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Hypnosis helps alleviate childbirth pain

Hypnosis helps alleviate pain during childbirth, an Australian study suggests.

South Australian researchers found women having their first child who learnt self hypnosis in the lead-up to labor were less likely to need an epidural than other first-time mothers.

They compared 77 women who were taught hypnosis in preparation for childbirth with a control group of more than 3,000 mothers who received normal ante-natal care.

The differences were most marked in women having their first babies.

Marion Andrew, senior consultant anesthetist at the Women and Children's Hospital, Adelaide, said that of the hypnosis group, 36 per cent of first-time mothers had epidurals compared with 55 per cent of the controls.

"I think when they're having their first baby, they're very highly motivated and a lot of women these days would prefer to avoid analgesia in labor if they can," she explained.

Dr Andrew presented the findings of the case-controlled comparison study to the annual scientific meeting of the Australian and New Zealand College of Anesthetists in Auckland.

She said the limited number of randomized-controlled trials that had been done internationally on the issue showed women taught hypnosis tended to need less pain relief and were more likely to have a normal birth.

Recent research involving brain imaging of people undergoing hypnosis while receiving a painful stimulus found reduced activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, the region responsible for the emotional component of pain.

Dr Andrew, one of two anesthetists with training in hypnotherapy at the Women's and Children's Hospital, said hypnosis had become very much in demand among pregnant women in Adelaide.

"Patients ask for it and the obstetricians are referring them," she said outside the conference.

"Our experience has been that when the women hear about hypnosis they tend to be very open to using it.

"It allows women to have more control in labor."

The hospital planned a randomized controlled trial of 300 mothers early next year to further test the effectiveness of hypnosis in childbirth.

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