I am doing some hypnobirthing stuff for my upcoming birth. I had been interested in it during much of my pregnancy, and spoke with various people- some who swear by it, others who feel it is a good option but tends to fall short as the one and only option if a woman does not have other tools available. I think I have a fairly balanced perspective on it. My take is that I didn't want to commit to any one mindset or program or way of doing things for my pregnancy and birth, but to create a positive frame of mind and gather as many different tools as possible, taking what fits well for me from a variety of sources.
I read Birthing From Within and got some good input from that, especially in terms of the birth art and some coping skills for during the birth- actual, concrete exercises as well as attitudes/philosophies.
eta: I did also take a more traditional birth class through our local birth center, covering the stages of labor, positions and pressure to help, complications, etc.
I also found a doula who has completed the Mongan/Hypnobirthing training, but has chosen not to get certified or teach the program- she likes the concept but not all aspects of it, and finds that doing it without certification gives her more flexibility. I love her approach, and while I loved the concept from the first time I heard of it, I was a bit skeptical that I would be able to achieve hypnosis or learn to use those tools effectively. I think my approach and my doula's may differ from the official class. I did read the book, and do the rainbow relaxation daily once or twice. I am doing this without a partner, so much of this is just me practicing and preparing. I also meet with my doula weekly to practice deepening and visualization scripts with her.
I don't consider myself a die-hard proponent of the method or believe that is my only tool, but it may well be. That said, I know I have other tools in my arsenal, and believe that is ideal, since I won't know until my birth how I feel or what exactly I need. When I first started the exercises, I wasn't sure I understood how that would carry over to birth, whether the relaxation/hypnosis would be a skill I could implement in labor, with distractions and surges and all going on.. But as I have practiced more, I feel much more confident. The big thing for me has been practicing consistently, in different positions and settings, and working with my doula on some of the more intensive scripts.
I recently had an external version done, and wanted to try to do it without the terbutaline, to use hypnosis to relax the uterine muscles to prevent them from contracting and allow the doctor to getting a good grip on the baby, as well as to overcome the fear/tension/pain which I had been told is awful with this particular procedure. That was an awesome experience as I was able to implement some of these skills in a medical setting with significant uterine pressure/pain, new people, noise from machines, etc. and to do so more spontaneously, entering in and out of relaxation as needed, rather than start script-relax-end script, yk? It was not successful in turning the baby, but it was successful in that I feel much more confident in my ability to control my body's physical relaxation and my mental/emotional response to such feelings. The best way I can describe it is intense pressure/pangs, which I could tell "should" have been painful, and may have been interpreted that way by some, or myself in another context, but I did not feel it as pain in a distressing way. I am not sure how to explain it better than that. I was relaxed and calm, it was not a big deal, although I was told they were pushing extremely hard, and my uterus can sure feel it today.. That gives me some confidence that these skills are preparing me for the birth process.
I don't know about the class or the "official mindset," but I also think it makes sense to make a conscious effort to talk about pressure, surges, etc. rather than reinforcing the idea of labor as first and foremost a painful endeavor. I think one should leave themselves open, rather than succumb to labeling the feeling before they have even experienced it. It may be painful for many women, but why address it in that way before having gone there, yk? And to me, much of that really is how you see it. I think something could be the same stimulus, but be interpreted both as pain, and not painful, by the same woman in different circumstances, or by two different women.. it really is subjective. A lot of that is just how you define it.. Bbut I agree, it may not be realistic to convince women they shouldn't feel pain and if they do it's wrong/bad.. I think it makes more sense to just leave things open, that whatever sensations occur are natural and manageable and to be evaluated by you in the moment, not by a stereotype or a fear or a cultural standard, yk? That is how I interpret that aspect, anyway..