Many studies have looked at the effect of using hypnosis for fertility, labour and birth, as well as the likelihood of post-natal depression in women.
Hypnosis has been shown to improve fertility, both for natural conception and assisted conception.
Hypnosis has positive effects on labour and birth (shorter labour, fewer instances of instrument deliveries and caesarean sections), and gives the baby a better outcome (measured with the Apgar score). Addtionally, women using hypnosis for their second or subsequent births feel more in control, confident, relaxed and focused, and less fearful, than during their other birthing experiences (1, 2).
One study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility (Levitas et al, 2006, Soroka University, Israel), looked at the impact of hypnosis on the outcome of embryo transfer. Not only did the authors find that the pregnancy rate was doubled in the group who was receiving hypnosis sessions compared to the control group, but they also had a more favourable attitude towards the treatment.
In another study published in the Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics (Poehl et al, 1999, Institute for Sterility Treatment, Vienna, Austria), women who accepted psychotherapeutic counseling (including hypnotherapy) had an increased chance of pregnancy compared to those who had refused. This led the authors to argue that people had to be informed better of the positive effects this had rather than just offered it on the form without explanation. Psychological therapies were described in conclusion as an essential part of the IVF treatment.
Length of labour and birth
Studies have looked at the length of labour and birth for women having their first baby or subsequent babies. These studies consistently find a reduction in the length of the first (1-7 hours shorter) and second stage (about 20 minutes shorter) of labour for women who were using hypnosis compared to women who were using the Lamaze training or relaxation training (3, 4, 5, 6, 7). Women using hypnosis for labour and birth also reported being more satisfied with the birth or their baby as well as reduced anxiety and better sleep patterns.
Use of Medication
Women who prepare for the birth using hypnosis are less likely to ask for medication for pain relief. In a British study, 55% of the women who had prepared for labour and birth using hypnosis required no pain relief medication versus only 22% in the control group. Other studies found that 58 to 79% of the women using hypnosis used no pain medication during labour and birth (8, 9).
In a randomized control trial study in Florida, none of the 22 teenagers in the hypnosis group experienced forceps or ventouse intervention compared to 60% in the control group (10).
Another study reported that women who had prepared for the birth of their baby using hypnosis were giving birth to babies with a higher Apagar score, fewer caesarean sections, forceps or ventouse deliveries and a higher rate of spontaneous birth than in the general population (11).
The length of stay in hospital has been reported as shorter in the hypnosis group compared to the control group (10).
An average of between 10 and 15% of women develop post-natal depression in the period following the birth of their baby. Women with a history of depression prior to the birth generally have a 50% risk of having post-natal depression.
One study (12) reported that five 30-minute sessions of hypnosis resulted in the virtual absence of post-natal depression in 600 women, including women with a history of depression. Other studies reported similar results (11).
(1) Phillips-Moore, J. (2012). “Birthing outcomes from an Australian HypnoBirthing programme”. British Journal of Midwifery 20 (8): 558-564.
(2) Jones, S. (2008). “HypnoBirthing. The breakthrough approach to safer, easier, comfortable birthing”. British Journal of Midwifery 16 (10): 694-694.
(3) 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.
(4) Brann LR, Guzvica SA.
Comparison of hypnosis with conventional relaxation for antenatal and intrapartum use: A feasibility study in general practice. J R Coll Gen Pract 1987; 37:437-440.
(5) Davidson, J, MD.
An assessment of the value of hypnosis in pregnancy and labour. Br Med Journal Oct 13, 1962, 951-953.
(6) Mellegren, A. (1966) Practical experiences with a modified hypnosis-delivery. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 14, 425-428.
(7) Abramson, M., & Heron, W.T., An objective evaluation of hypnosis in obstetrics: Preliminary report. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 59, 1069-1074, 1950. Gallagher, S. Hypnosis for Childbirth: prenatal education and birth outcome. unpublished. June 2001. Davidson, J, MD.
(8) August, R.V. Obstetric hypnoanesthesia. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 79, 1131-1137, 1960, and August, R.V. Hypnosis in obstetrics. New York: McGraw Hill, 1961.
(9) Hornyak, Lynne M. and Joseph P. Green.
Healing From Within: The use of hypnosis in women’s health care. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2000.
(10) Alice A. Martin, PhD; Paul G. Schauble, PhD; Surekha H. Rai, PhD; and R. Whit Curry, Jr, MD
The Effects of Hypnosis on the Labor Processes and Birth Outcomes of Pregnant Adolescents. The Journal of Family Practice, MAY 2001, 50(5): 441-443.
(11) Harmon, 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.
(12) McCarthy, P.
Hypnosis in obstetrics. Australian Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 26, 35-42, 1998.