Research shows that more and more women are now opting for painless natural childbirth than before.
According to a new study in the September issue of the journal Anesthesiology, as pain control options for labor and delivery become more varied and sophisticated, growing numbers of women are taking advantage of pain relief for their childbirth.
Researchers from the University of Colorado had looked at survey responses from 378 hospitals that provided obstetric services in 2001, grouping the hospitals according to the number of births per year (1,500 or more, 500-1,499 and fewer than 500). They found that only 6 to 10 percent of mothers had no pain relief (analgesia) during labor in 2001, compared to 11 to 33 percent in 1992. Hospitals doing more deliveries generally had fewer mothers going without anesthesia in both years.
As women have embraced techniques that can make them more comfortable for more of their labor, demand for anesthesia services in hospitals is growing as well. Most anesthesias for labor and Cesarean delivery was directly provided or supervised by anesthesiologists. In hospitals providing care for 1,500 or more births during 2001, an anesthesiologist was involved in 95 percent of cases. Other providers of anesthesia care include certified registered nurse anesthetists and, in a very small percentage of cases, obstetricians.
Regional analgesia, including epidural, spinal or combined epidural-spinal techniques, accounted for 76 percent of the anesthesia services provided in the larger hospitals, and for 57 percent of services in the smaller hospitals. These figures represent a significant increase since 1992. Mothers are less likely to receive parenteral narcotics (drugs injected into the blood stream) as their only source of pain relief.