Let me start off by saying that HypnoBirthing™ – The Marie Mongan Method holds a special place in my heart as it really opened my eyes to the impeccable design of a woman’s body when creating life. It was my main birth preparation tool, in combination with a Parents Centre antenatal class, when I was pregnant with my first daughter. While it held me in relatively good stead for that birth there were a few areas that didn’t quite correlate with my actual experience of labour. But it sure did ignite an interest in hypnosis that led me to become a Suggestive Hypnotherapist and ultimately create this Relaxed Birthing online birth preparation course.

HypnoBirthing goes into great detail explaining how the female body was designed to birth, and how fear plus stress equals tension which interferes with your natural birthing ability. Furthermore it chronicles parts of western history that has resulted in our current medicalised view of birth, outlines hypnotic tools to combat discomfort and maintain a trance state, explains how to connect with your baby in-utero, and make detailed birth plans in among other things. While I found the information this method highlights interesting, all the detail took serious time to work though. When I completed the course (circa. 2015) I read HypnoBirthing – The Mongan Method book, my partner and I attended a 12 hour long course covering the exact same material (cue glazed-over eyes from my husband), and we listened to the audio recordings as much as possible (still love a little Rainbow Relaxation). But at a not-so-affordable $400NZD it was a significant investment both financially and in regards to time. In hindsight I think a lot of the knowledge and tools we learnt weren’t actually necessary for us, and I’m sure other families, to bond with each other in pregnancy, and ultimately achieve a gentle, calm birth.

I believe birth preparation classes should be realistic, accessible and affordable so that all couples can positively prepare for all birth outcomes, without over-preparing to the point of fear. Relaxed Birthing concisely explains the most important aspects of birth; how your body works; how labour sensations may feel; some labour insights (painstaking detail aside because your birth experience can differ drastically from mine); why and how to discuss becoming a parent with your partner. Presented in a time considerate format this online birth course is refreshingly realistic and simple to understand. At your leisure read the bulk of knowledge in an hour(ish); revise the key points by watching a 30 minute video – perfect to get birth companions up to speed; and reinforce the information by listening to audio recordings – which as a bonus fight pregnancy insomnia.

More realistic and inclusive of each and every birth than its content heavy HypnoBirthing or Calm Birthing counterparts, Relaxed Birthing leaves you free to optimise your birth preparation by spending it conditioning your body and mind to instinctively relax. All without the hefty price tag!

As a woman who has given birth three times I believe that HypnoBirthing takes an overly optimistic view towards every woman being able to harness a deep enough hypnotic state to birth without discomfort. Because despite the fact as a Hypnotherapist I truly think the hypnotic methods are brilliant in theory, in practice it’s only a small minority that would be able to perfect the “hypno” part of HypnoBirthing during the most challenging parts of labour. In fact some studies suggest that only 10% of the population can enter such a deep trance state, and while I believe with enough practice that number may rise, it is true that for a large proportion of women staying relaxed enough during birth to minimise pain may be an unattainable goal. I’ve heard time and time again from HypnoBirthing-prepared women who when at the onset of labour felt discomfort or pain immediately felt they were ‘doing it wrong’ which in turn caused stress. I believe HypnoBirthing can inflate expectations for a pain-free birth experience, and possibly lead to some women feeling shame when they opt for pain relief.

So one of the main drivers behind the creation of Relaxed Birthing was that I felt women should be empowered to celebrate whatever path their birth takes, place trust in their maternity carers and embrace modern medical support (like pain relief and caesareans) if needed.

Even though HypnoBirthing is spot on when it encourages labouring women to focus on their breathing during contractions or labour sensations/surges/waves, I found the advice imploring me to ignore my innate desire to bear down and push baby out during transition (the moment baby starts to descend past a fully opened cervix) was unhelpful. HypnoBirthing taught me to ‘breathe’ my baby down and while in theory this sounds perfectly achievable, as my labour shifted in intensity and my body started to bear my baby down – all I wanted to do is push with all my might. Because it is normal to want to push down towards your bottom. I’ve heard HypnoBirthing-prepared women say that when they tried to breathe their baby out their maternity carers had to coach them to push in tune with their bearing down bodies (which is exactly what happened to me). To be fair to HypnoBirthing I am sure there are women who have effectively harnessed the Birth Breath to forego pushing – I am just yet to meet one.

Relaxed Birthing keeps the breathing techniques simple to optimise your labour sensations and prepare you to work with your innate bodily desires, by way of your maternity carers guidance.

Finally HypnoBirthing encouraged me to make a robust birth plan, outlining my expectations for birth. Guess what – not a single one came to fruition, which left me feeling deflated and despondent at several pressure points in my pregnancy and labour. I was 10 days (and more) overdue with all three pregnancies, so all of that time I spent visualising spontaneously going into labour before my due date was wasted. I didn’t birth in the water like I hoped, asking too early and too late for a pool to be filled. But the most jarring reality check was that I expected to coast through birth deeply relaxed and pain-free, almost as if I was a bystander while my baby and body did the work – HA! Labour is intense hard work and took active participation and communication about what I was experiencing.

I believe that the best way to approach birth is with an open mind and few (or no) expectations. After all, you don’t know exactly how you will experience birth, or how you will want to react in the moment.

The Relaxed Birthing online antenatal course has been structured for those of us who do not want to, or cannot afford to, wade through hour upon hour of content. It has been assembled to set you up for a positive birth experience, boost your confidence and provide skills that can benefit other areas of your life. Relaxed Birthing encourages you to tune into your body and innate birthing ability, seek care from someone you trust and build an encouraging support network for pregnancy, birth and beyond. Then you can give yourself the freedom to make decisions unencumbered by unrealistic expectations, and have faith that if you happen to encounter difficulties you won’t need to be a medical expert or even a ‘good patient’, your trusted caregivers will guide you through. I believe that a successful birth is one that ends with a baby in your arms, no matter the path. And when you take the time to understand birth, invest in calm conditioning and adopt a positive open mind-set you can trust your path will be perfect for you.