Can hypnosis help prevent postnatal depression?


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.

Other Cochrane reviews dealing with psychological wellbeing during pregnancy.

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Andre Tomlin

André Tomlin is an Information Scientist with 20 years experience working in evidence-based healthcare. He's worked in the NHS, for Oxford University and since 2002 as Managing Director of Minervation Ltd, a consultancy company who do clever digital stuff for charities, universities and the public sector. Most recently André has been the driving force behind the Mental Elf and the National Elf Service; an innovative digital platform that helps professionals keep up to date with simple, clear and engaging summaries of evidence-based research. André is a Trustee at the Centre for Mental Health and an Honorary Research Fellow at University College London Division of Psychiatry. He lives in Bristol, surrounded by dogs, elflings and lots of woodland!

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