Aromatherapy in childbirth: a pilot randomised controlled trial

Burns, E., Zobbi, V., Panzeri, D., Oskrochi, R., Regalia, A.

This study was designed to determine the feasibility of conducting a randomised controlled trial (RCT) on the use of aromatherapy during labour to improve maternal and neonatal outcomes.  It was conducted in a District general maternity unit in Italy, and sampled 251 women randomised into the aromatherapy group, and 262 women randomised into the control group.  The aim was to compare the use of aromatherapy with the standard care received during labour.  Participants in the aromatherapy group received treatment using selected essential oils during labour by midwives specifically trained in their use and modes of application.

The main outcomes considered in this study were operative delivery, spontaneous delivery, first- and second-stage augmentation, pharmacological pain relief, artificial rupture of membranes, vaginal examinations, episiotomy, labour length, neonatal wellbeing (APGAR score) and transfer to neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

There were significantly more babies born to the control group who required transfer to the NICU (0 versus 6 [2%], p=0.017), and pain perception was reduced in the aromatherapy group for nulliparae mothers.  The study was, however, underpowered yet demonstrates that it is possible to undertake an RCT using aromatherapy as an intervention during labour.

BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology
(OnlineEarly Articles).

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