The influence of complementary and alternative medicine use in pregnancy on labor pain management choices: results from a nationally representative sample of 1,835 women

J Altern Complement Med. 2014 Feb;20(2):87-97. doi: 10.1089/acm.2013.0171. Epub 2013 Aug 21.


Objectives: This study examines involvement with a range of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) during pregnancy on the use of pharmacologic (PPMT) and nonpharmacologic (NPMT) pain management techniques for labor and birth.

Design: Longitudinal analysis of survey data.

Participants: A substudy (n=2445) of the "young" cohort of the nationally representative Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health was conducted.

Outcome measures: Use of PPMT and NPMT during labor and birth.

Results: The survey was completed by 1835 women (response rate, 79.2%). Most respondents used either intrapartum PPMT (81.9%) or NPMT (74.4%). Many (60.7%) used some form of CAM during pregnancy and also used PPMT during birth. More than two thirds of women (66.7%) who used NPMT used CAM during pregnancy. There was a general trend of increased likelihood of NPMT use by women who applied CAM during pregnancy. There was an inverse effect on use of epidural analgesia for women who consumed herbal teas during pregnancy (odds ratio, 0.60).

Conclusions: Because of the study design, this paper does not confirm a causative relationship between the use of CAM during pregnancy and intrapartum pain management choices. It does, however, indicate that the use of CAM during pregnancy may not significantly affect the uptake of intrapartum PPMT, despite possible attempts to reduce PPMT by using NPMT. It also highlights the possibility of potential interactions between CAM and PPMT, given the high prevalence of concomitant use.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Choice Behavior
  • Complementary Therapies / methods
  • Complementary Therapies / psychology
  • Complementary Therapies / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Labor Pain / psychology
  • Labor Pain / therapy*
  • Logistic Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Pain Management / methods*
  • Pain Management / psychology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome