top of page
Gracie_science copy.jpg

The Science

The fact you are looking at this page suggests you have an interest in hypnobirthing, great! I do realise though that some mums/dads to be may be potentially a little cynical about the process and have an expectation that it's a bit 'out there' or 'hippy energy stuff'. Below are some myths & facts to help with any doubts you may have:

1. 'It's a load of hippy nonsense'

False. Hypnobirthing starts from a biological understanding of the anatomy and physiology of labour/birth.

You will learn about the anatomy of the uterus and how the muscles work in harmony to facilitate birth. You will learn varied breathing & relaxation techniques that help these muscles to work effectively, efficiently and comfortably.

'The uterus muscles are smooth and have few pain receptors. Your autonomous nervous system controls your uterus muscles. You cannot consciously control these muscles with your physical strength or will. When you feel pain during a contraction you are primarily feeling the stretching of neighboring muscles, which have pain receptors.

If you totally relax, especially your abdomen and breathe deeply, your uterus will contract with minimal resistance from you, which means less pain.

This is very important to remember: you cannot stop the contractions of your uterus. The more relaxed you are the better the muscles can perform their function. If you are tense, you work against the function of the muscles, which causes pain and tension. To assist your body to stretch and expand, your body secretes the hormone, Relaxin, which softens muscles, ligaments and tissues throughout your body'


2. 'I've heard so many horror stories, it must be impossible to have a peaceful & comfortable birth experience'

False.  People like to tell their horror stories around birth and almost wear them like a badge of honour. When I was pregnant with my daugter in 2012 I had complete strangers  telling me about their various horrific experiences. These stories do nothing but breed fear, this fear can then ultimately lead to a slower labour.  Hypnobirthing teaches you to eliminate/greatly reduce fear which means you are more relaxed ( less tense) and are then able to enjoy the experience more fully.

3. Effective and calming breathing makes you more relaxed?

TRUE. The focus on relaxation is based around a well-researched understanding of the Autonomic nervous system (neuroscience)

The Autonomic nervous system is composed of 2 parts:

i) The Sympathetic nervous system

ii) The Parasympathetic nervous system.

When the body encounters a stressful situation, this information is perceived by a part of the brain called the ‘Amygdala,’ which then sends a stress signal to the Hypothalamus.

The Hypothalamus is the control centre of the brain, this centre sends the stress signal to the rest of the body through the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS).  The  branch of the ANS that is switched on during the  stress response (commonly known as the fight or flight response), is the Sympathetic Nervous System, which triggers the Adrenal glands to release the hormones Adrenaline & Cortisol (stress hormone) into the bloodstream.  

The release of adrenaline & cortisol  also leads to a series of physiological changes that you will have exeperienced at some stage: hearts beat faster, muscles tense, rapid breathing, and our senses sharpen, we can feel faint or giddy too.

What do we need to do counter the fight or flight response?  We learn the art of relaxation!

In your hypnobirthing course you will learn how to take fear out of the equation, when you are less fearful you have less adrenaline and cortisol in your system, which means you are less tense which then means you are likely to feel much less discomfort.  So where does breathing come in? Breathing switches on our parasympathetic system which is our relaxation.  It's that simple, slow, effective breathing is the first go to technique to become more comfortable & relaxed. Add in some very powerful visualisation techniques and you are on your way to an enjoyable, calmer & more empowered birth experience.  All good stuff.

Evidence & Research

Evidence & Research

Many studies have been carried out with some amazing results, see below for just some of the studies that have been undertaken in Hypnosis for Childibirth.

A British study found a statistically significant reduction in the length of labour of first and second time mothers: 70 hypnosis patients (6 h 21 min) compared to 70 relaxation patients (9 h 28 min) and 70 control group (9 h 45 min) (Davidson 1962).

Jenkins and Pritchard found a reduction of 3 hours for prim gravid women using hypnosis for childbirth (from 9.3 hours to 6.4 hours) and 1 hour for multi gravid women (from 6.2 hours to 5.3 hours) for active labour (262 subjects and 600 controls). Pushing was statistically shorter for first time mothers (from 50 min to 37 min) (Jenkins & Pritchard 1993).

