While pregnant with Galen I worked through two home study childbirth courses. One was the Hypnobabies Home Study Course for Expectant Mothers. Out of all the childbirth courses that I've worked through – and with four babies and a natural birth website I've gone through a lot – Hypnobabies rates in my top three. Hypnobabies was especially nice during pregnancy.
Hypnobabies is a complete study course and can be worked through in your own home. It comes with multiple CD's containing many different hypnosis tracks. There's a commitment on your part – you need to find the time to listen to your assigned tracks daily (one each day; what you listen to varies with what week of the course you're in). There's also a pregnancy affirmations track you can listen to as you work around the house, drive, exercise, or as you're drifting off to sleep at night. I actually loved the affirmation track. I was able to work time in almost every single day from the time I began Hypnobabies until I gave birth to Galen.
The course is set to be completed over 6 weeks time. I recommend you begin by 31 weeks or earlier so you can complete the entire course before your 37th week. You can start earlier and take more time on each section, and when you're done you can review at will and listen to the hypnosis tracks. There's a suggested order for listening to them for “maintenance” as you wait to give birth.
The Hypnobabies Paradigm
Hypnobabies gives you a new paradigm of pregnancy and birth. You're taught to perceive pregnancy and childbirth as a joyful, peaceful experience – even an easy experience. Throughout the course, you learn just how powerful your mind is, and how you can reprogram all the negative beliefs culture and society have instilled within you.
If you choose Hypnobabies it's recommended you do not take another childbirth course. This is because you're working to deeply alter beliefs about childbirth; a class that teaches pain and suffering are inevitable during birth could undermine your new perceptions. I'll give my views on this Hypnobabies recommendation later in this review – for now just know that Hypnobabies recommends itself exclusively.
Your First Week – Fundamentals of the Method
During the first week of Hypnobabies, you learn more about what hypnosis is and what hypnosis for childbirth is. You've probably seen stage presentations where a “hypnotist” causes a person to cluck like a chicken. That's not Hypnobabies. Hypnobabies presents hypnosis scripts that walk you into a state of deep relaxation. Your body is comfortable and relaxed and your mind is open to the Hypnobabies suggestions. However, you remain in control and can bring yourself out of this deeply relaxed and open state at any time. The course covers this in detail and each CD track reminds you of these facts.
You also learn just how powerful words are. This is a great part of the course – it's very true. Hypnobabies asks you to change some of the language surrounding pregnancy and birth. One of the biggest examples of this is the word “labor.” When it's time for your baby to come you don't go into labor – you enter your birthing time. The Hypnobabies course says “[l]abor is hard work and your Birthing Time is not; it is easy and joyful.” There are several other terms that you'll replace with more positive words as you work through Hypnobabies.
The power of your mind is outlined and emphasized in the first week. You'll learn just how much your mind can influence what manifests physically in your body (and birth). And you'll learn how practicing and affirmations can really help you to program your mind – and thus your body – for a good birth.
You also learn some of the anatomy of your uterus and you begin your first hypnosis scripts and tools. The “Bubble of Peace” and “Special Place” were two tools that I found helpful throughout pregnancy and you get these in the first week.
The Second Week – Fundamentals of a Healthy Pregnancy
You're introduced to solid principles of good pregnancy nutrition during the second week of Hypnobabies. The advice is based on the work of the late Dr. Thomas Brewer. It's good information that'll keep you and your baby healthy (the nutrition articles on this site are based in part of Dr. Brewer's recommendations!)
A protein chart and nutrition log are provided to help you ensure you're getting all that you and baby need. There are also several helpful articles about other nutrition issues such as salt intake, calcium supplementation, and toxic substances you should avoid.
This week covers common pregnancy discomforts, sleeping positions, and some basic pregnancy exercises (including important exercises such as the pelvic rock and kegels.) The week rounds out with a good description of the stages of birth.
You also go more in-depth into hypnosis, learning some new tools and listening to two new tracks. One of the tracks begins by letting your get yourself down into hypnosis using a new technique (the “finger-drop” technique). It's good practice.
The Third Week – Going over Birthing Choices
This week is a good week because it covers interventions in birth and how one intervention can lead to another (the “cascade of interventions” or the “Domino effect”) There is good coverage of the most common procedures as well as risks and benefits of each.
