If Kate Middleton Uses Hypnobirthing, Should You?

Hypnobirth teaches expectant moms to go with the flow


July 18, 2013 US News and World Report

Kate, Duchess of Cambridge talks to to school children after an official visit to Naomi House near Winchester, England, Monday, April, 29, 2013.

If, as it’s been reported, Kate Middleton is using hypnobirthing to  usher in the royal baby, her delivery scene might look something like  this: The Duchess of Cambridge rests languidly, her eyes closed as if in  a peaceful slumber. Every so often, on experiencing a “surge,” (the  hypnobirthing term for contractions), she’ll breathe along with it, as  if being lifted by an ocean wave. Gentle music plays while she relaxes  further, visualizing herself cradled in the misty hues of a rainbow or  her hand gloved in endorphins (good-feeling, pain-numbing hormones)  activated by Prince William’s gentle strokes of her arm. Gracefully, she  breathes – not pushes – a calm and healthy baby through her body.

It’s  a far cry from the way childbirth is often portrayed on TV and in  movies, where a writhing-in-pain woman-turned-demon excoriates her  petrified husband for doing this horrific thing to her.

Does  it have to be so bad? As a young woman, Marie “Micky” Mongan felt sure  there was a better way. “Babies didn’t need to come into the world in  pain, and their mothers didn’t need to suffer as they did,” says Mongan,  who founded HypnoBirthing – The Mongan Method nearly 25 years ago after  helping her daughter and two of her daughter’s friends replicate her  childbirth experience. “I had four children without a smidgen of pain,”  says Mongan, now 80. “I’m not unusual,” she says. “I’m a woman.”

And that’s the starting point for her method, which relies on deep relaxation  and powerful affirmations to promise not a pain-free delivery but an  easier one. “Our women trust birth. They trust their bodies,” she says.  “They’ve been educated to understand it.”

HypnoBirthing  experts say it works by shutting down the so-called fight-or-flight  response. If a woman heads into labor in fear, her muscles clench,  blocking needed blood flow to the birthing muscles. As the baby moves  along the birth canal, that tightness creates pain, which begets fear,  and the cycle continues.

“What we’re saying  is: ‘Mom, stop mentally trying to process this, and just relax, and let  it happen.’ And that is what happens. The body opens, and the baby is  born the way nature created,” Mongan says. “Many of our babies don’t  even cry when they come into the world, because they haven’t experienced  birth trauma,” and are more content as a result, she says.

The Cleveland Clinic is teaching expectant mothers Mongan’s technique at its Hillcrest Hospital and will be offering classes at  its Fairview Hospital – both in Ohio – in October. “We have been  overwhelmed with calls this past year,” says Rebecca Starck, Cleveland  Clinic chair of regional obstetrics and gynecology. In an e-mail, Starck  writes that the method “teaches you that in the absence of fear and  tension, severe discomfort does not have to be a natural accompaniment  of the birthing process,” and, like other childbirth techniques such as  water therapy or Lamaze, it can help with pain management.

She  adds that the calmness of babies born this way has been ascribed to  lower stress hormones as well as the common post-delivery practice of  “kangaroo care,” in which the newborn is held against the mother’s  chest, with skin touching skin. “Many people think it is ‘healthier’ for  the baby to cry after birth. However, the transition to the world  outside of the womb does not require crying, and a quiet transition is  perfectly fine,” Starck says.

As  the name implies, hypnobirthing uses hypnosis. For clarification, it’s  not voodoo or mind control, but a technique to bring about a deeply  relaxed state in which the conscious mind gives way to the subconscious  mind, says Lori Nicholson, a Bethesda, Md.-based certified hypnotist and  HypnoBirthing practitioner, fertility consultant and infant massage  instructor. If you’ve ever zoned out in front of the TV or on your  morning commute, you’ve been in a hypnotic state, she says.