A trial study in England will teach expectant mothers to hypnotize themselves before giving birth as an alternative to painkillers.
They will learn to put themselves in a trance-like state during labour in the hope that they will not need costly drug treatments such as epidurals, laughing gas or morphine.
AdvertisementThe 18-month NHS trial study on the effectiveness of hypno-birthing will involve more than 800 first-time mothers, reports the Daily Mail.
Teaching women to control their pain might also reduce the need for supervision from midwives, which would help ease the pressure on overstretched maternity wards.
In some hospitals as many as 60 per cent of mothers have epidurals - anaesthetics injected into their spine - while many others are given injections of diamorphine, a form of morphine, pethidine or inhale laughing gas.
The drugs are expensive and there have been claims they could be harmful to mother and baby.
Epidurals have been found to increase the length of childbirth, making it more likely that a woman will need a caesarean.
It has been suggested that having an epidural may hinder a mother's ability to breastfeed - although this has never been substantiated - and there are also fears it is linked to post-natal depression.
Natural childbirth advocates also say the drowsiness brought on by painkillers prevent a woman fully appreciating the joy of childbirth.
The trial is being led by Professor Soo Downe, a specialist in midwifery at Central Lancashire University, and will run at hospitals in Blackburn and Burnley.
Courses tend to last several hours and teach women to put themselves into a state of deep relaxation.
The sessions, which can cost up to 800 pounds on a one-to-one basis, also teach women massage techniques, which enable them to stimulate the release of endorphins, the body's natural painkillers.