Listed in Issue 154


BURNS and COLLEAGUES School of Health and Social Care, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford UK.  aimed to determine the feasibility of conducting a randomized controlled trial (RCT) on the use of aromatherapy during labour as a care option that could improve maternal and neonatal outcomes.



The design was RCT comparing aromatherapy with standard care during labour. The setting was a district general maternity unit in Italy. Two hundred and fifty-one women randomised to aromatherapy and 262 controls. The participants were randomly assigned to administration of selected essential oils during labour by midwives specifically trained in their use and modes of application. The 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).


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.


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.


Burns E, Zobbi V,  Panzeri D,  Oskrochi R and Regalia A. Aromatherapy in childbirth: a pilot randomised controlled trial. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology. 114(7):838-44. Jul 2007.

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