Self-hypnosis can be defined as a self-induced trance state. Hypnosis induced by yourself, focusing your mind in a positive way, affirmations, and relaxation. This concept is closely related to autosuggestion, which is used for physical symptoms explained, at least in part, by the thoughts and beliefs of a person. These techniques have been used in reducing pain in labor for a century and nowadays are being applied more extensively than ever. This is a consequence of the increasing number of scientific research demonstrating the benefits of the use of hypnotherapy in the clinical setting. The aim of this paper is to review existing and published evidence on the effectiveness of hypnosis for childbirth.
Hypnosis has been used in obstetrics for many years. In 1922, Shultze-Rhonhof reported an 89.5% success rate in a series of 79 cases. He came to the conclusion that hypnosis was a useful and harmless anesthetic agent. But not everyone thought that hypnosis was a completely safe technique for the mother and the child. Regarding the safety of the technique, in 1949, a leading article in the British Medical Journal states that there is no evidence that in capable and conscientious hands hypnotism, repeated as many times as is desired, carries with it any physical or psychological danger to the patient. Later in 1952, an investigation carried out by A.M. Michael and published under the title of Hypnosis and Childbirth, the author concludes that there is evidence to show that the duration of labor is shortened. He also concludes that the nursing staff can be easily trained to deal with the hypnotic patient, and that the method is both practicable and safe for the mother and infant.
Today, more than 50 years after those studies were conducted, in the era of powerful study designs like the randomized clinical trial, hypnosis has been recognized as a proven method to avoid pharmacological or invasive interventions for pain management. In a systematic review conducted by the Cochrane Collaboration (Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2006; 4: CD003521), the joint results of five clinical trials comparing self-hypnosis with the treatment of reference showed that women taught self-hypnosis had decreased requirements for pharmacological analgesia by 47%, including epidural analgesia by 70%. These women were significantly more satisfied with their pain management during labor compared with controls.
Hypnobirthing, or birth without fears, is a hypnotherapy program specifically designed for birth, using the principles and techniques of hypnosis and self-relaxation. It teaches simple but specific self-hypnosis, relaxation and breathing techniques for a better birth. Their advocates tell us that hypnobirthing is much more than simple hypnosis. It is based on the notion of learning how to put yourself back in control of your birth, rather than blindly turning your birthing experience over to your doctor or midwife.
Results from scientific studies show without any doubt that hypnosis is an effective technique. The use of antenatal training in self-hypnosis as a tool to provide analgesia, relaxation and anxiety relief in labor is not uncommon. Hypnosis is a simple, inexpensive way to improve the childbirth experience, reduce complications associated with pharmacological interventions, along with costs in maternity care.