Mellegren noted a reduction of two to three hours of labour for women using hypnosis for childbirth Abramson and Heron found a shorter first stage of labour for 100 women trained with hypnosis (by 3.23 hours) compared to a control group of 88 women. Forty-five Hypnosis for Childbirth clients (first time mothers) had an average of 4.5 hours for the active labour, a significant reduction compared to the usual 12 hours (Abramson & Heron 1950).

In a study that compared hypnosis and Lamaze training, 96 women chose between hypnosis (n=45) and Lamaze (n=51). The first stage of labour was shortened in the hypnosis group by 98 minutes for first time mothers and by 40 minutes for second time mothers. These women were more satisfied with labour and reported other benefits of hypnosis such as reduced anxiety and help with getting to sleep (Brann & Guzvica 1987).

Harmon, Hynan and Tyre reported higher Apgar scores in babies born to women using hypnosis in childbirth in their study of 60 women. (Harmon et al 1990).

In a British study, 55% of 45 patients using hypnosis (first and second time mothers) required no medication for pain relief. In the other non-hypnosis groups, only 22% of 90 women required no medication. (August 1961).

A retrospective survey notes an epidural rate of 18 percent in Southern Ontario for women using hypnosis, where the epidural rate in most hospitals is 40 to 95 percent (depending on the setting) for first time mothers (Hornyak et al 2000).

In a randomized control trial of 42 teenagers in Florida, none of the 22 patients in the hypnosis group experienced surgical intervention compared with 12 of the 20 patients in the control group (Martin et al 2001).

Hao et al in China measured the effect of nursing suggestions to labouring women and recommends that the conversation of the nurses be “controlled carefully for the purpose of advancing the birth process”. This randomized control trial examined 60 first time mothers using hypnosis for childbirth with a matched control group of 60 first time mothers and found a statistically significant reduction in the lengths of the first and second stages of labour for those women using hypnosis (Hao et al 1997).

Harmon, Hynan and Tyre reported more spontaneous deliveries and reduced medication use in their study of 60 women. Of the 45 hypnosis for childbirth clients, 38 delivered without the use of caesarean, forceps or vacuum, a rate of spontaneous birth of 84%. This is a higher than average rate of normal birth for the general population of first time mothers (Harmon et al 1990).

McCarthy provided five 30-minute hypnosis sessions to 600 women and found a virtual absence of postpartum depression, compared to the typical rates of 10 to 15 percent. Even women in the group who had a history of postpartum depression did not develop the condition again, compared to an estimated 50 percent of women who would be expected to develop it again when not treated with hypnosis (McCarthy 1998).
Harmon et al also reported lower postpartum depression scores in the hypnotically treated group (Harmon et al 1990).


Alice A Martin PhD, Paul G Schauble PhD, Surekha H Rai PhD & R Whit Curry Jr MD (May 2001) The Effects of Hypnosis on the Labor Processes and Birth Outcomes of Pregnant Adolescents. The Journal of Family Practice, 50(5): 441-443.

Hao TY, Li YH, Yao (Oct 1997) SF. Clinical study on shortening the birth process using psychological suggestion therapy. Zhonghua Hu Li Za Zhi. 32(10):568-70. (General Military Hospital of Jinan, P.R. China.)

Brann LR, Guzvica SA (1987) Comparison of hypnosis with conventional relaxation for antenatal and intrapartum use: A feasibility study in general practice. J R Coll Gen Pract; 37:437-440.

Harmon TM, Hynan M & Tyre TE (1990) Improved obstetric outcomes using hypnotic analgesia and skill mastery combined with childbirth education. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 58, 525, 530.

Mellegren A (1966) Practical experiences with a modified hypnosis-delivery. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 14, 425-428.

Jenkins MW & Pritchard MH (1993) Hypnosis: Practical applications and theoretical considerations in normal labour. British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 100(3), 221-226.

Abramson M & Heron WT (1950) An objective evaluation of hypnosis in obstetrics: Preliminary report. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 59, 1069-1074.

August RV (1961) Obstetric hypnoanesthesia. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 79, 1131-1137.

Hornyak, Lynne M & Joseph P Green (2000) Healing From Within: The use of hypnosis in women’s health care. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

August RV (1961) Hypnosis in obstetrics. New York: McGraw Hill.

Davidson J MD (Oct 1962) An assessment of the value of hypnosis in pregnancy and labour. Br Med Journal, 951-953.

McCarthy P (1998) Hypnosis in obstetrics. Australian Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 26, 35-42

bottom of page