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What is HypnoBirthing?

Updated: Oct 29, 2018

'Featured in Kidspot May 2018' written by Anthea Thomas

What is HypnoBirthing?

HypnoBirthing International (The Mongan Method) is a comprehensive childbirth education program that educates and empowers couples for a positive, calm and stress-free birthing experience, regardless of how, where and with whom they are planning on birthing.

It provides couples with education, tools and techniques to help ensure they are on track for the best possible birth outcome, and to experience birth in a more comfortable manner.

Couples learn how to prepare their mind and body with special breathing techniques, self-hypnosis, deep relaxation, visualisation and a positive mindset. The program takes a couple through a process of releasing fears and learning to trust their body’s ability to birth instinctively. It is ‘Birth Without Fear’.

It is a wonderfully bonding process for a couple, as it gives partners an integral role in the birthing, where they learn to support the mother with their voice and their touch, as well as being the advocate to ensure that the birth is safe and unnecessary interventions aren’t introduced. It allows parents to approach birth and parenting knowing their options, making informed choices and confident to take control to ensure they achieve the most positive birth, no matter what turn their birthing takes.

HypnoBirthing is a toolbox of techniques that will not only change your birth, but will change your life, as we are teaching ‘life-skills’ that help with the postnatal period to keep you calmer, less stressed, and parent positively.

The program which is endorsed nationally by obstetricians and midwives alike with 50% of the 180 trained practitioners being midwives was developed by Marie Mongan in 1989 has changed the face of birth worldwide. The program came to Australia in 2000, and each year thousands of family’s birth with the method. The course is run by 8 Australian major hospitals, and is accessed through private and group classes from our Gold Seal certified practitioners. This is the original HypnoBirthing, and is the only program in Australia certified with the HypnoBirthing Institute.

What is the thinking behind it?

Giving birth is not just a physical act, it is an intensely emotional, and psychological act. When a woman is properly prepared for birth, physically, emotionally and spiritually, the mind and body are in harmony, and nature is free to function in the same well-designed manner that it does with all mothers in nature.

A woman’s body and her baby know how to birth. The design is perfect and needs to be respected and unimpaired. During birth, women should be treated according to the status of their health and that of their babies, and not a one-size-fits-all manner.

Birth is best left undisturbed and uninterrupted. Each intrusion, each needlessly imposed procedure on the birthing body and can upset the natural rhythm and cause the birthing to go askew.

HypnoBirthing is based on the belief that severe discomfort does not have to be part of the birthing process when a woman is prepared and trusts her body.

Fear plays a major role in how we give birth, and in our culture, we have been so conditioned to believe that birth is difficult, painful, dangerous and traumatic. To be fair, for many who choose the wrong environment, the wrong care provider, and who are unprepared or have special circumstances, their experiences are often as described. As young girls we are hearing horrific stories of birth, and particularly when we become pregnant. The media portrays birth as a frightening and dramatic event, and so many people want to share their traumatic birth stories with us. We form a view of birth that it is something to be afraid of, and we take those stories and images into our own births. Is it any wonder that that is the experience that so many women end up having?

Birth has become a medical event, and women are being led to believe that their bodies are destined to fail them. In Australia we have some of the highest intervention rates in the world. 33% of women are reporting that their births are traumatic, and 1 in 7 of these women go on to develop PPTSD (postpartum traumatic stress disorder). 1 in 7 mothers and 1 in 10 fathers develop PND (postnatal depression). These statistics are frightening, and these are debilitation conditions for parents to cope with, especially when they are caring for a child.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Birth really can a transformative experience for a couple. It can be an empowering and magical time, with the birth of a mother feeling totally empowered and ecstatic at her body’s achievement.

When fear is present, the body is sent into the fear-tension-pain syndrome. Fear creates stress and we release stress hormones (catacholomines, such as adrenalin) that prevent our muscles to work together, and we feel pain more intensely. Birth becomes painful, slow and medical intervention is generally introduced.

HypnoBirthing International (The Mongan Method) focuses on letting go of the fear, ‘unlearning’ all the negative programming that she may have embraced over her lifetime. In birth mothers reach deep levels of relaxation that eliminate the fear that causes tension and severe pain. They learn how to call upon the body’s own natural relaxant and to lessen, or even eliminate, discomfort and the need for medication. The results are incredible. She births as nature intended: naturally, calmly, instinctively.

