A review of the current literature available on the use of hypnosis during birthing.

A Better birth experience
Werner et al(2013) published their results of a large randomized controlled trial comparing the birth experience between women receiving self-hypnosis classes, general relaxation techniques or routine antenatal care only. The women reported a better childbirth experience from the hypnosis group than in either of the other two groups as measured by the Wijmas Delivery Expectancy/Experience Questionnaire.
A retrospective study (VandeVusse et al, 2007) into a single obstetricians practice looked into the birthing experiences of 50 women who attended self-hypnosis classes and 51 demographically similar women who did not. The use of prenatal hypnosis group significantly reduced the use of analgesia, sedatives and regional pain relief. The babies born to this group also had higher 1 minute Apgar scores than those receiving standard antenatal care.
A review of pain management techniques in childbirth (Madden et al, 2012) examined current evidence for hypnosis for pain management in labour. Although many of the studies were incomparable with one another due to methodology used and timings results include lower pain intensity, significantly shorter labours and faster discharge from hospital in the hypnosis groups.

Effect of hypnosis on length of labour
Jenkins and Pritchard studied over 800 births and reported that a reduction in active labour time on average of 3 hours was seen in the hypnosis group for first time mothers (6.4 hours vs. 9.3 hours). and 1 hour for multi gravid women (from 6.2 hours to 5.3 hours).
A study (Brann & Guzvica, 1987) comparing hypnosis (n=45) and Lamaze training (n=51) found that the first stage of labour was shortened in the hypnosis group by 98 minutes for first time mothers and 40 minutes for second time mothers compared to those in the Lamaze group.
A British study (Davidson J, 1962) found a statistically significant reduction in the length of labour of first and second time mothers: 70 hypnosis patients (6 hours 21 minutes) compared to 70 relaxation patients (9 hours 28 minutes) and 70 in the control group (9 hours 45 minutes).

Abramson and Heron found a shorter first stage of labour for 100 women trained with hypnosis (by 3.23 hours) compared to a control group of 88 women.

Medication use
Another review article shows self-hypnosis to be more effective at pain management than standard medical care and education classes in childbirth. They also report better Apgar scores in the newborns and shorter labours (Landolt & Milling, 2011).
In a British study, 55% of 45 patients required no medication for pain relief. In the other non-hypnosis groups, only 22% of 90 women required no medication. Two research pieces reported on 1,000 consecutive births: 850 women used hypnotic analgesia resulting in 58 percent rate of no medication.
Harmon, Hynan and Tyre (1990) studied 60 women and reported more spontaneous deliveries, higher Apgar scores and reduced medication use. Of the 45 hypnosis clients the majority (84%) delivered vaginally without the use of intervention.This is a higher than average rate of normal birth for the general population of first time mothers.

Postpartum Depression
McCarthy (1998) provided five half hour hypnosis sessions to 600 women and found a virtual absence of postpartum depression, compared to the typical rates of 10-15%. Interestingly even those who had previously experienced postpartum depression did not develop this following hypnotherapy when it has been reported that approximately 50% of women who have experienced it previously will do so in subsequent pregnancies.
Harmon et al also reported lower incidence of depression in the hypnotherapy group.


  • Brann LR, Guzvica SA (1987) Comparison of hypnosis with conventional relaxation for antenatal and intrapartum use: A feasibility study in general practice. J R Coll Gen Pract; 37, 437-440.
  • Davidson, J, MD (1962) An assessment of the value of hypnosis in pregnancy and labour. Br Med Journal, 951-953.
  • Harmon T.M., Hynan M., & Tyre T.E (1990) Improved obstetric outcomes using hypnotic analgesia and skill mastery combined with childbirth education. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 58, 525, 530
  • Jenkins, M.W., & Pritchard, M.H (1993) Hypnosis: Practical applications and theoretical considerations in normal labour. British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 100(3), 221-226
  • Landolt AS & Milling LS (2011) The efficacy of hypnosis as an intervention for labor and delivery pain: a comprehensive methodological review. Clin Psychol Rev. 31(6), 1022-31
  • Madden K, Middleton P, Cyna AM, Matthewson M & Jones L (2012) Hypnosis for pain management during labour and childbirth. Cochrane Database Systematic Reviews.
  • McCarthy P (1998) Hypnosis in obstetrics. Australian Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 26, 35-42.
  • VandeVusse L, Irland J, Healthcare WF, Berner MA, Fuller S, Adams D (2007) Hypnosis for childbirth: a retrospective comparative analysis of outcomes in one obstetrician’s practice. Am J Clin Hypn. 50(2),109-19
  • Werner A, Uldbjerg N, Zachariae R, Wu CS, Nohr EA (2013) Antenatal hypnosis training and childbirth experience: a randomized controlled trial. Birth. 2013 Dec;40(4):272-80

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