Objectives: To evaluate the efficacy of a birth ball exercise programme conducted by physiotherapists on pain relief, psychological care, and facilitation of the labour process at a labour ward in a regional hospital.
Design: Case series with before-after comparisons.
Setting: Kwong Wah Hospital, Hong Kong.
Participants: Chinese women admitted to the labour ward for spontaneous vaginal delivery between April and August 2012 were recruited. Physiotherapists taught birth ball exercises in groups or individually for 30 minutes. Labour pain intensity, back pain intensity, frequency of labour pain, stress and anxiety levels, and subjective pressure level over the lower abdomen were captured before and after birth ball exercises. Most of the parameters were measured using self-reported visual analogue scales. After the exercise session, physiotherapists measured the women's satisfaction level. Midwives recorded pethidine usage.
Results: A total of 203 pregnant women participated in this programme; 181 were in the latent phase group, whereas 22 were categorised into the no-labour-pain group. In both groups, there were statistically and clinically significant differences in back pain level, stress and anxiety levels, as well as pressure level over the lower abdomen before and after the exercise (P<0.05). In the latent phase group, significant decreases in labour pain and frequency of labour pain were demonstrated. Mean satisfaction scores were high, with visual analogue scale scores higher than 8.2 in both groups. Pethidine usage showed a further decreasing trend (6.4%) compared with the past 2 years.
Conclusion: Birth ball exercise could be an alternative means of relieving back pain and labour pain in the labour ward, and could decrease pethidine consumption in labouring women.
Keywords: Exercise; Labor pain; Pain management; Parturition; Pregnancy.