I've heard that hypnosis can be used to ease pain during childbirth. How does hypnobirthing work?

Answers from Roger W. Harms, M.D.

Hypnobirthing is a birthing method that uses self-hypnosis and relaxation techniques to help a woman feel prepared, narrow her focus, and reduce her awareness of fear, anxiety and pain during childbirth.

If you're tense or afraid during labor, stress hormones can redirect blood flow to your limbs, heart and brain — the fight-or-flight reaction — and waste precious energy. Hypnobirthing might counteract this process by preventing the release of stress hormones, which potentially reduces the pain of labor.

While specific programs differ, hypnobirthing classes generally teach participants to use a combination of music, visualization, positive thinking and words to relax the body and control sensations during labor. Keep in mind that hypnobirthing can be used in combination with many other birthing techniques.

Research examining the benefits of hypnobirthing is limited. However, a 2006 research review found that hypnobirthing reduced the use of pain medication during labor.

If you're interested in finding out more about hypnobirthing, talk to your health care provider. He or she might recommend a childbirth educator certified in hypnobirthing or other professional who can help you determine if hypnobirthing is right for you.

Feb. 01, 2014 See more Expert Answers