Internet-based study to examine pain in childbirth

October 16, 2001

ATHENS, Ohio - Women in the throes of childbirth have tried everything from drugs to lying on tennis balls to lessen labor pain. But which methods work best? It's a question health psychologists are hoping to answer with a new study of pain in childbirth.

The researchers involved with this Internet-based project ( or are hoping to enroll thousands of women who've given birth or women who are pregnant.

"The beauty of this procedure is that there are no limits on how many people can participate," says lead researcher Christopher France, a professor of health psychology at Ohio University. France is collaborating on the project with William Schmidt, an assistant professor of psychology at SUNY-Buffalo, and Janis France, an assistant research professor at Ohio University.

While this study isn't the first to explore pain during childbirth, it is the first that will enroll women from around the globe via the Internet. The research project is open to women of any age who have given birth or who currently are pregnant.

An online survey queries mothers and mothers-to-be about various pain control techniques, including breathing exercises, epidurals and other pain-relieving medications, distraction techniques, meditation and a host of other mechanisms often used to control pain during labor and delivery.

Participants also will be asked about their anxiety over labor pain and how much pain they experienced (or, in the case of pregnant women, how much they think they'll feel). Researchers will follow up later with pregnant women who volunteer their e-mail addresses and due dates to find out which methods they ended up using during labor and whether they were effective.

"Every woman who goes through pregnancy gets a lot of info without knowing how much of it is accurate and how much is personal experience," said Janis France.

France used distraction, imaging techniques, pain medications and a combination of other techniques during the labor and delivery of her own two children. "But I would have been interested to know how these things had worked for other women," she said. "If we can get a large enough sample in this study, it will allow us to take the best of the personal experience and get a better sense, overall, of how effective the techniques were for women who've used them."

Demographic information collected via the survey - age, race, income, educational level, etc. - will also offer new information about childbirth among a diverse group of women. The team hopes to enroll thousands of women in the study, with data being reported as early as late next year.
Written by Kelli Whitlock.

Contacts: Christopher France, (740) 593-1079,; Janis France (740) 593-4557,

Ohio University

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