Epidural Rates in the US and Around the World: How Many Mothers Choose to Use an Epidural to Provide Pain Relief?

While the side effects of getting an epidural for labor are well-documented, many mothers are still choosing an epidural to provide pain relief during labor.

How many women around the world are opting to have an epidural for labor? Here is a look at the epidural rates in the US and around the world and what seems to affect those rates versus what does not.

US Hospitals Among the Regions with Highest Epidural Rate

Some experts suggest that the average epidural rate in hospitals in the United States tips around 50%. However, individual hospitals in various states often report high rates of epidurals so it is hard to imagine that the average epidural rate is actually 50%.

A busy Cleveland OH hospital reported that in the nearly 3,700 births that occurred in 2017, an overwhelming majority of mothers, specifically 84%, chose to have either an epidural or combined spinal epidural for labor.

The New Jersey Center for Health Statistics reports epidural rates on all of the hospitals in the state. The average epidural rate for all of the hospitals in the entire state of New Jersey is 71.5% with several hospitals hovering around 90%.

Perhaps the recognized epidural rate in the United States should be revised to a number closer to 75%. A recognized national survey in 2018 called “Listening to Mothers” reported that the number of mothers in the US choosing an epidural for their labor was 75%, as compared to 14% of mothers who chose to have an unmedicated birth.

Countries Around the World Have Climbing Epidural Rates

The US is not the only country with high rates of epidural for labor. One study in Turkey looked at the epidural rate from 1993 to 2006. In that 14 year period, the number of women choosing an epidural for their labor rose from 57% to 96%.

Taking Natural Childbirth Class May Not Affect the Epidural Rate

A Swedish study showed that taking natural childbirth classes versus a standard childbirth preparation class did not affect the epidural rate with mothers in Stockholm in 2016. The percentage of mothers choosing to use an epidural was 52% in both groups.

Private Hospitals May Have Higher Epidural Rates than Public Hospitals

One study in New South Wales showed that the epidural rate doubled when the hospital switched from a public hospital to a private one. The epidural rate as a result of the public to private hospital shift during 1997-2003 increased from 10.4% to 21.1%. Researchers also saw climbing cesarean rates as a result of this shift and did not report that these were positive changes.

So what are your plans for pain relief in labor? Do you plan to choose an epidural? Why or why not? Make sure you get all of the facts before you decide

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