What are the purported benefits?

Seeking out premium childbirth education really is the key. There is no such thing as a ‘lucky’ birth. Our couples put in a lot of time and practice to get the results they want, but the results speak for themselves.

There are so many benefits of positive birth. Our data shows that our HypnoBirthing couples are empowered and informed. They are having fewer interventions and surgical births, shorter first and second stage labour, fewer preterm and low weight babies, reduced need for episiotomies, and mothers and babies are happier and more content with few cases of postpartum depression.

Our data in Australia shows that only 12.8% of our HypnoBirthing mothers require a c-section, opposed to our national average of 33% (this is a reduction in c-sections by 61%) – 73% are first time mums.

The father or partner have an integral role in the birthing, and the couple are working together with their birthing team to achieve the birth they desire. Mothers are feeling alert, fresh and awake with energy during and after birth.

What would you say to those who don't believe in it?

I was a sceptic before using HypnoBirthing for my own birth, so I understand that people have reservations around ‘hypnosis’, bringing up images of swinging pendulums and mothers asleep and under someone’s control! It is very different to that. Hypnosis is so misunderstood, but really it is a normal and natural state we each experience every day, as we fall asleep, read a book or drive to our destination, and wonder how we got there (highway hypnosis!) Birth hypnosis is where women practice reaching a deep calm state, she is very focused (and very aware of everything that is going on) facilitating a positive, calm and stress free birthing, and helps her remove the fears and limiting beliefs that can hold her back from having the birth she desires.

HypnoBirthing does not profess to offer preparation for births that are totally free of pain, discomfort, or unanticipated incidents, as every woman’s experience is unique. We do offer women an opportunity to explore the possibility of stepping into their birthing without fear or stress.

We promise that these techniques will prepare you to be calmer and more comfortable no matter what turn your birthing takes. Positive birth is what we are aiming to achieve, so the first step is to have the belief that positive birth is possible. Our website is full of positive birth stories and videos where parents feel proud and so grateful for the techniques they learn’t. There is no perfect HypnoBirth, the ultimate goal is for it to be a positive experience.

When a healthy mother, carrying a healthy baby becomes well educated and is supported by her loved ones, has a great team of midwives and supportive care provider, her experience is often empowering and satisfying. With all this in place, it is not only possible, it is probable. It’s all in the preparation.

The birthing experience has a profound long-term impacts on a mother, father and baby, and deciding to just ‘wing it’ or ‘see how you go’ just isn’t enough anymore.

Now knowing what we do about ‘fear’ and how it effects birth, we each have a responsibility to help ‘remove the fear of birth for the next generation’. It’s not fair to pass these stories on to our daughters, knowing that we are setting them up for the same experience. Birth can be positive, so let’s set the intention to change the messages around birth.

How do you prepare for a HypnoBirth?

Couples attend either group or private classes over 5 weeks generally between 18-30 weeks pregnant. (5 sessions each 2.5 hours). They receive the HypnoBirthing Book, Rainbow Relaxation MP3 and handouts, and they do daily relaxations (meditation) and practice the mind and body techniques together up until their birthing day. The program includes nutrition for pregnancy and how to prepare their body for birth through toning exercises.

What does a HypnoBirth typically look like? (aka what can we imagine Kate Middleton's birth looked like?)

Kate and William went through the program with one of our UK practitioners, and did the same program that all our couples receive, so they would have practiced the techniques and prepared in exactly the same way. The would have prepared their birth preferences (birth plan), discussed what they wanted with their care providers to be sure they were the right support team.

There is no ‘typical’ hypnobirth, as every birth is difference and unique.

What is typical is that parents are approaching the birth feeling confident, and making informed choices every step of the way. Their birth place will be their home, hospital or birthing centre with a team around them that supports exactly what it is that they want for birth (and everyone works to that common goal). If birthing in a hospital (like Kate and William) they will labour at home as long as possible, to be somewhere that is safe, private and unobserved. Once in hospital, the room is dimly lit, with soft music or a guided meditation or affirmations playing in the background. The dad, partner or birth support will lead mum through with their voice and touch, and they work as a team breathing and riding the waves of the surges. Labour may rest, or it may accelerate, but the couple ask for the process not to be manipulated or managed unless there is a medical need. It has it’s own time frame.

