Hypnosis for Childbirth is as much a philosophy as it is
a technique. Dr. Grantly Dick-Read, a British physician, was
the first to propose the “fear-tension-pain” syndrome
in his work Natural Childbirth (1933) and he therefore recommended
childbirth preparation as a means to prepare for birth. While
midwives and physicians recommend natural childbirth preparation,
hypnosis is an extremely effective way to eliminate the fear-tension
cycle. Hypnosis applies the theory on the subconscious level,
which at the same time allows your physical body to deeply
relax, not only during the sessions, but also during the birth.
Research studies show that the use of hypnosis for childbirth
* shorter labors
* reduced use of pain medication
* higher Apgar scores (measurement
of the baby’s well being at the birth)
* reduced surgical delivery (Caesarian
delivery and forceps)
Hao et al in China 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 (p<0.01) in the lengths of the first and second
stages of labour.
Jenkins and Pritchard found a reduction of 3 hours for prim
gravid women (from 9.3 hours to 6.4 hours, p<0.0001) and
1 hour for multi gravid women (from 6.2 hours to 5.3 hours,
p<0.01) for active labour (262 subjects and 600 controls).
Pushing was statistically shorter for first time mothers (from
50 min to 37 min, p<0.001).
In a study that compared hypnosis and Lamaze training, 96
women chose between hypnosis (n=45) and Lamaze (n=51). The
first stage of labour was shortened in the hypnosis group
by 98 minutes for first time mothers and by 40 minutes for
second time mothers. These women were more satisfied with
labour and reported other benefits of hypnosis such as reduced
anxiety and help with getting to sleep.
A British study found a statistically significant reduction
(p<0.001) in the length of labour of first and second time
mothers: 70 hypnosis patients (6 h 21 min) compared to 70
relaxation patients (9 h 28 min) and 70 control group (9 h
Mellegren noted a reduction of two to three hours of labour.
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.
Forty-five Hypnosis for Childbirth clients (first time mothers)
had an average of 4.5 hours for the active labour, a significant
reduction compared to the usual 12 hours.
In a British study, 55% of 45 patients (first and second
time mothers) 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. Five other research pieces
reported an incidence of 60 to 79 percent non-medicated births.
My retrospective survey notes an epidural rate of 18 percent
in Southern Ontario, where the epidural rate in most hospitals
is 40 to 95 percent (depending on the setting) for first time
In a randomized control trial of 42 teenagers in Florida,
none of the 22 patients in the hypnosis group experienced
surgical intervention compared with 12 of the 20 patients
in the control group (p=.000). Twelve patients in the hypnosis
group experienced complications compared with 17 in the control
Harmon, Hynan and Tyre reported more spontaneous deliveries,
higher Apgar scores and reduced medication use in their study
of 60 women. Of the 45 Hypnosis for Childbirth clients, 38
delivered without the use of caesarian, 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.
In a randomized control trial of 42 teenagers in Florida,
only 1 patient in the hypnosis group had a hospital stay of
more than two days compared with 8 patients in the control
McCarthy provided five 30-minute 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 percent eventually do.
Harmon et al also reported lower depression scores in the
hypnotically treated group.
It appears that a simple intervention, hypnotherapy, has far-reaching
effects both medically and socially. Some, but not all, of
the above studies are randomized, have large numbers, include
control groups and demonstrate statistical significance. There
remains, therefore, a clear need for more research, especially
Canadian based, in the use of hypnosis for childbirth preparation.
Hypnosis Research: http://sunsite.utk.edu/ijceh/chngcitations
*Provided with permission from Shawn Gallagher, B.A., BCH., a Certified Hypnotherapist, (National Guild of Hypnotists) with advanced training in Emergency Hypnosis and Pain Management. Shawn is an associate with the Ontario Hypnosis Center, a teaching and clinical facility in Toronto.
Shawn was a Registered Midwife in Ontario to 1999. Her experience since 1986 at over 500 births in the home, hospital and birthing clinic settings, combined with years of teaching prenatal classes provides a unique and reassuring method of childbirth preparation for expecting parents. Shawn provides classes in south Etobicoke and this is her website: www.childbirthjoy.com.
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