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  • Across the College Green


     

    Childbirth study goes right to the experts
    Illustration by William Bogan

    Women have tried everything from drugs to lying on tennis balls to lessen the pain of childbirth. Now health psychologists involved in an Internet-based project are trying to discern which methods work best. The researchers, including two at Ohio University, are hoping to enroll thousands of women who've given birth or are pregnant. Findings could be reported late this year.

    "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 his wife, Janis France, an assistant research professor on the Athens campus, and William Schmidt, an assistant professor of psychology at SUNY-Buffalo.

    While the study isn't the first to explore pain during childbirth, it is breaking new ground by enrolling women from around the globe via the Internet. 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 are asked about their anxiety over labor pain and how much pain they experienced (or, in the case of pregnant women, how much pain they expect). The researchers will follow up 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," says Janis France. "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."

    To participate in the study, go to www.labourpain.org.

    Kelli Whitlock