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Self-hypnosis for coping with labour pain: a randomised controlled trial

Werner A1, Uldbjerg N, Zachariae R, Rosen G, Nohr EA.

BJOG, 2013, 120(3), pages 346-53

Editor’s comment: Prof. Jim Thornton: Hypnosis doesn't work
There was no beneficial effect from three sessions of antenatal self-hypnosis training in this well designed and conducted trial.



To estimate the use of epidural analgesia and experienced pain during childbirth after a short antenatal training course in self-hypnosis to ease childbirth.


Randomised, controlled, single-blinded trial using a three-arm design.


Aarhus University Hospital Skejby in Denmark during the period July 2009 until August 2011.


A total of 1222 healthy nulliparous women.


Use of epidural analgesia and self-reported pain during delivery was compared in three groups: a hypnosis group receiving three 1-hour lessons in self-hypnosis with additional audiorecordings to ease childbirth, a relaxation group receiving three 1-hour lessons in various relaxation methods and mindfulness with audiorecordings for additional training, and a usual care group receiving ordinary antenatal care only.


Primary outcome: Use of epidural analgesia. Secondary outcomes included self-reported pain.


There were no between-group differences in use of epidural analgesia-31.2% (95% confidence interval [95% CI] 27.1-35.3) in the hypnosis group, 29.8% (95% CI 25.7-33.8) in the relaxation group and 30.0% (95% CI 24.0-36.0) in the control group. No statistically significant differences between the three groups were observed for any of the self-reported pain measures.


In this large randomised controlled trial of a brief course in self-hypnosis to ease childbirth, no differences in use of epidural analgesia or pain experience were found across study groups. Before turning down self-hypnosis as a method for pain relief, further studies are warranted with focus on specific subgroups.


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Commentaries by Editor Prof. Jim Thornton