You'll also learn about informed consent and creating a birth plan in this week – Hypnobabies emphasizes birth plans strongly. A nice thing about the course is it gives a lot of guidance on working with your hospital and care providers (doctors and nurses) to have the kind of birth you want. If you're planning a natural hospital birth Hypnobabies will provide you a lot of advice on talking to your care team.
One new track is introduced in week three. You use it along with the “Deepening” script you began in week 2. The new track helps you learn to create anesthesia in specific parts of your body. It's a good lesson. For some reason, however, that particular track was hard for me to listen though and I was glad to be done with it!
You'll learn a new technique too – Eyes Open Hypnosis – which is very helpful in preparing for your birth.
The Fourth Week – Your Birthing Time
As you can tell, week 4 is all about preparing for the actual time your birthing will begin. You'll learn about packing a bag and the importance of knowing your birthing facility.
One of my favorite exercises starts in the fourth week – visualizing your birth. I found this to be very, very helpful. It's something many methods encourage. Hypnobabies recommends it with the specific advice that you do your visualization from a first person view. I found this advice to be so valuable during my own visualizations before Galen's birth.
You're also going to learn about your “due date” or “guess date” as you'll learn to call it. And of course there's a thorough review of how to know that your birthing time has begun.
In this week you begin to work with your partner scripts. Hypnobabies is set up so your partner can learn the cues and terminology to assist you during the birth. There's a second supplemental book made just for your birthing time that will assist your partner in helping you. It's a good quick reference and you start getting to know it in week 4.
Hypnobabies can also be done if you don't have a birth partner. Scott and I didn't do the partner exercises – I worked through it alone (though he did hear my daily affirmations) and I still feel I benefited from the program. Don't let the absence of a birth partner cause you to stay away from the Hypnobabies program.
“Hypnotic Childbirth #1” is the new track for this week and I really enjoyed it. It teaches you some new cues and it has a lot of wonderful affirmations contained within it. You'll continue to practice techniques that you began in prior weeks including focusing anesthesia around your body and enjoying eyes-open hypnosis.
Week 5 – Enjoy Your Birth!
There's lot of practical information on helping your birthing time go smoothly contained in this week of Hypnobabies.
You get a big reminder about the usefulness of one of your hypnosis techniques (your “lightswitch”) along with the suggestion to use it during Braxton Hicks waves. I found it helpful during those and in moments where I felt stress or anxiety and wanted to take a few seconds to calm down and refocus.
There's a good discussion on the pushing stage and the differences between forceful pushing and allowing baby to descend gently and on his or her own. I think this is an important thing for you to learn though some babies are going to come quickly through the birth canal no matter how hard you try to make it a “gentle” descent!
A nice section is devoted to getting your baby in the optimal position for birth. This is a great section and you should take your time reading it!
You also learn about birthing balls. I loved my birthing ball during pregnancy and used it some during Galen's birthing as well. I like that Hypnobabies brings up information on using a birthing ball because it's a good option that can go wherever you give birth – hospital, birthing center, or home.
There's also good information on breastfeeding including a section sure to get your smile 🙂
Hypnotic Childbirth #2 is introduced in week 5 and it's another I really enjoyed for the great birth imagery and affirmations.
Week 6 – Maintenance
This week you begin a routine of going back through all the tracks (Hypnobabies gives you a recommended rotation). You're also urged to continue to practice all your techniques, your partner work, and listen to your affirmations.
Some women find at this point the hypnosis tracks start to “get old” and feel repetitive. This wasn't the case for me. I enjoyed the time to lie down every day and completely relax while having wonderful thoughts on pregnancy and my upcoming birth said to me. I also loved listening to the pregnancy affirmations every day.
You also get into the “fear-clearing” sessions. I feel two different ways about these. They're guided by one track that helps you see your fears and move them out. On one hand this guidance really helped me to A. acknowledge some fears I had and B. to let those fears go. It was good for those fears that were either irrational or out of my control – fears I just needed to make peace with.
