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The pain of labour can be intense, with body tension, anxiety and fear making it worse. Many women would like to go through labour without using drugs, or invasive methods such as an epidural. These women often turn to complementary therapies to help to reduce the intensity of pain in labour and improve their experiences of labour. Many complementary therapies are used by women in labour, including acupuncture, mind-body techniques, massage, reflexology, herbal medicines or homoeopathy, hypnosis, music and aromatherapy. Mind-body techniques for relaxation can be widely accessible to women through the teaching of these techniques during antenatal classes. The relaxation techniques include guided imagery, progressive relaxation and breathing techniques. We also include yoga and music in this review. Many of these relaxation techniques are coping strategies used to reduce the experience of pain. It is important to examine if these therapies work and are safe, to enable women to make informed decisions about their care.

Key findings

- The use of some relaxation therapies, yoga, or music may possibly be helpful with reducing the intensity of pain, and in helping women feel more in control and satisfied with their labours.

- However, the wide variations in types of techniques used in these studies make it difficult to say specifically what might help women.