Researchers suggest that women in labour should be allowed to use transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) - a non-drug method of pain management.
The TENS unit is a small device that emits low- voltage electrical pulses through electrodes attached to the body.
AdvertisementAlthough it is unclear how TENS works, researchers believe that it block pain transmission by stimulating nerve pathways in the spinal cord.
"There is only limited evidence that TENS reduces pain in labour and it does not seem to have any negative or positive impact on other outcomes for mothers and babies," said Tina Lavender, a review co-author and a professor of midwifery at the University of Manchester, in England.
"However the majority of women in the reported studies have indicated that they would be willing to use TENS for a subsequent pregnancy," she added.
During labour, clinicians usually place the electrodes on the lower back, however experts suggest that they can also attach them at acupuncture points or to the head.
During the analysis, the researchers reviewed 19 randomized controlled studies that examined the use of TENS during labour.
Fifteen studies examined TENS applied to the back, two to acupuncture points and two to the head.
They found that women in labour who received TENS were less likely to say they had severe pain compared to the other women.
However, this difference was not great and was not consistent across the studies, nor did the studies show that women receiving TENS were more satisfied with their pain relief than those who did not use TENS.
Lavender and her colleagues said that it is possible that using TENS gave the women a feeling of control over their pain and served as a distraction.
They suggest that women should have the option of using it during labour, with or without other forms of pain management.