A Study Of The Effectiveness Of Single Session NLP Treatment For Pregnancy Sickness

by Lynn Timpany

In November 1994, I first considered how a combination of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) and Eriksonian Hypnotherapy would influence morning sickness, and developed a strong curiosity. A week later I met a woman at a training course who was pregnant and very unwell. She was nauseous most of the time, and feeling really miserable, so I invited her to come and have a session. The study had begun! In that meeting I assisted her to set outcomes, explored and cleared issues of stress and fear regarding pregnancy, and used hypnotherapy techniques to suggest that her unconscious mind should solve the problem and create a healthy, natural and easy pregnancy and labour. That took only two hours.

A couple of weeks later I received a letter that included the following:

"Prior to my visit with you, my pregnancy had been precipitating extreme nausea all day and most of the night for me... My nausea was often accompanied by a persistent headache that varied in intensity from a dull ache to a severe throb ...Over all it would be fair to say that I felt very uncomfortable in my body most of the time... I found this very difficult to cope with.

The night following the session I slept soundly and easily for the whole night through and woke feeling almost human for the first time in weeks! My nausea and headaches are minimal compared with what they were... I would say that I have experienced about an 80% improvement in my nausea and headache symptoms, and a 95% improvement in my sleeping patterns."

This excellent result, in only one session, prompted me to put a notice in the paper calling for volunteers to participate in a small informal study. I asked for women with 'moderate to severe morning sickness'. Twelve women responded, and participated in the single session study. I donated my time free of charge. Sessions were two hours only.

Session Goals

In the session I aimed to complete as much of the following as possible:

  1. Elicit well-formed outcomes for the pregnancy, labour, and first few months at home. During the hypnotic process, place these goals in the future.
  1. Identify and resolve any secondary gain issues relating to the illness.
  1. Identify and clear any stress factors.
  1. Identify and clear any fears around the area of pregnancy, birth or motherhood.
  1. Use hypnotherapy to suggest that the unconscious mind clear the symptoms and create a healthy, fast, easy labour.

Discussion and Results

The tools that were I during the study were Time Line TherapyTM techniques for clearing negative emotions and putting goals in the future, parts integration and hypnotherapy.

The women in the study tended to be in fairly stressful situations (excluding the effect of the pregnancy sickness). Seven women had high levels of stress around living arrangements (just moved, about to move, renovating, recent immigrants, about to emmigrate). Six women had moderate to high relationship stress (illness of partner, partner unemployed, partner unimpressed with pregnancy). Four women had high levels of stress associated with their career and with the changes because of having a baby. Three women had moderate to high stress associated with family either being to close or too far away. Six women had a previously unpleasant experience with pregnancy, mostly quite severe (week long labour, three day labour, nine months of pregnancy sickness previously, first child retarded). Eight women had moderate to high levels of fear. All of these things are of course quite difficult to measure. I used a scale based on my experience as a counsellor. There was an overall pattern of stress and unpleasant previous experiences.

In trying to measure the results I asked women to grade the amount of time they felt nauseous (0-100%), and to give an average number of times that they vomited per day over the past week. Six women of the twelve had a significant reduction in symptoms in the week after the session. Four women went from being nauseous almost 100% of the time, to 20% or less, and two went from 100% to 40% or less. One had been feeling quite depressed, and that changed to happy. Two had been having sleeping problems that disappeared. Only one woman had become worse, and it was clear during the session that things weren't going to well with the processes. She had been told to come by her mother, and thought it was a waste of time from the beginning!

Of the women who had been vomiting (eight), five noticed a significant improvement.


Although hardly 'good research', the results of this small study show that a properly controlled investigation into the effect of NLP and Eriksonian Hypnosis would be of great value. The stress connection with pregnancy sickness has been previously validated by research and there has also been research published validating the effects of hypnotherapy in reducing symptoms.

Considering that only one one session was spent with each woman I think the results were excellent. I believe that with a little more time they would be even better.

Since the completion of this study Margot Hamblett and myself have produced an audiotape 'Transforming Birth'. The tape is designed to clear any fears about birth or pregnancy and to align the unconscious mind to create a safe, healthy, quick labour. In addition it is very effective in reducing the symptoms of pregnancy sickness.

Pregnancy sickness for some women is a major problem. Part of the problem for these women is that the traditional health system has very little to offer in terms of successful treatment, or even sympathy. Several women in the study expressed how much it meant to them that someone actually understood how bad they felt, and that someone was seeking a solution. My hope is that someone soon will pick up this topic for in depth research. Meanwhile, I encourage you all to feel confident to help women in this situation.