Acute pain management after vaginal delivery with perineal tears or episiotomy

Reg Anesth Pain Med. 2024 Jun 14:rapm-2024-105478. doi: 10.1136/rapm-2024-105478. Online ahead of print.


Background: A vaginal delivery may be associated with acute postpartum pain, particularly after perineal trauma. However, pain management in this setting remains poorly explored.

Objective: The aim of this systematic review was to evaluate the literature and to develop recommendations for pain management after a vaginal delivery with perineal trauma.

Evidence review: MEDLINE, Embase, and Cochrane databases were searched for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and systematic reviews assessing pain after a vaginal delivery with perineal tears or episiotomy until March 2023. Cochrane Covidence quality assessment generic tool and the RoB Vis 2 tool were used to grade the quality of evidence.

Findings: Overall, 79 studies (69 RCTs and 10 systematic reviews and meta-analyses) of good quality of evidence were included. Acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are recommended as first-line treatment. Epidural morphine (≤2 mg) is recommended among women with labor epidural analgesia and severe perineal tears, with adequate respiratory monitoring. Local anesthetic infiltration, topical local anesthetic, ointment application, and pudendal nerve block are not recommended due to insufficient or lack of evidence. Ice or chemical cold packs are recommended for postpartum pain first-line treatment due to their simplicity of use. Transcutaneous nerve stimulation and acupuncture are recommended as adjuvants. When a perineal suture is indicated, a continuous suture compared with an interrupted suture for the repair of episiotomy or second-degree perineal tears is recommended for the outcome of pain. For women with first-degree or second-degree perineal tears, no suturing or glue compared with suturing is recommended for the outcome of pain.

Conclusions: Postpartum pain management after a vaginal delivery with perineal trauma should include acetaminophen, NSAIDs, and ice or chemical cold packs. Epidural morphine should be reserved for severe perineal tears. A surgical repair technique should depend on perineal tear severity.

Keywords: Complementary Therapies; Epidemiology; Obstetrics; Pain Management; analgesia.

Publication types

  • Review