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ABSTRACT: Pain in labor is a nearly universal experience for childbearing women. A recent evidence-based symposium on the nature and management of labor pain brought together family physicians, obstetricians, midwives, obstetric anesthesiologists, and childbirth educators to discuss a series of commissioned systematic reviews. Although management of labor pain plays a relatively minor role in a woman's satisfaction with childbirth compared with the quality of the relationship with her maternity caregiver and the degree of participation she has in decision making, it is an important topic for women and their caregivers. Nonpharmacologic methods of pain relief such as labor support, intradermal water blocks, and warm water baths are effective techniques for management of labor pain. An increased availability of these methods can provide effective alternatives for women in labor.
ABSTRACT: A group of family physicians, obstetricians, midwives, obstetric anesthesiologists, and childbirth educators attended an evidence-based symposium in 2001 on the nature and management of labor pain and discussed a series of systematic reviews that focused on methods of labor pain management. Parenteral opioids provide modest pain relief in labor, and little evidence supports the use of one agent over another. Epidural analgesia is used during labor in most large U.S. hospitals, and its use is rapidly increasing in small hospitals. Although epidural analgesia is the most effective form of pain relief, its use is associated with a longer labor, an increased incidence of maternal fever, and increased rates of operative vaginal delivery. The effect of epidural analgesia on rates of cesarean delivery is controversial. Nitrous oxide provides a modest analgesic effect, but it is used less often in the United States than in other developed nations. Paracervical block provides effective analgesia in the first stage of labor, but its use is limited by postblock bradycardia. Research is needed regarding which pain-relief options women would choose if they were offered a range of choices beyond epidural analgesia or parenteral opioids.
Management of Labor Pain: Promoting Patient Choice - Editorials