Preparing for a Natural, Unmedicated Birth – Part 2

San Diego natural birth center
Best Start Birth Center

We just finished our five-week Hypnobirthing class at the local birth center. When I first registered for the class, I thought that most of the class would be devoted to learning hypnosis via self-hypnosis and partner learning how to hypnotize mom.  I didn’t quite get it until very late in our course that the HypnoBirthing approach is actually more of a holistic educational program promoting natural birthing, not a hardcore hypnosis class.  One of the teachers mentioned that she is not a fan of the name “Hypnobirthing” and now I see why.  It is a deceiving title considering that some of the couples who use the approach do not end up practicing the hypnosis techniques taught in the class–and nevertheless they still find the course to be highly beneficial.

As I’ve learned from other mommy bloggers, not every hypnobirthing class is exactly the same. The content can vary a bit depending on who teaches it and where you take it.  Nonetheless, I thought it would be interesting to share with you about the things that I learned in my class at the Best Start Birth Center in San Diego taught by doula Christal Quick.

The impact of fear on childbirth

HypnoBirthing - Marie MonganThe more fear in our minds, the more tension and pain we will experience during childbirth.  The hypnobirthing book describes one birth story in which the mother in labor was so tense that her constricted uterus turned white– her blood drained from the parts of her body needed to labor her baby to her extremities, which is what naturally happens when your body is in “stress mode”.   Modern medicine and the media has successfully convinced many of us to believe that childbirth is scary, painful and nearly impossible without medical intervention…even when women have been laboring for thousands of years naturally without the need for hospitals and medical devices.  

The first step of hypnobirthing is to understand the social narrative around birth that is engrained in many of us and to consciously transform that into positive thoughts about birthing. The numerous natural birthing videos that we watched in class made a big difference for many of us.  These births were typically calm, quiet, and joyful, unlike the documentaries on TLC of screaming mothers in emergency rooms. Watching different narratives of birth can help instill the confidence that we can in fact facilitate a comfortable and gentle birth for our baby.

The use of medical interventions during labor

The stories of unnecessary and sometimes harmful interventions used by hospitals and doctors are outrageous–however, it’s not surprising considering that medical care in America is essentially a profit-driven, efficiency-based machine.  If you want to learn more about the evolution of childbirth in this country, just watch the documentary “The Business of Being Born“.  Our teachers were very helpful in teaching us to ask questions about recommended procedures.  A memorable acronym is BRAlN: what are the Benefits, what are the Risks, what Alternatives are there, what does my Intuition tell me, and what if I do Nothing? We also learned ways how to prevent circumstances in which doctors are more likely to recommend a medical procedure. For instance, we learned natural ways to stimulate labor and exercises to help baby get into the preferred birth position.

Keep Calm and Hypnobirth

Relaxation techniques

We are asked to listen to the hypnosis audio CD included in the book on a regular basis. Some people relax incredibly well to the CD and others cannot stand to listen to the British lady on the CD every single night. I personally love the CD and can fall asleep to it within ten minutes of turning it on.

In the hypnobirthing approach, the birthing partners play a huge role in helping to keep mom relaxed and comfortable. They are taught to read hypnosis scripts to help mom relax during labor.  This, we didn’t practice very much and will likely not use during labor. Other relaxations tools that are taught are: visualization exercises, breathing for specific stages in labor, fear release exercises, light touch massage, and affirmations. All of these tools I found to be incredibly helpful in easing me into a relaxing and positive state of mind. 

Lastly, a huge part of feeling relaxed is being prepared: hospital bag, music playlist, essential oils, hot packs, cold presses, eye masks, deciding who will be in the delivery room, making plans for someone to care for your animal child, you name it. In our last class, we even spent a few hours practicing different labor positions with the help of our partners. 

In case you haven’t heard of this technique before, don’t think that it’s only used in the hippy corners of the world.  It’s a technique that is definitely gaining traction. Public figures such as Kate Middleton have chosen this approach for their births, and there are growing studies that show positive outcomes for hypnobirthing mommies and babies.  With that said, I have also read and heard first hand of stories in which the mothers practiced this approach but still opted for epidurals, were induced, or had to have emergency c-sections.

