Walking Away With Labor Pain!


Labor pain involves the spontaneous contraction of muscles of the womb. The resulting pain can be associated with pain in the back and muscle spasming there and elsewhere.

Authorities have long been divided as to whether a woman in labor should or should not walk the floor. Does it help or hurt? To walk or not to walk, that has been the question.

To determine whether or not simple walking would ease the discomfort that women endure during active labor, a study was recently done at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

Dr. Steven L. Bloom and colleagues evaluated 1067 women in active labor to learn whether walking altered the duration of labor or other maternal or fetal outcomes. The women were assigned randomly (as with the toss of a coin) to one of two groups. One was a walk-during-labor group. And the other was a no-walking-during-labor ("usual care") group.

The results of the study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine on July 9, 1998, showed NO significant differences between the women who walked during labor with those who did not, as regards:

  • The length of labor,
  • The need for PITOCIN (oxytocin) to stimulate labor,
  • The use of pain-relievers (analgesics),
  • The requirement of forceps in delivery,
  • The rate of cesarean delivery (C-section), and
  • The outcome for the babies.

The Dallas authors concluded therefore that walking during labor had NO significant detectable effect on the symptoms or the outcome of labor and delivery and that walking during labor was NOT harmful to the mothers or their babies.

While hospital stays are becoming shorter and shorter for mothers after delivery, the editors of MedicineNet doubt that this study represents cause for concern that mothers might be required to immediately walk home with their newborn babies!

Sources: Bloom SL, McIntyre DD, Kelly, MA, Beimer HL, Burpo RH, Garcia MA, Leveno KJ: Lack of effect of walking on labor and delivery. New England Journal of Medicine 1998; 339: 76-79. (The original report of the Dallas study).

Cefalo RC, Bowes WA Jr: Managing labor - never walk alone. New England Journal of Medicine 1998; 339: 117-118. (A provocative editorial from Chapel Hill, NC about the report).

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