Pain Management During Labor

Presents the various non-pharmacological pain reducers during labor and delivery.

Non-Pharmacological Pain Management During Labor

Pain during childbirth is generally handled with pharmacological techniques. Pain medications are widely used throughout hospitals in the labor and delivery units, including intramuscular and intravenous pain medications, regional and local anesthesia, and epidurals and spinal blocks. Non-pharmacological techniques for pain relief during labor is a generally new concept. More people throughout the United States are using alternative and complementary medicine for various purposes, and women in labor are starting to follow this trend. Labor units in hospitals generally don’t offer non-pharmacological techniques for pain relief. Non-pharmacological techniques for pain management during labor should be offered in conjunction with, or in lieu of pharmacotherapy.

There are many techniques to try in the realm of alternative and complementary medicine when it comes to pain relief. Those that have been implicated for the use of pain management during labor are aromatherapy, music, and immersion in water.


Aromatherapy is becoming increasingly popular among women as well as midwives. One study that used aromatherapy to promote maternal comfort during labor stated that the women in the study were offered aromatherapy to relieve pain, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, and also to strengthen contractions (Burns, Blamey, Ersser, Barnetson, and Lloyd, 2000). More than 50% of the women in the study said that the aromatherapy was helpful and only 14% stated that it was unhelpful. The study also stated that, overall, the use of aromatherapy appeared to have reduced the need for additional pharmacological pain relief in the women (Burns et al.). An unexpected finding from this study was the aromatherapy may have the prospective capability to enhance labor contractions for women in dysfunctional labor (Burns et al.).

Aromatherapy can be used by mothers during labor or mothers in the latent phase of labor. It can also be used as a perineal lavage after delivery. Several women in the study used the essential oils to calm themselves before the insertion of a spinal block. Of the women in this particular study, 61% used the oils to relieve feelings of anxiety and fear, 7% of the women used it as pain relief, 6% used the oils to improve contractions and 14% used it to reduce feelings of nausea and vomiting. The midwives that were in charge of the care administered to the women said that 50% of the aromatherapy administrations were helpful (Burns et al. 2000).

An interesting part of this study was the less than 14% of the women who were given the essential oil of rose for anxiety had a regional anesthetic block or an epidural, and 67% had a spontaneous vaginal delivery (Burn et al., 2000). The study also found that overall, the women who had used aromatherapy to reduce fear and anxiety had less chances of using an epidural for pain relief and had a higher chance of having a spontaneous vaginal delivery than the women in the control group who did not use aromatherapy (Burns et al.).

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