Many women want to avoid pharmacological or invasive methods of pain management during labor, and this may contribute towards the popularity of complementary methods of pain management.

In this Cochrane review, researchers at the University of Western Sydney, in Australia, evaluated the evidence supporting the aromatherapy for pain management in labor.

First, the details.

  • Two studies in 535 women were included.
  • The risk of bias in study design and assessment was low.

And, the results.

  • When aromatherapy was compared to placebo, no treatment, or other non-pharmacological forms of pain management there was no difference in:
    • Pain intensity
    • Assisted vaginal birth
    • Caesarean section
  • There was no significant difference between groups for the following outcomes:
    • Babies admitted to neonatal intensive care
    • Use of pharmacological pain relief
    • Spontaneous vaginal delivery
    • Duration of labor and augmentation

The bottom line?

There are few studies, and the available data don’t support aromatherapy during labor.

7/17/11 21:56 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.