This report describes the background and process for a rigorous project to improve understanding of labor pain and its management, and summarizes the main results and their implications. Labor pain and methods to relieve it are major concerns of childbearing women, with considerable implications for the course, quality, outcome, and cost of intrapartum care. Although these issues affect many women and families and have major consequences for health care systems, both professional and public discourse reveal considerable uncertainty about many questions, including major areas of disagreement. An evidence-based framework, including commissioned papers prepared according to carefully specified scopes and guidelines for systematic review methods, was used to develop more definitive and authoritative answers to many questions in this field. The papers were presented at an invitational symposium jointly sponsored by the Maternity Center Association and the New York Academy of Medicine, were peer-reviewed, and are published in full in this issue of the journal. The results have implications for policy, practice, research, and the education of both health professionals and childbearing women.