But the tracks do just that – recommend letting the fears go. For some of my fears, such as fear of a c-section being needed, I needed to do a little processing first. I had to acknowledge my fear and work through it a little before I was ready to let it rest. By the time I got to the fear-clearing track I'd already done that work and was ready to just let my fears go throughout the sessions. But if I worry if I'd just pushed a worry aside instead of truly “letting it go” and then have it come back up during my birthing time. So I'd recommend that if you have some very strong fears that you sit down and work through them logically, then do a fear-clearing session on them.
Going Into Your Baby's Birth
Hypnobabies has several tracks created just for your birthing time. The first is the Birthing Day affirmations. This one is meant to be listened to on your birthing day. I did just that, listening to it as I was working around the house some to help time go by. I found it very uplifting and reassuring. It helped me to focus and remember what I'd been practicing.
The next track is “Easy first stage” and I found this one helpful for the same reasons as the affirmations. It brought my focus to remembering what I'd learned through my Hypnobabies work. I listened to the first stage track after we put the kids to bed. I sat on my birth ball and listened as I worked with my body and found it very helpful.
The final birth track is “Pushing baby out.” I didn't listen to that track during Galen's birth because he came so very quickly!
I listened to my first tracks as I went through the day and early evening. Once things picked up and got intense, however, I didn't listen to anymore tracks because it honestly didn't occur to me. I breathed through each wave and I said things internally to myself. I was able to tell myself that I wanted to open more and more, that I wanted things to move along, and that this experience was a privilege and a joy to me.
I went from 3cm to having Galen in my arms in about 2 hours and they were very, very intense hours, but an amazing and wonderful experience for me.
So what do I think about the Hypnobabies program now? Well, firstly I must say that I didn't use Hypnobabies exclusively, which is the recommendation. But I did enjoy it throughout pregnancy. The advice was solid and practical and I really enjoyed the daily relaxation with the CD tracks.
Hypnobabies didn't go into as much detail on working with your body to help the baby move down smoothly and efficiently as some other programs. But there is an emphasis on helping get your baby into a good position for birthing during your pregnancy.
There's also information for helping you and your partner work together and understand the same language, which is important.
There's information on perineal massage, which is helpful in my opinion though again, it doesn't get as detailed and thorough as some other programs do.
The Hypnobabies course book is really sturdy and will stand up to being carried around with you, and the companion guide/quick reference book is slim and easy to pack along with you to the hospital or birth center.
Hypnobabies also offers an active online email support group for women working on the program. This group is actively monitored by ladies from Hypnobabies and the response time is quick on questions. It's a definite bonus for the program.
I feel like once Galen's birth really picked up I stopped thinking about and using the Hypnobabies techniques. My mind had just moved on to that “somewhere else” birthing women go to. I do think, however, there were two ways I could have continued to use the techniques. The first would have been to have my partner ready to cue me and talk me through. Scott didn't do the Hypnobabies work with me so he didn't know the cue words, touches, etc. to help bring me back towards techniques. The second would have been to put my birth tracks on a CD player and just keep them looping on repeat so I was constantly hearing the guide I'd conditioned myself to during pregnancy.
Doing either of these things would have kept the Hypnobabies techniques right there at the front of my mind and I think that my unconscious mind would have just followed the cues. When you've conditioned yourself to something so extensively during pregnancy it comes as second nature, even during your birthing time. The fact that I was able to continue to give myself positive affirmations and welcome the opening of birth, even without the tracks and cues playing, is good evidence of this.
Hypnobabies is a good home-study program and very complete. There are a few things it didn't go into as much detail on as I would have liked, but overall it's an excellent program. I highly recommend if you choose Hypnobabies that you either work closely with a partner (your husband, sister, mom, friend – anyone), or you plan to keep your tracks playing throughout your birthing time so all the work you've done during pregnancy continues to come to you as you give birth.
I also recommend you follow the diet advice carefully, and follow the hints for helping things go better with your care team – these tips are really golden and I haven't seen them given in any other childbirth program.
Overall Hypnobabies is a great and thorough choice in a childbirth program. Be sure you can find time to dedicate to it every day (around 30 minutes a day for your CD tracks, and 30 minutes to an hour once a week for your lessons). Hypnobabies is a really empowering choice in home childbirth courses, I give it a high recommendation!