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New research proves water injections effectively relieve backpain.

Water injection

For the one-in-three women who experience severe back pain during labour and birth, a safe, simple and effective treatment to ease the pain is here, thanks to a recent study, led by CDU’s Professor Sue Kildea.

Up until now, sterile water injections haven’t been available in Australian maternity units, but thanks to the study, that’s about to change.

“We found these were effective for  30, 60 and 90 minutes after administration – so simple and so effective – no longer midwifery voodoo!” says CDU’s Professor Sue Kildea who led the study, in collaboration with UQ, the University of Skövde and the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

The study was the world’s largest of its kind, involving 15 hospitals in Australia and one in the UK

Professor Kildea says the simplicity and safety of the procedure made it of enormous value to women both in Australia, and around the world. 

“Water injections will not only be of benefit to women wanting to avoid pain relieving drugs during labour, but also where women have little or no access to pain relief during childbirth, such as home birth and countries with developing health systems,” Professor Kildea says.

The technique involves sterile water injections (SWI) into the lower back of pregnant woman in labour.

“Although we do not know exactly why it works it appears to be effective for many women,” she says.

“The injections have been likened to a brief wasp sting and the pain relief occurs almost immediately. 

“Some early research suggested that the injections may also reduce the likelihood of a woman needing a caesarean section during labour, but our trial did not find this.”

One of the major benefits of SWI is that there is no effect on mother’s state of consciousness and zero effect on the baby.

Furthermore, the procedure doesn’t limit a mother’s mobility or adversely affect the labour progress.

“It a simple procedure and can be repeated as often as needed,” Prof Kildea says.

The research provides definitive evidence that water injections offer effective pain relief for most women with labour back pain.

As part of the study, more than a thousand women in labour with severe back pain were given either water injections or a placebo of saline solution.

Twice as many of the women who received the water injections reported their pain reduced by at least half, for 90 minutes or longer.

Most drugs provided for labour pain are ineffective for back pain which may persist even after an epidural has been given.

Water injections have been shown to be simple, effective and safe, and to have no effect on birth outcomes.

To read the full study in The Lancet journal visit