Guest Spotlight - Yohanna Castro on Hypnobirthing
My friend Yohanna is a certified Hypnobirthing instructor and runs her own business called Birthright Initiative. She teaches Hypnobirthing classes in the Madison area, and I'm so happy to be able to share her blog post on the benefits of Hypnobirthing & an explanation of how & why it works! For more info on Yohanna & her classes, visit her website.
Recently, Duchess Kate gave birth to her third child. As with her first two children, she was outside the hospital, wearing heels and looking wonderful within mere hours. Reactions were mixed, ranging from awe to anger on what many people viewed as an “unrealistic” portrayal of a woman only hours after giving birth. I, on the other hand, was neither awed nor angered. I was simply not surprised. You see, while I had no stylists to attend to me or photographers waiting outside, I myself felt energized, ecstatic, and radiant after my daughter’s birth. And I know many other women who felt the same after their child’s birth, as well. So what’s Duchess Kate’s “secret,” as so many magazines, newspapers, and blogs have labelled it? It’s no secret at all—it’s Mongan Method HypnoBirthing TM.
HypnoBirthing was developed by Marie Mongan over a lifetime of obsessively studying birth, experiencing her own three children’s births, and working with her daughter and other women in their birth experiences. It is not just a childbirth method; it is an entire philosophy based on the belief that for a healthy woman carrying a healthy baby, pregnancy and birth are natural, normal processes that the body can accomplish with awe-inspiring, innate wisdom and skill. Most difficulties and pain that so many women experience in birth are due to fear and its role in interfering with birth.
So does this mean that HypnoBirthers just sit around telling mothers to think positive thoughts, sing them “Let It Go,” and expect every woman to have a candle-lit Zen birth? No.
The vast majority of HypnoBirthing practitioners became practitioners because we used HypnoBirthing for our own births and can attest to its power. But we all know that birth is not some PollyAnna event complete with rainbows, butterflies, and unicorns pooping Skittles (though there may be pooping and honestly, snacking on Skittles might be nice). We know it takes time, effort, and intentionality. The thing is, birth is not that different from, say, a sport or other physical activity. We marvel at the incredible feats of high- performing athletes or at the skill of extraordinary musicians while ignoring the fact that most of us are just as equipped and have the inborn potential to do the same thing. The difference is that we haven’t learned how to use our equipment—our bodies, minds, and wills—or put in the time to develop our potential to do those things.
The same is true with birth. Just as athletic or musical feats require physical, mental, and willful training over time, birth takes more than just a “meh, let’s see how it goes” attitude if you want the best possible experience. The good news is that it doesn’t take years of training to prepare yourself and increase the likelihood of an enjoyable birth experience. Most women have everything they need to birth gently and
comfortably—they just don’t know how to use their equipment or develop their innate potential to make a gentle birth possible.
And that’s the purpose of HypnoBirthing. HypnoBirthing uses education and carefully developed breathing techniques, visualizations, and self-hypnosis to literally train your body, mind, and will for birth. These components are rooted in the fact that every single emotion and thought we experience has a physiological response in the body. Think about it — what happens when we feel embarrassed? We might wince, blush, and feel physically uncomfortable. Nervousness in a situation can show up as rapid breathing, profuse sweating, clammy hands, and disjointed thinking. And tell me, how did baby get conceived in the first place? That whole event began with a thought, a feeling, that resulted in a slew of physical responses and, as the saying goes, “one thing led to another”… and now you’re pregnant. So I repeat—for every thought and emotion you have, whether positive or negative, there is a corresponding response in the body.
All right, so thoughts and feelings have physiological effects — what of it? Well, if your thoughts and expectations around pregnancy and birth are negative, full of fear, apprehension, and anxiety, then your body is going to react negatively. Your Sympathetic Nervous System, responsible for your primal fight-flight-freeze response, gets triggered and literally tries to shut down the birthing process. It perceives that you and the baby are under attack and decides that now is not the time to sit back and have a baby. So your body is receiving mixed messages: “Baby is ready to be born, let’s do this!” versus “yeah, no, we’re shutting this down until the danger has passed.” These conflicting messages force the body to work against itself. No wonder women experience pain.
On the flip side, if you view pregnancy and birth with a positive outlook, then your body is more likely to respond to that positivity. The balancing opposite of the Sympathetic Nervous System is the Parasympathetic Nervous System, the part of the nervous system we aim to activate with HypnoBirthing techniques. When initiated, it releases the flow of necessary hormones and endorphins to relax your body and let it do what it needs to do to birth your baby. We all know that we can’t function at peak performance when we’re stressed and anxious… yet we expect our bodies to do just that in birth. We perform so much better when we feel free, relaxed, and secure.
With HypnoBirthing, you reprogram your mind and condition your body to view birth and approach it in an empowered, positive manner. When you take a class, you gain:
Increased confidence in yourself, your birth companion, and your body
Trust and respect for yourself, your body, your baby, and the birthing process An understanding of the physiology of birth and how fear interferes Strategies and techniques to avoid the Fear—Tension—Pain Cycle Tools to help you manage surprises in a calm and controlled manner Evidence-based knowledge upon which to make informed decisions
Notice that I do not include a perfect, candlelit Zen birth in this list. That’s because the point of HypnoBirthing is not to have any one particular birthing experience. Everyone’s experience will be different. The point of HypnoBirthing is to equip you and prepare you so that no matter what happens, you can respond in a calm and peaceful manner and enjoy your journey without becoming overwhelmed with fear and anxiety. Of course, I will take this moment to mention that due to their increased confidence and the techniques they learned, HypnoBirthing mothers report:
Decreased use of artificial induction Lower rates of epidural use Lower c-section rates Lower rates of episiotomy and tearing Higher rates of successful breastfeeding Quicker and easier recoveries Higher overall satisfaction with their experiences
This is what these women accomplished with the help of HypnoBirthing. They did it—not HypnoBirthing. HypnoBirthing just gave them the means and opportunity but only they can take the credit for what they accomplished.
And that’s why I became a practitioner. My birth experience wasn’t perfect and there were surprises—but it is still the most powerful, transformative event of my life. Once I experienced this transformation for myself, I knew I wanted to share it with others. I value the privilege of supporting women as they step into their birthing power and see themselves as the incredible, amazing, magnificent beings that they truly are. That is why I teach HypnoBirthing and I would be honored to walk alongside you on your journey.