Hypnobirthing … What’s the evidence?

Hypnobirthing … What’s the evidence?

…. Frustratingly inconclusive, that’s what! … regardless of whether you’re looking at for, or against. Because, unfortunately, bottom line is that there are lots of limitations on the studies of hypnosis for pain relief in birth. The studies we have are recognised to be of low quality because of the methods used. However, the available evidence suggests that Hypnobirthing training & practice is helpful for women in labour and reduces the overall use of pain medication and that it’s particularly helpful when combined with laboring in water. No adverse affects have been found.

I’ll give a run down of the research available, findings and flaws, in a moment, but what’s really interesting is that one study found that women become more susceptible to hypnotic suggestibility when they’repregnant. So, that’s to the verbal and non-verbal communications that people make to them … if people are using negative words, terms and scare stories pregnantwomen are more likely to take those on board … and it works the other way around too – if you’re surrounding yourself with positive language, images, stories then your subconscious is more likely to accept those as reality if you’re pregnant. We know that these communications and suggestions have a big impact on your perceptions, your thoughts, feelings and anxieties about birth. On workshops you’ll understand why those things are important and how they WILL impact on how your labour progresses and your experience of it. We’ll also address them, figure out where they’re coming from and get a bit more informed so that they DON’T wreak havoc on your pregnancy and birth.

Unfortunately, I haven’t done my own randomised control trials but, compared to the studies below, anecdotally, my workshops definitely have better outcomes, probably because they provide you with many more in-person hours, many more resources for practicing at home, better techniques and, crucially, on-going support – as much as you need. You’re not limited to a couple of half hour Skype calls with me, you can contact me as much as you want by email or phone. I want to hear from you every single day if that’s what you need.

So, here’s the low down on the evidence we have:

Madden et al. (2016) Cochrane Review & Meta-Analysis

9 randomised, controlled trials with a total of nearly 3000 participants.

The problem with this particular research is that the studies ranged considerably in size, how many sessions were taken, when they were taken (in one, Hypnobirthing wasn’t introduced until the women were in labour) and whether or not participants were given audio tracks to practice daily (some weren’t). There were also other variables – some parents received other antenatal education, some none, and, of course, the standard care they were receiving from healthcare professionals would have had a big impact.

So, some of these studies used ineffective ways to prepare people to use hypnosis for birth. The most glaring one being not equipping parents with the resources (tracks) & understanding so that they were able to commit to practicing every day …Hypnobirthing doesn’t work that way – as I point out at the beginning of every workshop, if you’re just rocking up for the day and then failing to carve out the time to practice you are pissing your money up the wall. One of the analysis that the Cochrane researchers did backs this up – showing that there might be an interaction between when women started the Hypnobirthing training and how much pain medication they needed. They found that the earlier women started, giving them more time to practice, the less likely they were to need medical pain relief in labour. 27% less likely, with higher satisfaction levels in the Hypnobirthing group when self-hypnosis was combined with being immersed in water.

The researchers concluded that the quality of the studies in their review ranged from low to very low because of the methods of the studies.

S Downe et al. (2015) RCT (Qualitative data)

Interviewed women in the UK who’d used Hypnobirthing in a clinical trial. Most women reported having a positive experience and feeling calm, confident and empowered. Yay! There was a downside reported too though – some women were frustrated that their healthcare providers did not believe how far along they were in labour, BECAUSE they were so calm! Now, that was almost 4 years ago and I’m pretty sure that you won’t have that problem here in T Wells, because many of the local midwives teach Hypnobirthing themselves or have had training in how to care for women who’re doing it. It’s really, really commonplace around here now.

Werner et al. (2013) RCT

Largest trial included in the Cochrane Review.

One group of people received three one-hour Hypnobirthing sessions plus three tracks to practice at home, another group received three one-hour relaxation/mindfulness sessions plus tracks, the third group received standard care.

Women in the Hypnobirthing group experienced their labours as significantly better on average compared to the other two groups.

I hope that’s been interesting for you. Do get in touch with any questions or thoughts and subscribe to my newsletter to stay informed and supported by me.



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