Objective: To assess the effects of hypnotherapy on the first and second stages of labour in a large group of pregnant women.
Design: A semi-prospective case control study in which women attending antenatal clinics were invited to undergo hypnotherapy.
Subjects: One hundred twenty-six primigravid women with 300 age matched controls, and 136 parous women having their second baby with 300 age matched controls. Only women who had spontaneous deliveries were included.
Setting: Aberdare District Maternity Unit, Mid Glamorgan, Wales.
Intervention: Six sessions of hypnotherapy given by a trained medical hypnotherapist during pregnancy.
Outcome measures: Analgesic requirements, duration of first and second stages of labour.
Results: The mean lengths of the first stage of labour in the primigravid women was 6.4 h after hypnosis and 9.3 h in the control group (P < 0.0001); the mean lengths of the second stage were 37 min and 50 min, respectively (P < 0.001). In the parous women the corresponding values were 5.3 h and 6.2 h (P < 0.01); and 24 and 22 min (ns). The use of analgesic agents was significantly reduced (P < 0.001) in both hypnotised groups compared with their controls.
Conclusion: In addition to demonstrating the benefits of hypnotherapy, the study gives some insight into the relative proportions of mechanical and psychological components involved in the longer duration of labour in primigravid women.