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Nulliparas' Preferences for Epidural Analgesia: Their Effects on Actual Use in Labor

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Background: Few studies have directly examined the reasons for choices of pain relief during labor. The purpose of this study was to investigate if women's preferences for epidural analgesia in labor have an impact on the use of intrapartum epidural analgesia. Methods: Nulliparous women attending childbirth classes completed questionnaires about their antenatal preferences for the use of intrapartum epidural analgesia. Data on actual use of analgesia was obtained by chart review. The analysis included 303 women with either spontaneous or induced labor at term. Results: The 185 women who planned to receive epidural analgesia had a markedly higher rate of epidural use (91%) than the 110 women who hoped to avoid it (57%) (p = 0.001). Of 237 epidurals administered, 169 (71%) were planned during the antenatal period. Among women receiving epidural analgesia, those planning to receive it tended to have more frequent early administration (≤ 3 cm cervical dilation) than women who unsuccessfully tried to avoid epidural use (54% vs. 24%, p = 0.003). Conclusion: In our population of nulliparas, a woman's antenatal plan to receive epidural analgesia is strongly associated with her likelihood of receiving it. Women who plan to receive epidural analgesia have earlier administration.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 1999-09-01

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