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Hypnosis Research (Childbirth)

Hypnosis Research (Childbirth)

For today’s blog I have highlighted four studies linked with hypnosis and childbirth. I will give some of my own comments on the applicability of the research in the work of hypnotherapy/hypno-psychotherapy in practice. It is my hope that these papers will help to give you a greater insight into the effectiveness of hypnotherapy

Jackson, P. (2003) Hypnosis for birthing–A natural option: Part 2. Australian Journal of Clinical Hypnotherapy and Hypnosis. Vol 24(2)

Abstract: The most important contributory cause of pain in otherwise normal labor is fear. This hypothesis, that beliefs and emotions, especially fear, play a significant role in how labor is experienced was presented early last century by the English obstetrician Grantly Dick-Read (1889-1959). According to Dick-Read, the Fear-Tension-Pain syndrome is orchestrated at the physiological level via the autonomic nervous system (ANS) triggered in the first place by the mother’s belief system and her emotional state concerning childbirth. Through the philosophy and technique of HypnoBirthing® where hypnosis is incorporated into the prenatal preparation for birth, the Fear-Tension-Pain syndrome is addressed and dismantled. This paper presents 5 birth stories set within the framework of the HypnoBirthing® prenatal classes.

Comments: As most of you will know, HypnoBirthing® was developed from the work of Dick-Read by the NGH’s own Mickey Mongan. The HypnoBirththing® model utilizes many examples of good documented research based findings. Most clients do not need to see research to back up theories and the videos etc that are shown on the course are good enough convincers. Some however, do, and this is where information such as this can be useful. It is my view that having research to back up even the most obvious successful interventions is a good thing for the whole hypnotism profession. NB. Part 1 of this article is a description of the use of hypnosis for childbirth.

Mehl-Madrona, L. (2004) Hypnosis to Facilitate Uncomplicated Birth. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis. Vol 46(4)

Abstract: Prior research by the author showed that psychosocial factors distinguished complicated from uncomplicated birth outcome. The purpose of this study was to determine if prenatal hypnosis could facilitate uncomplicated birth. Following a psychosocial assessment, 520 pregnant women in their first or second trimester of pregnancy were randomized to receiving prenatal hypnosis or attention-only groups. The author provided all of the hypnosis in a manner similar to that taught by David Cheek. The goal was to reduce fear of birth and parenthood; to reduce anxiety; to reduce stress; to identify specific fears that might complicate the labor process (addressing them whenever possible); and to prepare women for the experience of labor. The attention-only group was matched to a no-contact comparison group. Women receiving prenatal hypnosis had significantly better outcomes than women who did not. Further assessment suggested that hypnosis worked by preventing negative emotional factors from leading to an complicated birth outcome. Attention only was associated with minimal differences in outcome over the no-contact group. The routine prenatal use of hypnosis could improve obstetric outcome.

Comments: As with the previous paper, this is wonderful evidence to show to doubtful clients (or their partners: in my experience the mothers are usually convinced but the fathers may not be so on board!) We must always remember when dealing with birthing issues, that the partner must also be actively on board, because probably more than any other person in the birthing process, the partner has the most influence on the expecting mother. Their opinion can really be a help (or hindrance) to a successful hypnotic intervention.

Schauble, P. (1998) Childbirth preparation through hypnosis: The hypnoreflexogenous protocol. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis. Vol 40(4)

Abstract: A verbatim protocol for the “hypnoreflexogenous” method of preparation for childbirth is presented wherein the patient is taught to enter a hypnotic state and is then prepared for labor and delivery. The method provides a “conditioned reflex” effect conducive to a positive outcome for labor and delivery by enhancing the patient’s sense of readiness and control. Previous applications of the method demonstrate patients have fewer complications, higher frequency of normal and full-term deliveries, and more positive postpartum adjustment. The benefit and ultimate cost effectiveness of the method are discussed.

Comments: Hypnoreflexogenous means causing a reflex through hypnosis. This technique creates belief and expectation of certain states through anchoring. This concept helps to validate still further the information regarding behaviourism in the NGH Core Curriculum.

Cyna, A. & Andrew, M. (2003) Induction of labor using switchbox imagery during hypnosis. Australian Journal of Clinical & Experimental Hypnosis. Vol 31(1)

Abstract: We report seven consecutive cases of attempted induction of labour (IOL) using hypnosis aud switchbox imagery. All seven women had an unfavourable cervix for labour and medical indications for delivery. During hypnosis, these, women independently experienced, unprompted, similar colours when lookingfor the switch to turn on their labour. Red to green colour changes were experienced by five women. Two women experienced visual hallucinations of these images during the hours preceding childbirth. The women who did not see a colour change experienced a uterine contraction or an increase in the strength and frequency of contractions during or immediately after hypnosis. We believe hypnosis contributed to the establishment of labour in two patients and early labour in another. Hypnosis is likely to have made a useful contribution to the successful outcomes in a further two women who may have had their labour accelerated after a limited response to prostaglandin vaginal pessaries.

Comments: This is a slightly different topic, but again one that can be shown to your clients to help them see that hypnosis can be used in many areas of childbirth to maximise the mind-body connection.


Richard Bandler was born on this day in 1950.


Richard Bandler was one of the founders of neural linguistic programming. He studied psychology and philosophy at the University of California and then did a Masters degree from Lone Mountain College in San Francisco. He was an associate of Milton Erickson and worked with John Grinder to develop NLPm Grinder being an expert in linguistics. The first of their books was called the Structure of Magic Volume One.


Bandler remains quite a controversial character but there is no doubt of the impact that his work has had on the world of therapy and the clients who used it. NLP has also been utilised significantly in the world of business.


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