Pain management for women in labour: an overview of systematic reviews.

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Authors

  • Leanne Jones
  • Mohammad Othman
  • Therese Dowswell
  • Zarko Alfirevic
  • Mary Newburn
  • Susan Jordan
  • Tina Lavender
  • James P. Neilson

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • University of Liverpool

Abstract

The pain that women experience during labour is affected by multiple physiological and psychosocial factors and its intensity can vary greatly.  Most women in labour require pain relief. Pain management strategies include non-pharmacological interventions (that aim to help women cope with pain in labour) and pharmacological interventions (that aim to relieve the pain of labour). To summarise the evidence from Cochrane systematic reviews on the efficacy and safety of non-pharmacological and pharmacological interventions to manage pain in labour. We considered findings from non-Cochrane systematic reviews if there was no relevant Cochrane review. We searched the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (The Cochrane Library 2011, Issue 5), The Cochrane Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects (The Cochrane Library 2011, Issue 2 of 4), MEDLINE (1966 to 31 May 2011) and EMBASE (1974 to 31 May 2011) to identify all relevant systematic reviews of randomised controlled trials of pain management in labour. Each of the contributing Cochrane reviews (nine new, six updated) followed a generic protocol with 13 common primary efficacy and safety outcomes. Each Cochrane review included comparisons with placebo, standard care or with a different intervention according to a predefined hierarchy of interventions. Two review authors extracted data and assessed methodological quality, and data were checked by a third author. This overview is a narrative summary of the results obtained from individual reviews. We identified 15 Cochrane reviews (255 included trials) and three non-Cochrane reviews (55 included trials) for inclusion within this overview. For all interventions, with available data, results are presented as comparisons of: 1. Intervention versus placebo or standard care; 2. Different forms of the same intervention (e.g. one opioid versus another opioid); 3. One type of intervention versus a different type of intervention (e.g. TENS versus opioid). Not all reviews included results for all comparisons. Most reviews compared the intervention with placebo or standard care, but with the exception of opioids and epidural analgesia, there were few direct comparisons between different forms of the same intervention, and even fewer comparisons between different interventions. Based on these three comparisons, we have categorised interventions into: " What works" ,"What may work", and "Insufficient evidence to make a judgement".WHAT WORKSEvidence suggests that epidural, combined spinal epidural (CSE) and inhaled analgesia effectively manage pain in labour, but may give rise to adverse effects. Epidural, and inhaled analgesia effectively relieve pain when compared with placebo or a different type of intervention (epidural versus opioids). Combined-spinal epidurals relieve pain more quickly than traditional or low dose epidurals. Women receiving inhaled analgesia were more likely to experience vomiting, nausea and dizziness.When compared with placebo or opioids, women receiving epidural analgesia had more instrumental vaginal births and caesarean sections for fetal distress, although there was no difference in the rates of caesarean section overall. Women receiving epidural analgesia were more likely to experience hypotension, motor blockade, fever or urinary retention. Less urinary retention was observed in women receiving CSE than in women receiving traditional epidurals. More women receiving CSE than low-dose epidural experienced pruritus.  WHAT MAY WORKThere is some evidence to suggest that immersion in water, relaxation, acupuncture, massage and local anaesthetic nerve blocks or non-opioid drugs may improve management of labour pain, with few adverse effects.  Evidence was mainly limited to single trials. These interventions relieved pain and improved satisfaction with pain relief (immersion, relaxation, acupuncture, local anaesthetic nerve blocks, non-opioids) and childbirth experience (immersion, relaxation, non-opioids) when compared with placebo or standard care. Relaxation was associated with fewer assisted vaginal births and acupuncture was associated with fewer assisted vaginal births and caesarean sections.

Details

Original languageEnglish
JournalCochrane database of systematic reviews (Online)
Volume3
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jun 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas