Aromatherapy and massage intrapartum service impact on use of analgesia and anesthesia in women in labor: a retrospective case note analysis

J Altern Complement Med. 2012 Oct;18(10):932-8. doi: 10.1089/acm.2011.0254. Epub 2012 Aug 16.


Background: Over the past decade, interest in complementary therapies and alternative medicine has escalated among midwives and the general public in response to increased demand from expectant mothers for more choice, control, and continuity in labor.

Objective: The aim of this study was to explore if an aromatherapy and massage intrapartum service (AMIS) reduced the need for analgesia during labor. This article reports results related to the effects of an AMIS on type of analgesia chosen by women in labor, and on rates of anesthesia--one aspect of the full study.

Setting/location: The study was conducted in a general maternity unit in southwest England, UK.

Design: A quantitative research approach was taken, whereby contemporaneously completed service evaluation forms of 1079 women (601 nulliparous women and 478 multiparous women; AMIS group) were retrospectively analyzed in comparison with the birth records of an equal number of similar women (comparison group). Data analysis was achieved by entering data from the forms and comparison sample into an SPSS package and running statistical tests.

Results: In the AMIS group, overall analgesia usage was higher for transcutaneous electrical stimulation at 34%, compared with 15.9% (p<0.001 allowing for parity), and for nitrous oxide and oxygen at 87.6%, compared with 80.8% (p<0.001). Pethidine use did not differ after adjustment for parity at 30.1%, compared with 24.2% (p=0.27) in the AMIS and comparison groups, respectively. Rates were lower in the AMIS group for epidural anesthesia at 29.7%, compared with 33.8% (p=0.004 allowing for parity) in the comparison group; spinal anesthesia at 6%; compared with 12.1% (p<0.001) in the comparison group; and general anesthesia at 0.8%, compared with 2.3% (p=0.033) in the comparison group.

Conclusions: Having an AMIS appears to have a positive impact on reducing rates of all types of intrapartum anesthesia. The Service is a beneficial addition to conventional midwifery practice that may influence mode of delivery and reduce general anesthesia rates.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analgesia / methods
  • Analgesia / statistics & numerical data*
  • Analgesics, Opioid / administration & dosage
  • Anesthesia / methods
  • Anesthesia / statistics & numerical data*
  • Anesthesia, Epidural
  • Anesthesia, General
  • Anesthesia, Spinal
  • Aromatherapy*
  • England
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Labor, Obstetric*
  • Massage*
  • Meperidine / administration & dosage
  • Nitrous Oxide / administration & dosage
  • Obstetric Labor Complications / prevention & control*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*
  • Oxygen / administration & dosage
  • Parity
  • Pregnancy
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation
  • Young Adult


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Meperidine
  • Nitrous Oxide
  • Oxygen