Mamas on Bedrest: Pain Management in Labor-Medical vs Non-Medical Therapies, A Review of the Evidence

March 19th, 2012

Bedrest Coach Darline Turner-Lee takes a look at a literature review,  “Pain Management for Women in Labour: An Overview of Systematic Reviews”. In the review, researchers evaluated several studies in the Cochrane Review to looked at the efficacy of epidural and opiod pain management during labor vs non-medical pain management such as relaxation, biofeedback, acupuncture, water immersion, hypnosis and others.

What researchers found is that while epidurals and opiod medications do effectively manage pain, side effects included more instrumentation during vaginal births, more cesarean sections for fetal distress, low blood pressure, more prolonged leg numbness, fever and urinary retention. Women who received inhaled analgesia were more likely to experience nausea, vomiting, dizziness and in some cases itching. Such adverse results were not experienced with the alternative pain management methods and women reported feeling more in control and more satisfaction with their childbirth experience when alternative pain management methods were used.

Bedrest Coach Darline Turner-Lee reiterates as she reviews this data  that women who wish to utilize an alternative form of pain management should discuss their plans with their health care provider. They should not simply assume that the alternative method is less effective and only consider medical pain management. This study does not say this! She also suggests that women consider using multiple forms of pain management, i.e. relaxation/biofeedback in addition to an epidural. Regardless of the method of pain management employed, women should be well informed about as many pain methods as possible to make a wise choice for their pain management needs. And whatever pain method a woman chooses for labor and delivery, she should be adequately educated about the method and train with a skilled practitioner.


Jones L, Othman M, Dowswell T, Alfirevic Z, Gates S, Newburn M, Jordan S, Lavender T, Neilson JP. Pain management for women in labour: an overview of systematic reviews. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2012, Issue 3. Art. No.: CD009234. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD009234.pub2.

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