In preparation for the birth of our first baby sometime in the next few weeks I started reading HypnoBirthing: The Mongan Method by Marie F. Mongan. I’ve just started it, but already I’m impressed by the calming effect it is having on me. Funny thing is, I haven’t even begun to read much about the specifics of the technique.
In the first part of the book Mongan spends much of her time convincing the reader that childbirth does not have to be painful. When I read nonfiction books, I want to jump forward to the practical aspects of what they are teaching. I want the author to get to the point and teach me specific techniques, things I can practice. I hate it when books have long introductions, forewords, etc. that feel as though their main purpose is to get me to read a book that I’m already reading. Getting bogged down in why the subject is important for me to learn, the history of the technique, or descriptions of the technique I will eventually learn (if they ever get to the point) gets on my nerves. Many of these pop textbooks could be published as pamphlets.
The HypnoBirthing book, however, seems to be accomplishing a great deal already by convincing me that unmedicated labor can be painless. “Painless?” you ask as you chuckle to yourself. Apparently, yes.
Many women go into labor afraid of the pain they’ll experience and thinking of all that could go wrong. I know, not just from scientific evidence, but also from personal experience, that fear leads to muscle tension and tension to pain. Without fear, pain is greatly reduced and possibly even extinguished entirely. I’ve experienced this myself during yoga practice. I would often enter class with aches that would be gone by the end. Most classes I would begin a pose thinking I couldn’t maintain it due to a tight, pained muscle, but after breathing and concentrating on relaxing it would be painless.
The author also briefly discusses the impact of endorphins. It is hard to believe that staying calm can eliminate pain when something so drastic is happening to one’s body, no matter how natural it is, but that state of calm allows endorphins to be released. According to Mongan, they “have an effect 200 times that of morphine” (p. 5).
Labor is a unique situation in that an extreme physical change happens in a drastically short amount of time, but does not qualify as an injury. I had been thinking that my low tolerance for pain meant that I would definitely require medication, but I had forgotten that under the circumstances my tolerance may improve.
Pain has a tendency to control me because of my history of anxious thoughts. When I have a headache, I often picture a blood vessel in my brain swelling and feel fear that it may burst. During labor, I have the advantage of knowing that the sensations I’m feeling are normal, productive, and that I get an awesome prize at the end.
Despite the encouragement I receive from reading such a book, I remain ever practical. I know that I have a tendency toward anxious thoughts that could bring on pain. I still see an epidural as an option and will not feel guilty if I feel I need one. If anything, what I have read so far will help to reduce my anxiety going in and, even with the assistance of pain meds, that is a good thing.
I don’t want to read negative comments or horror stories that could destroy the calm I’ve been feeling, but I’d love more encouragement. Do you have experience with HypnoBirthing? Did you have a relatively pain-free unmedicated birth? Did you feel labor was easier than you had been led to believe?