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Aromatherapy in childbirth: a pilot randomised controlled trial

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Objectives

We aimed to determine the feasibility of conducting a randomised controlled trial (RCT) on the use of aromatherapy during labour as a care option that could improve maternal and neonatal outcomes. Design

RCT comparing aromatherapy with standard care during labour. Setting

District general maternity unit in Italy. Sample

Two hundred and fifty-one women randomised to aromatherapy and 262 controls. Methods

Participants randomly assigned to administration of selected essential oils during labour by midwives specifically trained in their use and modes of application. Main outcome measures

Intrapartum outcomes were the following: operative delivery, spontaneous delivery, first- and second-stage augmentation, pharmacological pain relief, artificial rupture of membranes, vaginal examinations, episiotomy, labour length, neonatal wellbeing (Apgar scores) and transfer to neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Results

There were no significant differences for the following outcomes: caesarean section (relative risk [RR] 0.99, 95% CI: 0.70–1.41), ventouse (RR 1.5, 95% CI: 0.31–7.62), Kristeller manoeuvre (RR 0.97, 95% CI: 0.64–1.48), spontaneous vaginal delivery (RR 0.99, 95% CI: 0.75–1.3), first-stage augmentation (RR 1.01, 95% CI: 0.83–1.4) and second-stage augmentation (RR 1.18, 95% CI: 0.82–1.7). Significantly more babies born to control participants were transferred to NICU, 0 versus 6 (2%), P= 0.017. Pain perception was reduced in aromatherapy group for nulliparae. The study, however, was underpowered. Conclusion

This study demonstrated that it is possible to undertake an RCT using aromatherapy as an intervention to examine a range of intrapartum outcomes, and it provides useful information for future sample size calculations.
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Keywords: Aromatherapy; childbirth; complementary and alternative medicine; intrapartum; labour; midwifery

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, San Gerardo Hospital, University of Milan – Bicocca, Monza, Italy 2: Department of Statistics, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK

Publication date: 2007-07-01

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