Expectant fathers' experience during labor with or without epidural analgesia

Int J Obstet Anesth. 2007 Apr;16(2):110-5. doi: 10.1016/j.ijoa.2006.08.009. Epub 2007 Jan 30.


Background: For men the worst aspect of childbirth is witnessing their partner in pain. The aim of this study was to investigate fathers' attitudes towards labor and delivery with and without epidural analgesia.

Method: The study was performed using a questionnaire that included yes/no, multiple choice or 6-point ordinal scale answers. Expectant fathers whose partners were nullipara between 36 and 38 weeks of gestation were recruited and the questionnaires were administered on the day after the birth. To investigate paternal anxiety during labor, the State part of the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory was used.

Results: The questionnaire was completed by 243 fathers. Sixty percent (145) of the parturients received epidural analgesia and 40% (98) did not. Paternal characteristics were comparable. Fathers whose partners did not receive epidural analgesia felt their presence as troublesome and unnecessary (P<0.001). The presence of maternal epidural analgesia increased threefold paternal feelings of helpfulness and was associated with a greater involvement (P<0.001) and less anxiety and stress (P<0.001). Median (range) State-Trait Anxiety Inventory score was respectively 75 (50-80) and 30 (20-60) in fathers whose partners did not or did receive epidural analgesia (P<0.0001). Maternal analgesia greatly increased paternal satisfaction (P<0.0001).

Conclusion: Epidural analgesia reduces paternal anxiety and stress and increases paternal involvement, participation and satisfaction with the experience of childbirth.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analgesia, Epidural / psychology*
  • Analgesia, Epidural / statistics & numerical data
  • Analgesia, Obstetrical / psychology*
  • Analgesia, Obstetrical / statistics & numerical data
  • Anxiety / etiology*
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Attitude
  • Fathers / psychology*
  • Fathers / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Labor, Obstetric / psychology*
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Prospective Studies
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales / statistics & numerical data
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires