Published in Anesthesia & Analgesia (Nov 2014)
Authors: Attanasio L, et al
BACKGROUND: Most women who give birth in United States hospitals receive neuraxial analgesia to manage pain during labor. In this analysis, we examined themes of the patient experience of neuraxial analgesia among a national sample of U.S. mothers.
METHODS: Data are from the Listening to Mothers II survey, conducted among a national sample of women who delivered a singleton baby in a U.S. hospital in 2005 (N = 1,573). Our study population consisted of women who experienced labor, did not deliver by planned cesarean, and who reported neuraxial analgesia use (n = 914). We analyzed open-ended responses about the best and worst parts of women’s birth experiences for themes related to neuraxial analgesia using qualitative content analysis.
RESULTS: Thirty-three percent of women (n = 300) mentioned neuraxial analgesia in their open-ended responses. We found that effective pain relief was frequently spontaneously mentioned as a key positive theme in women’s experiences with neuraxial analgesia. However, some women perceived timing-related challenges with neuraxial analgesia, including waiting in pain for neuraxial analgesia, receiving neuraxial analgesia too late in labor, or feeling that the pain relief from neuraxial analgesia wore off too soon, as negative aspects. Other themes in women’s experiences with neuraxial analgesia were information and consent, adverse effects of neuraxial analgesia, and plans and expectations.
CONCLUSIONS: The findings from this analysis underscored the fact that women appreciate the effective pain relief that neuraxial analgesia provides during childbirth. Although pain control was 1 important facet of women’s experiences with neuraxial analgesia, their experiences were also influenced by other factors. Anesthesiologists can work with obstetric clinicians, nurses, childbirth educators, and pregnant and laboring patients to help mitigate some of the challenges with timing, communication, neuraxial analgesia administration, or expectations that may have contributed to negative aspects of women’s birth experiences.