A comparative study of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), entonox, pethidine + promazine and lumbar epidural for pain relief in labor

Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 1987;66(1):9-14. doi: 10.3109/00016348709092945.


Analgesic effect, labor outcome, safety and consumer satisfaction were compared in 170 primigravid women; 50 using TENS initially for pain relief, 20 using entonox, 50 pethidine + promazine and 50 lumbar epidural. 88% choosing epidural related it fully effective. 90% using entonox, 96% using TENS and 54% given pethidine + promazine found partial relief. 82% of patients given TENS and 80% given pethidine + promazine required additional analgesia. This was also needed by one of the 20 patients choosing entonox. Women using entonox alone had the shortest labors and women using lumbar epidural, the longest. Operative delivery was significantly more common in women receiving lumbar epidural. No significant inter-group differences were noted in cord pH or Apgar scores. Parturients and midwives both gave high consumer satisfaction ratings to all methods--except for pethidine + promazine, whose use must therefore be questioned. The analgesic efficacy of lumbar epidural outweighs any possible side effects. Entonox appears suited to those able to cope with the earlier part of labor, drug-free. Realization of the potential of TENS requires the design of machines specifically to cope with the quality of the pain of labor.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Controlled Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesia, Epidural*
  • Anesthesia, Obstetrical*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Delivery, Obstetric
  • Drug Combinations
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Labor, Obstetric
  • Meperidine*
  • Nitrous Oxide*
  • Oxygen*
  • Pregnancy
  • Promazine*
  • Random Allocation
  • Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation*


  • Drug Combinations
  • Entonox
  • Meperidine
  • Nitrous Oxide
  • Promazine
  • Oxygen