Many HypnoBirthing mothers choose water to birth in (if available), as the water supports the body, and helps mum further relax. The parents and midwives work together, with gentle encouragement, letting mum know that what is happening is okay. Partners give light touch massage (a technique taught to help release endorphins), and mothers take their focus within their bodies, and follow their body with their breath. Some mothers are very quiet, and others are loud!

The partners help mum move as she feels she needs, and the partner supports through massage, acupressure, applying heat, water, rebozo and positive affirmations. It is a true partnership, and the partners have such an important role to play. Labour may rest, or it may accelerate. The process should not be manipulated or managed. It has its own time frame

At the final moment of birth, the couple receive the baby into their arms, and spend time bonding and enjoying the moment of birth and the first breastfeed. Baby is not whisked away, but stays with the mother for skin on skin and breastfeeding, and fathers are encouraged to also have skin on skin time with baby for bonding. The cord is not cut until it has stopped pulsating, and the placenta is birthed with the same quiet and respect that the baby was born in.

This is gentle, physiological, instinctive birth. Birth is unpredictable, so this is not everybody’s experience, but parents have questions to ask their care providers when circumstances change, so they can make the best choices for their birth. When parents do, they are able to make informed decisions do they often feel positive about their birth outcomes, knowing it was necessary.

It may not be normal for our mums to have stylists to prepare them to greet the world after birth, but it is normal for mothers that have had positive, unmedicated births to be ready to go home only hours after their birth looking powerful, radiant and ready to take on the world!

Can you tell me more about the three breathing styles?

Calm Breath

The calm breath is used to help mums activate the calm response in their body, and is used during practice, in between surges, and is carried through to the postnatal period to help her keep in that calm balanced state for breastfeeding and parenting. HypnoBirthing Dads love this breath, and use it relieve everyday stresses!

Surge Breath

The Surge breath is a very slow deep breath used with visualisation during a surge to help assist the uterine muscles to work in harmony and allow the baby to move down into the birth path. The breathing is so effective, with oxygen consistently going to the birthing muscles, that the thinning and opening stage of labour is very often much shorter using this breath.

Birth Breath

The birth breath is very much about mother directed birthing, where the mother follows the lead of her body only and assists her body through the power of the breath to move the baby down and out for birth. Just like in martial arts, the breath is used as the force, and is incredibly powerful. The birth breath allows the mother to relax, rather than the forced coached pushing (that is exhausting, damaging and unnecessary), preventing trauma and tearing to the perineum and pelvic floor.

Is the point of HypnoBirthing to avoid an epidural, or can you do both?

The point of HypnoBirthing is to have a positive birth outcome whatever turn that birthing takes. We are not against interventions. It precludes the introduction of routine, arbitrary, unnecessary intervention. We want our parents to be totally informed of the risks and benefits of any procedure before consenting, so they can make an informed decision. Babies do not tolerate epidurals very well, and you will often see decelerations in baby’s heart rate with epidurals, which can often lead to c-sections, so it is important for parents to weigh up the risks and benefits. When there is a special circumstance that requires a medical intervention such as an epidural, the HypnoBirthing techniques are even more necessary and effective to help stay calm and free of stress.

We believe that pregnancy and birth should be a couple’s greatest achievement, not their greatest fear. Let us support you to make this journey a positive one that you will hold close to your heart always!

Learn more about the course and find a practitioner near you:

Anthea Thomas


Anthea is a passionate health professional, an experienced Antenatal Educator, Speaker and Clinical Hypnotherapist supporting families in conception, pregnancy, birthing and parenting. Anthea is a Faculty Member and trainer for the HypnoBirthing® Institute in Australia. She is a Global Presence Ambassador for Parenting 2.0, Director of the Australian Birth and Parenting Network and runs HypnoBirthing International in Australia.

Anthea is working with therapy based on the philosophy that our unconscious minds can heal our bodies, and control the delicate process of conception and birthing. She is focused on helping people find their unlimited potential in all areas of life, on helping women to rediscover their natural birthing instincts and works to provide couples with information about their bodies, the birth process, how their mind affects conception and birth helping to empower them to take control of their own journey.

Anthea is married and has two children. She lives on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia.

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