Midwives and women's experiences of Sterile Water Injections for back pain during labour: An integrative review

Virginia Stulz, Xiaoting Liang, Elaine Burns

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Background: / Objective: This integrative review summarises original research that explores the experiences and perceptions of midwives and women using sterile water injections (SWI's) during labour. Design: Integrative review. Methods: A robust search strategy was conducted using the following databases: Scopus, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health (CINAHL), Ovid Medline and PubMed. All articles were assessed for quality using the Joanna Briggs Institute Critical Appraisal Tools (2017) scoring. Whittemore and Knafl's (2005) five stage approach was used to analyse the primary literature related to midwives and women's experiences of sterile water injections (SWI's) for back pain during labour. Findings: A total of 291 articles were retrieved and 13 papers were included in this review (four qualitative including one case report and nine quantitative) that fulfilled the inclusion criteria. Three overarching themes were identified: ‘Assessment, perception and communication of pain’, ‘Techniques of administration of SWI's’ and ‘Barriers and resistance to using SWI's’. The ‘Assessment, perception and communication of pain’ theme included four subthemes: ‘balancing the expectation of the injection pain against pain relief’; ‘using appropriate language to prepare women’; ‘rapid onset and increased pain relief with SWI's in comparison to saline’; and ‘midwives high considerations for using SWI's as a form of pain relief’. The ‘Techniques of administration of SWI's’ theme included two subthemes: ‘intradermal is better than subcutaneous injections’; and, ‘four injections is better than one’. The ‘Barriers and facilitators to using SWI's’ theme included four subthemes: ‘guidelines and evidence’; ‘level of experience’; ‘midwifery philosophy challenges’; and ‘resistance from colleagues’. For example, ‘midwifery philosophy challenges’ included midwives being conflicted about providing an invasive, painful procedure as counter-intuitive to supporting women through the pain of labour. Midwives need opportunities to learn and develop skills for using SWI's. Women described feeling more empowered during their labour and appreciated the use of SWI's including the rapid onset of pain relief and the absence of side effects. The ability for women to exert some control over their pain whilst still being able to experience the physical sensations of labour and birth was important. Conclusions and implications for practice: The review supports the evidence for the use of SWI's however, there is limited evidence available and more information needs to be provided about the benefits of this non-pharmacological technique for back pain during labour. Generalised guidelines are needed to ensure consistent practice in the provision of care for women experiencing back pain during labour.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103164
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Midwives and women's experiences of Sterile Water Injections for back pain during labour: An integrative review'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this