Rectal analgesia for pain from perineal trauma following childbirth

Rectal suppositories give short-term pain relief for perineal trauma after childbirth.

Women often suffer pain if their birth involves trauma to the perineum (area between the vagina and the anus). This trauma can result from an episiotomy (surgical cut) or from a tear that requires stitching. There are ways to reduce the possibility of trauma, but for women with pain the review of trials found that rectal suppositories were effective for pain relief up to 24 hours after birth. Longer-term effects have not been investigated. More research is required to assess the longer-term outcomes and effects, if any, on breast milk, mother-baby bonding and sexual functioning.

Authors' conclusions: 

NSAID rectal suppositories are associated with less pain up to 24 hours after birth, and less additional analgesia is required. More research is required regarding long-term effects and maternal satisfaction with the treatment.

Read the full abstract...

Perineal pain from a tear and/or surgical cut (episiotomy) is a common problem following vaginal birth. Strategies to reduce perineal trauma and the appropriate repair of any perineal damage sustained are important for avoiding and alleviating pain. Where pain is present, numerous treatments are used in clinical practice, such as local anaesthetics, oral analgesics, therapeutic ultrasound, antiseptics and non-pharmacological applications such as ice packs and baths. This review assesses the evidence for using rectal analgesia for pain relief following perineal trauma.


To assess the effectiveness of analgesic rectal suppositories for pain from perineal trauma following childbirth.

Search strategy: 

We searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group trials register (July 2002), CENTRAL (The Cochrane Library, Issue 2, 2002), CINAHL (May 2002) and MIDIRS (May 2002).

Selection criteria: 

Randomised controlled trials comparing analgesic rectal suppositories with placebo or alternative treatment for the relief of perineal pain.

Data collection and analysis: 

Two reviewers assessed trial quality and extracted data independently.

Main results: 

Three trials involving 249 women met the inclusion criteria. Only two of the trials identified for inclusion in this review had data that could be entered in a meta-analysis, with the third not providing data in a useable format. Women were less likely to experience pain at or close to 24 hours after birth if they received non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) suppositories compared with placebo (relative risk (RR) 0.37, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.10 to 1.38, 2 trials, 150 women). Women in the NSAID suppositories group compared with women in the placebo group required less additional analgesia in the first 24 hours after birth (RR 0.31, 95% CI 0.17 to 0.54, 1 trial, 89 women) and this effect was still evident at 48 hours postpartum (RR 0.63, 95% CI 0.45 to 0.89, 1 trial, 89 women). No information was available on pain experienced more than 72 hours after birth or other outcomes of importance to women such as the impact on daily activities, resumption of sexual intercourse and the impact on the mother-baby relationship.