interventions/etc.
- Hypnobabies® talks about fetal positioning and teaches you how to avoid back labor and what to do if you have it. This is really important as women in our culture tend to spend lots of time in positions that encourage a posterior baby (the typical cause of back labor). HypnoBirthing® doesn't cover back labor at all because of the concern that women will expect to experience back labor.
- Hypnobabies® gets updated regularly. Kerry (the creator) gets feedback from women using her program and changes things per their suggestions and comments. This is fabulous! Some childbirth programs never change and simply insist that any woman not satisfied with the results didn’t do it right.
- Hypnobabies® moms are given hypnosis tools that specifically allow them to open their eyes, walk, talk, and move around while remaining completely comfortable during labor. HypnoBirthing® moms tend to stay still in order to be relaxed and in my experience had difficulty returning to a deep level of relaxation after interruptions such as going to the bathroom or talking to a nurse. Movement during labor aids in rotating the baby and bringing the baby well down into the pelvis. Upright positions help labor progress by applying the baby's head to the cervix, thereby helping it open. Being able to stay in hypnosis while taking advantage of the benefits of movement and gravity is very important. Of course, Hypnobabies® moms can also choose to lie down if that's what they prefer.
- Hypnobabies® is more effective for the entire birthing process, including the last portion of labor prior to pushing. In my experience, HypnoBirthing® moms do really well for the first 2/3 or so of their labors and then have difficulty remaining relaxed and comfortable for the last portion.
- Hypnobabies® teaches gentle "ahhhhh" pushing (and we call it that!☺) while HypnoBirthing® teaches that pushing does not have a physiologic cause (ie. it's socially conditioned). HypnoBirthing® teaches Birth Breathing instead of pushing (which I think is really the same thing as gentle, open-glottis pushing, but the creator of HypnoBirthing® doesn't seem to want to call it that). The vast majority of women birthing without medication experience an urge to push, which is often an involuntary muscle reflex rather than a conscious "my body is telling me to push and so I will push" sort of thing. I've known more than one midwife to express frustration and dismay over a HypnoBirthing® woman fighting her body's pushing instincts because she believes that she's supposed to just breathe instead of push. Fighting the pushing reflex tends to cause discomfort or pain as well as difficulty. It is very important to listen to your body, especially when you are birthing a baby!
My Conclusion about HypnoBirthing® and Hypnobabies®
I do think HypnoBirthing® has good things to offer and I did give birth comfortably after taking the HypnoBirthing® class (although I also practiced mainly with my Hypnobabies® tapes). HypnoBirthing® does work well for some women. I no longer felt comfortable teaching it, however, when I realized that so few HypnoBirthing® students actually experience comfortable or even unmedicated childbirth. I've found HypnoBirthing® to be most successful with home birthing women who have fewer distractions than their hospital-birthing peers. The bare-bones simplicity of HypnoBirthing® may better suit some personality types, but for women who are looking for the most effective childbirth hypnosis program available and are willing to put in the needed effort and commitment, I believe Hypnobabies® is a superior choice. Hypnobabies® has more content and requires more of its students, but it's very simply laid out and explained. Women who follow the Hypnobabies® program as it is taught and who choose to use their tools during birth tend to have wonderful, comfortable, joyful births.
I took the Hypnobabies® training when I was pregnant with my fourth baby, so I got to use Hypnobabies® for her birth. I'm so, so, so glad I had the deeper tools of Hypnobabies®. Even though I had successfully used hypnosis with babies #2 and #3, I was glad to have more tools because my 4th baby's birth was very long (nearly 24 hours). The Hypnobabies® techniques allowed me to stay comfortable throughout the birth and I was also able to sleep. I stalled at 8 cm for five hours, but I was able to sleep! I didn't even realize it when daughter's head was halfway out because all I felt was pressure. I was very surprised when I put my hand down and felt her head. It was great!
I have since had the privilege of teaching Hypnobabies® to hundreds of moms. While not all of them had super easy, comfortable births, many of them did. Almost all of them reported that Hypnobabies® was very helpful, even if they experienced pain/discomfort or complications. The satisfaction of my students is really what sold me. I also felt MUCH better about sending them away after the last class because they had gotten the education they'd needed to make the best choices no matter what happened during the birth. They also had hypnosis and other comfort measures to help them manage the sensations of birthing. I really appreciate the thoroughness of Hypnobabies® because it does a great job of preparing moms for whatever happens during their babies' births.
Read birth stories of moms who used HypnoBabies by clicking here.
Hypnobabies® Childbirth Hypnosis, which teaches real medical hypnosis techniques, creates an automatically peaceful, relaxing and more comfortable pregnancy, a calm confident hypno-dad, and an easier, fearless and often pain-free birthing for our hypno-Mom.
Hypnobabies® is a complete childbirth education course that also teaches Gerald Kein's famous Painless Childbirth techniques to Hypnobabies® mothers so that they can enter hypnosis, deepen it themselves and remain mobile during labor, completely comfortable at all times. Most of our hypno-babies have no drugs in their systems when they are born, and are able to nurse, breathe well and interact with their happy parents immediately.
