The 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.