There is absolutely no guarantee that this approach will offer a pain-free, natural birthing experience to all who are attracted to it. But the way I see it, even if a natural birth is not the final outcome, this approach can help parents learn that they can still lovingly and calmly welcome a baby into this world no matter what path the child chose to get here.

As you can probably tell, I really enjoyed this class and am a huge proponent of this approach. I’m so glad that I took this class early in pregnancy, so that I have several months to prepare and practice the tools.  I would recommend this class at Best Start to anyone interested in having a natural birth!  Please feel free to comment below with any questions or suggestions you may have.





Every Pregnancy Experience Is Unique. Here’s mine so far


It’s finally here. I never thought this time would come.

Artistic rendition of my third trimester belly
Artistic rendition of my third trimester belly

I’m finally in my third trimester of baby-carrying! The first six months have come and gone. Only one last stretch to go and the wiggly feeling in my belly will finally land in my arms as a smiling, pooping, blinking child.

Since I’ve gone public about my pregnancy, I have been asked the same repetition of questions: “Do you have any strange cravings?”, “Do you have morning sickness?”, and “Boy or girl?” In case you’re wondering what it’s like to wobble in the shoes of a pregnant lady, it can be pretty annoying when strangers or acquaintances ask questions just for the sake of chatter or perceived etiquette. You can only recite the same answer so many times before you want to just respond with “What are you talking about…what baby?”

But when it’s with other mothers, I’ve usually enjoyed sharing stories and listening to their unique experiences of pregnancy & childbirth. I am lucky that I have had a pretty typical and comfortable pregnancy so far—no morning sickness, no varicose veins, no significant weight gain, fatigue and cravings that only lasted through the first trimester.

Partially for the sake of sharing with mothers & mothers-to-be, but moreso to document for my dementia-like memory bank, here are the highlights from my first trimester, second trimester, and the transition to the third.

First Trimester

Theme: “What the Heck is Happening to My Body?!!”

Physical State: debilitating fatigue; frequent “I am going to die if I don’t get some food in my mouth in the next five minutes” hunger pangs followed by coma-inducing fullness after only a few bites; massive bloating & indigestion in the evenings. Thankfully, no nausea…except if I took prenatal vitamins on an empty stomach.

Emotional State: disbelief that I was really pregnant (I would ask my husband every few days if I should take another pregnancy test just to make sure the baby is still there); pent up frustration from not being able to publicly talk about my pregnancy; anxiety that the medical tests would show something to be wrong with the baby

What I craved: ice, cold drinks, Ruffles chips, orange chicken and Vietnamese grilled meat. The last two are unusual for me considering that I don’t eat meat!

What tasted disgusting: salads and raw vegetables

What I loved to do: couch-napping after work; watching my husband dutifully take up the household responsibilities while I vegetate on the couch

What I hated most: moving, going to work

Second Trimester

Theme: “This isn’t so bad…”

Physical State: bounty of energy, meaning that I was cooking, cleaning and exercising again!  Thank goodness…I was starting to feel really bad for my husband.

Emotional State: reassurance that I was indeed still pregnant thanks to growing belly

What I craved: ice cream

What tasted disgusting: amazingly…nothing

What I loved to do: swim (how amazing that I am still able to swim in an outdoor pool in the winter months!)

What I hated most: doing research for my baby registry. For those who have never ventured into this realm, the world of baby products is terribly confusing due to new industry standards and an endless array of options. The book “Baby Bargains” is both a blessing and a curse for those who want thorough reviews of every baby product available to man.

So Far…Transition to Third Trimester (28 weeks)

Theme: “So this is what pregnancy is REALLY supposed to feel like…”

Physical State: Body is needing more rest again (9 hours of sleep a night is ideal for me). With a burgeoning belly and an achy back, exercising on land is not very comfortable anymore. I’m still swimming and having short at-home yoga sessions but less eager to do other forms of exercise. Baby is doing half flips in my belly.

Emotional State: readiness for the birthing process and for baby to arrive; starting to put on our “new parents” hat and accept that our lives are going to be forever changed!

What I’m enjoying now: practicing the techniques I’m learning in my hypnobirthing class with my husband (relaxation, massage, stretching, visualization, positive thinking). Getting the nursery ready for baby.