Benefits of Hypnobabies® Childbirth Hypnosis:
- Due to elimination of the Fear/Tension/Pain Syndrome and the aid of post-hypnotic suggestions, hypno-moms use fewer drugs or no drugs, which means less risk of side effects for mother and baby.
- Most hypno-mothers have shorter labors since there is less resistance of the birthing muscles when pain and fear are minimized or eliminated.
- The birthing woman generally has much more energy throughout the first and second stages, due to a total relaxation throughout the birthing process.
- The birthing environment is much more calm and peaceful when the natural childbirth mother is comfortable.
- Breech and posterior babies can be turned using hypnosis.
- Blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature can be lowered, and other discomforts can be reduced or eliminated with hypnosis during pregnancy and labor.
- There are fewer interventions for failure to progress, which results in fewer fetal and maternal complications during labor.
- The deep relaxation in Hypnobabies® sessions has also helped nervous birth partners relax and enjoy their partner's pregnancy and childbirth, and the skills that the hypno-couple learns for relaxation and hypnosis will benefit them for the rest of their lives.
- Hypnobabies® couples are "deprogrammed" from the usual negativity of childbirth stories and scenarios they've always heard due to the training in Hypnobabies® classes and audio CDs, which have positive messages and hypnotic suggestions. This automatically allows for a positive attitude and much more confidence in birthing.
For more information, visit www.Hypnobabies.com.
When to Start Hypnobabies® Classes
Live Hypnobabies® classes last six weeks. The home study course takes five weeks. Use the chart below to help figure out when to start your course. (Click the chart to enlarge it.)
Comments from Laura's Hypnobabies® Students
- "During my birthing time, I felt no need to escape from pain, because my mind didn't signal to me that I was in pain." ~ Amy Ellis, first-time mom, hospital birth
- "From beginning to end, it was 3 hours total. Nothing at all like my previous long and painful hospital births. My daughter said it would be stupid for me to ever go back to a hospital! I'm glad she caught on. I have loved sharing my birth story with friends and neighbors because no one believes you can have a mostly pain-free birth without a doctor to make it happen. My mind and body relaxed. The functions God put in me worked! Even with a posterior baby. (I never did get a wash done and my little one is healthy and doing great!)" ~ Mindy DeGraffenried, fifth-time mom, home birth
- "Thank you so much, Laura, for helping me learn these techniques and beliefs that have made my birthing so fast and easy. I know I will use Hypnobabies® in the future, and I will definitely send any interested people I know your way!" ~ Natalie Orgill, first-time mom, hospital birth
- "Right after the birth I felt so full of energy and excitement! I did it! I birthed my baby! And without any drugs whatsoever! This goal of mine had taken a lot of preparation on my part but really having my doula there made the biggest difference of all I believe. I feel so confident about my body and my strength as a woman. Having a child is an amazing experience... I replay that night so many times in my mind... It always makes me smile…" ~ Esther Parsons, first-time mom, hospital birth
- "The hypnosis was great and I don't think I could have done it without it. He is a very pleasant baby." ~ Marcie Hunter, third-time mom, home birth
- "My midwife handed Ellie to me right away and I said "I did it!" I felt SO relieved. And ecstatic — both that Ellie was here and that I actually made it through the undmedicated childbirth I had wanted so badly….My Hypnobabies® course did wonders for me. It helped me turn my fears and doubts into confidence and preparation long before my birthing time began. It taught me how to effectively relax and only feel pressure through all of my pressure waves. It helped my husband be an incredible, calm support to me throughout the entire birthing process. It helped me visualize and create the kind of birth I wanted to badly. Unmedicated childbirth is not as crazy or as impossible as people sometimes make it sound. Women are much stronger than they give themselves credit for — definitely when it comes to giving birth. Anyone who wants to have an unmedicated chilbirth and prepares for it can do it and even have a good experience — no doubt about it." ~ Kim Christenson, first-time mom, hospital birth
- "I will use this technique for all my births from now on, and I will try to tell everyone I know. Why "suffer" through childbirth, when it can be so wonderful, empowering, and enjoyable. Funny/sad? note: The day after Eliza-Jane was born we could hear a lady screaming loudly and high-pitched in the room next to ours, and I felt so bad for her. I wished she had someone to let her know it doesn't have to be like that. Now you know; tell someone you love." ~ April Lewis, sixth-time mom, hospital birth
- "Sound was definitely helping me here. It was happening quick as Cathy told me the head was out! She helped our baby as I think she was a little stuck by her shoulders, but Cathy saw what needed to happen and helped her a little. Then I was handed a baby! I couldn't believe it really! She was so quiet just staring at her new mum and dad. I was in a shocked kind of state. My body was pumping with adrenalin I was just shaking all over. I had done it. I had birthed our baby naturally and I felt very proud of my efforts….Thanks, Laura, for the wonderful classes. I will recommend this for anyone especially first time mothers whom plan a homebirth." ~ Charlee Powell, first-time mom, home birth
Read birth stories of moms who used HypnoBabies by clicking here.