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Local cooling for relieving pain from perineal trauma sustained during childbirth

  • Review
  • Intervention




Perineal trauma is common during childbirth and may be painful. Contemporary maternity practice includes offering women numerous forms of pain relief, including the local application of cooling treatments.


To evaluate the effectiveness and side effects of localised cooling treatments compared with no treatment, other forms of cooling treatments and non-cooling treatments.

Search methods

We searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group's Trials Register (January 2007), CINAHL (1982 to January 2007) and contacted experts in the field.

Selection criteria

Published and unpublished randomised and quasi-randomised trials (RCTs) that compared localised cooling treatment applied to the perineum with no treatment or other treatments applied to relieve pain related to perineal trauma sustained during childbirth.

Data collection and analysis

At least two independent authors performed data extraction for each study. Analyses were performed on an intention-to-treat basis where data allowed. We sought additional information from the authors of three trials.

Main results

Seven published RCTs were included, comparing local cooling treatments (ice packs, cold gel pads or cold/iced baths) with no treatment, hamamelis water (witch hazel), pulsed electromagnetic energy (PET), hydrocortisone/pramoxine foam [Epifoam] or warm baths. The RCTs reported on a total of 859 women. Ice packs provided improved pain relief 24 to 72 hours after birth compared with no treatment (risk ratio (RR) 0.61, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.41 to 0.91). Women preferred the utility of the gel pads compared with ice packs or no treatment, although no differences in pain relief were detected between the treatments. None of our comparisons of treatments resulted in differences detected in perineal oedema or bruising. Women reported more pain (RR 5.60, 95% CI 2.35 to 13.33) and used more additional analgesia (RR 4.00, 95% CI 1.44 to 11.13) following the application of ice packs compared with PET.

Authors' conclusions

There is only limited evidence to support the effectiveness of local cooling treatments (ice packs, cold gel pads, cold/iced baths) applied to the perineum following childbirth to relieve pain.

Plain language summary

Local cooling for relieving pain from perineal trauma sustained during childbirth

Perineal tears or cuts are common when having a baby. Women often use a number of methods to relieve the pain, including cold baths, ice or cold packs on the area. Seven studies including 859 women compared cooling treatments such as ice, cold gel pads, or cold bath with no treatment, or other treatments. One study found that women reported less pain 24 to 72 hours after giving birth when they used the ice packs, rather than when they had no treatment. There is only a small amount of evidence of how safe and effective cooling treatments are to relieve perineal pain.