Hypnobirthing can sound alternative but there is a growing body of research to prove the efficacy of hypnosis in :

  • Reducing the length of labour
  • Reducing or removing the need for medication including epidurals
  • Reducing the need for intervention including cesarean section
  • Reducing the rate of postnatal depression.

We have personally experienced the attitudes of obstetricians and midwives changing as they have seen more and more women using hypnobirthing and how these births are different. Hypnobirthing works.OIP

Improving Women’s Experience of Birth

A recent study, the largest on self-hypnosis for labour in the UK, found ‘a significant impact on postnatal maternal childbirth anxiety when compared with antental experience.’ Downe et al (2015).  This study was a multicentre, Randomised Control Trial (RCT) of 680 women, across three NHS trusts, known as the SHIP – Self Hypnosis for Intrapartum Pain management The results from this trial found that although there was little difference in epidural rate – about 30%, at two weeks postnatal there was a significantly lower score for actual experience of anxiety and fear associated with childbirth from the women that used hypnobirthing compared to the women that did not.

The findings from an Australian study Phillips-Moore (2012), concluded that women who attended a HypnoBirthing course demonstrated similar results to those found in other research into hypnosis for childbirth. However, the findings also highlighted some added benefits of HypnoBirthing. The majority of women reported feeling more confident, relaxed, less fearful, focused, and more in control. They also commented on the ease and comfort of labour and birth and the satisfaction of having their partners involved and supportive

Effects of Hypnosis on Length of Labour:

Hao et al in China (1997) measured the effect of nursing suggestions to labouring women and recommends that the conversation of the nurses be “controlled carefully for the purpose of advancing the birth process”. This randomized control trial examined 60 first time mothers with a matched control group of 60 first time mothers and found a statistically significant reduction in the lengths of the first and second stages of labour.

Jenkins and Pritchard (1993) found a reduction of 3 hours from first time mothers (from 9.3 hours to 6.4 hours) and 1 hour for second time mothers (from 6.2 hours to 5.3 hours) for active labour (262 subjects and 600 controls). Pushing was statistically shorter for the first time mothers (from 50min to 37min).

Abrahamson and Heron (1950) 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. 45 hypnosis for childbirth clients (first time mothers) had an average of 4.5 hours for the active stage of labour, a significant reduction compared to the usual 12 hours.

Medication Use:

Gallagher (2001) identified that the epidural rate in Toronto and Mississauga ranges from 40-90% for first time mothers. However, those clients that chose hypnosis for childbirth had an epidural rate of only 18% (11% for Caesarean and instrumental deliveries, only 7% for maternal request).

Rates of Intervention:

Harmon et al (1990) reported more spontaneous deliveries, higher Apgar scores and reduced medication use in their study of 600 women. Of the 45 hypnosis for childbirth clients, 38 delivered without the use of Caesarean, forceps or vacuum, a rate of spontaneous birth of 84%. This is a higher than average rate of normal birth for the general population of first time mothers.

Postnatal Depression:

McCarthy (1998) provided five 30-minutes sessions to 600 women and found a virtual absence of postpartum depression, compared to the typical rates of 10 to 15 percent. Women with a history of postpartum depression did not develop this condition, even though an estimated 50% eventually do.

Harman et al (1990) also reported lower postpartum depression rates in the hypnotically treated group.

A study by Alice et al (2001) states in its conclusion that: “Our study provides support for the use of hypnosis to aid in preparation of obstetric patients for labour and delivery. This reduction of complications, surgery and hospital stay show direct medical benefit to mother and child and suggests that there is potential for a corresponding cost-saving benefit”.



Abrahamson, M., & Heron, W.T. An objective evaluation of hypnosis of obstetrics: Preliminary report. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 59, 1069-1074, 1950.

Alice A. Martin, PhD; Paul G. Schauble, PhD; Surekha H.Rai, PhD; and R. Whitcury, Jr MD The Effects of Hypnosis on the Labour Processes and Birth Outcomes of Pregnant Adolescents.The Journal of Family Practice, May 2001, 50 (5): 441 – 443.

Downe, S., Finlayson, K., Mewin, C., Spiby, H., Ali, S., Diggle, P., Gyte, G., Hinder, S. Miller, V., Slade, P. Prepal, D., Weeks, A., Whorwell, P. & Williamson, M. Self hypnosis for intrapartum pain mangement in pregnant nulliparous women: a randomised control trial of clinical effectiveness. BJOG 122 (9) 1226- 1234 2015

Gallagher, S. Hypnosis for Childbirth: Prenatal education and birth outcome. Unpublished. June 2001.

Hao TY, Li YH, Yao SF. Clinical study on shortening the birth process using psychological suggestion therapy. Zhonghua Hu Li Za Zhi. 1997 Oct; 32 (10): 568-70. (General Military Hospital of Jinan, P.R. China).

Haymon, T.M., Hynan, M., & Tyre, T.E. Improved obstetric outcomes using hypnotic analgesia and skill mastery combined with childbirth education. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 58, 525, 530, 1990.

Jenkins, M.W., & Pritchard, M.H. Hypnosis: Practical applications and theroretical considerations in normal labour. British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 100 (3), 221-226, 1993.

McCarthy, P. Hypnosis in obstetrics. Austrailian Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 26, 35-42, 1998.

Werner, A., Uldbjerg, N., Zachariae, R., Rosen, G. & Nohr, EA Self Hypnosis for Coping with labour pain: a randomised control trial British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 120 (3) 346-353, 2013kg-hypnobirthing-logo-1200x630