Original Research

The Effects of Hypnosis on the Labor Processes and Birth Outcomes of Pregnant Adolescents

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The 2 groups of patients were compared on medication use (Pitocin, anesthetic, and postpartum medication), complications and surgical intervention during delivery, and length of hospital stay for mothers and neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) admission for the infants. Complications fell into 36 categories of events (eg, multiple pregnancies, preeclampsia, vacuum-assisted delivery) that were entered in subjects’ records by obstetric staff who were unaware of the study. Statistical analysis was based on a simple count of the presence or absence of complications in the medical record by researchers (the researchers were not blinded to the patient’s study assignment).


Of the 47 patients, 3 moved out of the geographic area before delivery, and 2 patients (1 in each group) did not complete the research protocol and were not included in the research. Results were thus obtained for 22 patients in the hypnosis group and 20 in the control group, resulting in a total of 42 subjects. A two-tailed Fisher exact analysis at the .05 level was used to test for significance.

Only one patient in the hypnosis group had a hospital stay of more than 2 days compared with 8 patients in the control group (P=.008). None of the 22 patients in the hypnosis group experienced surgical intervention compared with 12 of the 20 patients in the control group (P=.000). Twelve patients in the hypnosis group experienced complications compared with 17 in the control group (P=.047). Although consistently fewer patients in the hypnosis group used anesthesia (10 vs 14), Pitocin (2 vs 6), or postpartum medication (7 vs 11), and fewer had infants admitted to the NICU (1 vs 5), statistical analysis was nonsignificant Figure 1, Figure 2.


We focused on the educational preparation of the patient while in hypnosis to create the expectation of a normal labor and delivery, develop a conditioned response of comfort and confidence, and facilitate an increased sense of control in achieving a healthy delivery.

The subjects in the treatment group received a 4-session sequence of standard hypnotic interventions incorporating childbirth preparation information (ie, the hypnoreflexogenous method1,2,20) in which they were instructed in the methods and benefits of focused relaxation and imagery to increase the likelihood of a safe and relatively pain-free delivery. The sessions provided an opportunity to experience and practice hypnotic induction and deep relaxation. The suggestions directed toward the expectant mothers during the hypnotic state focused on the conceptualization of pregnancy and childbirth as a healthy natural process. Suggestions were also given to help the patient respond to possible complications, in the event they might occur.1 These suggestions were designed to increase the patient’s sense of trust in her physician and her confidence in her own ability to manage anxiety and discomfort. Hypnotic inductions also included ego-strengthening techniques and suggestions for a relatively discomfort-free delivery and suggestions for the application of the hypnotic techniques to other stressful periods in their lives. In each session the patients were given the opportunity to ask any questions of concern regarding the method or the pregnancy.

The main limitations of our study are the relatively small number of subjects and the fact that these patients were adolescent women, which affects the generalizability of results.

Future Research

Future research should involve a larger subject pool including adults, have a control group receiving traditional prenatal care with no added intervention, and provide an analysis of cost-saving benefits.


Our study provides support for the use of hypnosis to aid in preparation of obstetric patients for labor and delivery. The reduction of complications, surgery, and hospital stay show direct medical benefit to mother and child and suggest the potential for a corresponding cost-saving benefit.


We would like to acknowledge the pioneering workon the use of hypnosis in obstetrics by the late William Werner, MD, and express appreciation for his assistance in designing the intervention protocol. We would also like to thank Maury Nation, PhD, for his assistance with statistical analysis and Poorti Karve Riley, MD, for her comments on a previous version of this manuscript.

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