Background: Many women would like to avoid pharmacological or invasive methods of pain management in labour and this may contribute towards the popularity of complementary methods of pain management. This review examined currently available evidence supporting the use of relaxation therapies for pain management in labour.
Objectives: To examine the effects of relaxation methods for pain management in labour on maternal and perinatal morbidity.
Search methods: We searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group's Trials Register (30 November 2010), The Cochrane Complementary Medicine Field's Trials Register (November 2011), the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (The Cochrane Library 2010, Issue 4), MEDLINE (1966 to 30 November 2010), CINAHL (1980 to 30 November 2010), the Australian and New Zealand Clinical Trial Registry (30 November 2010), Chinese Clinical Trial Register (30 November 2010), Current Controlled Trials (30 November 2010), ClinicalTrials.gov, (30 November 2010) ISRCTN Register (30 November 2010), National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) (30 November 2010) and the WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (30 November 2010).
Selection criteria: Randomised controlled trials comparing relaxation methods with standard care, no treatment, other non-pharmacological forms of pain management in labour or placebo.
Data collection and analysis: Three review authors independently assessed trials for inclusion and extracted data. Data were checked for accuracy. Two review authors independently assessed trial quality. We attempted to contact study authors for additional information.
Main results: We included 11 studies (1374 women) in the review. Relaxation was associated with a reduction in pain intensity during the latent phase (mean difference (MD) -1.25, 95% confidence interval (CI) -1.97 to -0.53, one trial, 40 women) and active phase of labour (MD -2.48, 95% CI -3.13 to 0.83, two trials, 74 women). There was evidence of improved outcomes from relaxation instruction with increased satisfaction with pain relief (risk ratio (RR) 8.00, 95% CI 1.10 to 58.19, one trial, 40 women) and lower assisted vaginal delivery (RR 0.07, 95% CI 0.01 to 0.50, two trials, 86 women). Yoga was associated with reduced pain (mean difference (MD) -6.12, 95% CI -11.77 to -0.47), one trial, 66 women), increased satisfaction with pain relief (MD 7.88, 95% CI 1.51 to 14.25, one trial, 66 women), satisfaction with the childbirth experience (MD) 6.34, 95% CI 0.26 to 12.42, one trial, 66 women), and reduced length of labour when compared to usual care (MD -139.91, 95% CI -252.50 to -27.32, one trial, 66 women) and when compared with supine position (MD -191.34, 95% CI -243.72 to -138.96, one trial, 83 women). Trials evaluating music and audio analgesia found no difference between groups in the primary outcomes pain intensity, satisfaction with pain relief, and caesarean delivery. The risk of bias was unclear for the majority of trials.
Authors' conclusions: Relaxation and yoga may have a role with reducing pain, increasing satisfaction with pain relief and reducing the rate of assisted vaginal delivery. There was insufficient evidence for the role of music and audio-analgesia. However, there is a need for further research.