The short answer is we don’t know, but trials are underway that might help answer this question.
Postnatal depression often affects women in the first 3 months after giving birth and symptoms can range from low mood and loss of interest in daily activities to thoughts of suicide.
There are a range of effective treatments for postnatal depression including various psychotherapies, antidepressants and counselling, but there is considerable interest in finding a preventative approach that works well.
A number of previous studies have explored the effectiveness of hypnosis as a way to reduce the pain of childbirth, and ‘HypnoBirthing®’ and ‘Natal Hypnotherapy’ are approaches that have gained some popularity in the UK over recent years. However, as yet there have been no reliable trials that investigate whether hypnosis can help to prevent postnatal depression.
This new systematic review from the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group set out to assess the effect of hypnosis for preventing postnatal depression compared with usual care. They searched for RCTs comparing hypnosis with usual antenatal, intranatal, or postnatal care, where the primary or secondary objective was to assess whether there is a reduced risk of developing postnatal depression.
They only found one small trial, but it did not look at the outcomes of interest and so could not be included in their analysis.
They did however find a number of ongoing trials that are currently underway, which may help to shed light on this interesting question when they are published.
Sado M, Ota E, Stickley A, Mori R. Hypnosis during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postnatal period for preventing postnatal depression. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2012, Issue 6. Art. No.: CD009062. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD009062.pub2.