Hypnotherapy or medications: a randomized noninferiority trial in urgency urinary incontinent women

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2020 Feb;222(2):159.e1-159.e16. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2019.08.025. Epub 2019 Aug 23.


Background: Urgency urinary incontinence afflicts many adults, and most commonly affects women. Medications, a standard treatment, may be poorly tolerated, with poor adherence. This warrants investigation of alternative interventions. Mind-body therapies such as hypnotherapy may offer additional treatment options for individuals with urgency urinary incontinence.

Objective: To evaluate hypnotherapy's efficacy compared to medications in treating women with urgency urinary incontinence.

Materials and methods: This investigator-masked, noninferiority trial compared hypnotherapy to medications at an academic center in the southwestern United States, and randomized women with non-neurogenic urgency urinary incontinence to weekly hypnotherapy sessions for 2 months (and continued self-hypnosis thereafter) or to medication and weekly counseling for 2 months (and medication alone thereafter). The primary outcome was the between-group comparison of percent change in urgency incontinence on a 3-day bladder diary at 2 months. Important secondary outcomes were between-group comparisons of percent change in urgency incontinence at 6 and 12 months. Outcomes were analyzed based on noninferiority margins of 5% for between group differences (P < 0.025) (that is, for between group difference in percentage change in urgency incontinence, if the lower bound of the 95% confidence interval was greater than -5%, noninferiority would be proved).

Results: A total of 152 women were randomized to treatment between April 2013 and October 2016. Of these women, 142 (70 hypnotherapy, 72 medications) had 3-day diary information at 2 months and were included in the primary outcome analysis. Secondary outcomes were analyzed for women with diary data at the 6-month and then 12-month time points (138 women [67 hypnotherapy, 71 medications] at 6 months, 140 women [69 hypnotherapy, 71 medications] at 12 months. There were no differences between groups' urgency incontinence episodes at baseline: median (quartile 1, quartile 3) for hypnotherapy was 8 (4, 14) and medication was 7 (4, 11) (P = .165). For the primary outcome, although both interventions showed improvement, hypnotherapy did not prove noninferior to medication at 2 months. Hypnotherapy's median percent improvement was 73.0% (95% confidence interval, 60.0-88˖9%), whereas medication's improvement was 88.6% (95% confidence interval, 78.6-100.0%). The median difference in percent change between groups was 0% (95% confidence interval, -16.7% to 0.0%); because the lower margin of the confidence interval did not meet the predetermined noninferiority margin of greater than -5%, hypnotherapy did not prove noninferior to medication. In contrast, hypnotherapy was noninferior to medication for the secondary outcomes at 6 months (hypnotherapy, 85.7% improvement, 95% confidence interval, 75.0-100%; medications, 83.3% improvement, 95% confidence interval, 64.7-100%; median difference in percent change between groups of 0%, 95% confidence interval, 0.0-6.7%) and 12 months (hypnotherapy, 85.7% improvement, 95% confidence interval, 66.7-94.4%; medications, 80% improvement, 95% confidence interval, 54.5-100%; median difference in percent change between groups of 0%, 95% confidence interval, -4.2% to -9.5%).

Conclusion: Both hypnotherapy and medications were associated with substantially improved urgency urinary incontinence at all follow-up. The study did not prove the noninferiority of hypnotherapy compared to medications at 2 months, the study's primary outcome. Hypnotherapy proved noninferior to medications at longer-term follow-up of 6 and 12 months. Hypnotherapy is a promising, alternative treatment for women with UUI.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01829425.

Keywords: hypnotherapy; mind-body therapy; pharmacotherapy; randomized trial in women; urgency urinary incontinence.

Publication types

  • Equivalence Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypnosis / methods*
  • Mandelic Acids / therapeutic use
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscarinic Antagonists / therapeutic use*
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Tolterodine Tartrate / therapeutic use
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Urinary Incontinence, Urge / therapy*


  • Mandelic Acids
  • Muscarinic Antagonists
  • Tolterodine Tartrate
  • oxybutynin

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01829425