Mayo Clinic Health Library

Question

Hypnobirthing: How does it work?

I've heard that hypnosis can be used to ease pain during childbirth. How does hypnobirthing work?

Updated: 04-14-2011

Answer

Hypnobirthing is a birthing method that uses self-hypnosis and relaxation techniques to help a woman feel prepared, narrow her focus, and reduce her awareness of fear, anxiety and pain during childbirth.

If you're tense or afraid during labor, stress hormones can redirect blood flow to your limbs, heart and brain — the fight-or-flight reaction — and waste precious energy. Hypnobirthing may counteract this process by preventing the release of stress hormones, which potentially reduces the pain of labor.

Hypnobirthing classes typically begin during the third trimester of pregnancy. While specific programs differ, they generally teach participants to use a combination of music, visualization, positive thinking and words to relax the body and control sensations during labor.

Research examining the benefits of hypnobirthing is limited. A 2004 research review found insufficient evidence to show that the technique is effective. A 2006 research review, however, found that hypnobirthing reduced the use of pain medication during labor.

If you're interested in finding out more about hypnobirthing, talk to your health care provider. He or she may recommend a certified childbirth educator or other professional who can help you determine if hypnobirthing is right for you.