Epidural analgesia and operative delivery: a ten-year population-based cohort study in The Netherlands

Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 2014 Dec;183:125-31. doi: 10.1016/j.ejogrb.2014.10.023. Epub 2014 Oct 30.


Objective: To describe trends in the use of epidural analgesia (EA) and to evaluate the association of EA with operative deliveries.

Study design: In this population-based, retrospective cohort study, women with an intention to deliver vaginally of a term, cephalic, singleton between 2000 and 2009 (n=1378458) were included. Main outcome measures were labor EA rates, unplanned caesarean section (CS), and instrumental vaginal delivery (IVD) including deliveries by either vacuum or forceps. Data were obtained from the Perinatal Registry of The Netherlands and logistic regression analyses were used.

Results: Among nulliparous, EA use almost tripled over the 10-year span (from 7.7% to 21.9%), while rates of CS and IVD did not change much (+2.8% and -3.3%, respectively). Among multiparous, EA use increased from 2.4% to 6.8%, while rates of CS and IVD changed slightly (+0.8% and -0.7%, respectively). Multivariable analysis showed a positive association of EA with CS, which weakened in ten years, from an adjusted OR of 2.35 (95% CI, 2.18 to 2.54) to 1.69 (95% CI, 1.60 to 1.79; p<0.001) in nulliparous, and from an adjusted OR of 3.17 (95% CI, 2.79 to 3.61) to 2.56 (95% CI, 2.34 to 2.81; p<0.001) in multiparous women. A weak inverse association between EA and IVD was found among nulliparous (adjusted OR, 0.76; 95% CI, 0.75 to 0.78), and a positive one among multiparous women (adjusted OR, 2.08; 95% CI, 2.00 to 2.16). Both associations grew slightly weaker over time.

Conclusions: A near triplication of EA use in The Netherlands in ten years was accompanied by relatively stable rates of operative deliveries. The association between EA and operative delivery became weaker. This supports the idea that EA is not an important causal factor of operative deliveries.

Keywords: Caesarean section; Epidural analgesia; Instrumental vaginal delivery; Operative delivery.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analgesia, Epidural / statistics & numerical data*
  • Analgesia, Epidural / trends
  • Analgesia, Obstetrical / statistics & numerical data*
  • Analgesia, Obstetrical / trends
  • Cesarean Section / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cesarean Section / trends
  • Cohort Studies
  • Extraction, Obstetrical / statistics & numerical data*
  • Extraction, Obstetrical / trends
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Netherlands
  • Pregnancy
  • Retrospective Studies