Nonpharmacologic relief of pain during labor: systematic reviews of five methods

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2002 May;186(5 Suppl Nature):S131-59. doi: 10.1067/mob.2002.122382.


Nonpharmacologic measures to reduce labor pain have been used throughout history. Despite reports that some of these methods reduce pain, increase maternal satisfaction, and improve other obstetric outcomes, they have received limited attention in the medical literature and are not commonly available to women in North America. The controlled studies of nonpharmacologic methods are limited in number and sometimes provide conflicting results. This systematic review was conducted to assess the safety and efficacy of the best studied techniques, as well as to highlight areas in need of further research. Five comfort measures were selected for review, based on these criteria: they have been evaluated with prospective controlled studies and they require institutional support (eg, skills, policies, equipment). These 5 methods included continuous labor support, baths, touch and massage, maternal movement and positioning, and intradermal water blocks for back pain relief. An extensive search of electronic databases and other sources identified studies for consideration. Critical evaluation of controlled studies of these 5 methods suggests that all 5 may be effective in reducing labor pain and improving other obstetric outcomes, and they are safe when used appropriately. Additional well-designed studies are warranted to further clarify their effect and to evaluate their cost effectiveness.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesia, Obstetrical / methods*
  • Back Pain / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Movement
  • Posture
  • Pregnancy
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic