Background: Aromatherapy is a treatment method that applies fragrant extracts from herbal plants, existed long ago in medical history as a major treatment approach and now used as an auxiliary treatment and sometimes a major treatment for pain and stress management, including those that occur in labour. Aim: We aimed to conduct a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials of the effectiveness of aromatherapy on labour pain and duration reduction. Methods: We searched the Pubmed, EMBASE, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Google Scholar and Clinicaltrials.gov for randomised controlled trials investigating the effectiveness of aromatherapy on labour pain and duration. Results: A total of 17 trials with low-risk labouring women were included for meta-analysis using the Review Manager 5.3. Meta-analyses showed that aromatherapy reduced labour pain in the transition phase and the duration of active phase and third stage labour; a trend toward shortened duration was observed in the second stage. Also, aromatherapy had no influences on emergency caesarean section, membrane rupture, and spontaneous labour onset. Conclusion: Our findings suggest that aromatherapy is effective in reducing labour pain and duration, and generally safe to the mothers. However, due to the heterogeneity across trials in some of the outcomes, further trials with device-based pain measurements, larger sample size, and more stringent design, should be conducted before strong recommendation.
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