Epidural Analgesia and Any Vaginal Laceration

J Am Board Fam Med. 2018 Sep-Oct;31(5):768-773. doi: 10.3122/jabfm.2018.05.170400.


Background: Studies have shown increased incidence of severe vaginal lacerations (third and fourth degree) in women under the influence of epidural analgesia. This increase has been attributed to the increased the use of operative vaginal delivery (OVD), with attendant increased risk of laceration. Although mild and moderate vaginal lacerations requiring suturing are clinically significant, their relationship to epidural analgesia has not been extensively studied.

Objective: The purpose of this study is to examine relationships between epidural analgesia in laboring women and vaginal lacerations at delivery. Our research addresses the question: "Is epidural analgesia in labor associated with reduced likelihood of vaginal laceration at delivery, compared with delivery without epidural analgesia? In addition, is there a difference in vaginal laceration rates between an urban hospital staffed by obstetricians and a suburban hospital staffed mainly by family physicians?"

Study design: For the purposes of our study we included mild and severe perineal lacerations (first through fourth degree). We included all-term singleton vaginal deliveries at Truman Medical Centers Hospital Hill and Lakewood during 2013. We conducted a retrospective chart review that included 2131 women. We examined the relationship of OVD to epidural and to laceration. Since the 2 hospitals had different characteristics, we also examined the relationship of location of delivery to laceration. We controlled for maternal age, birth weight, location of delivery, OVD, parity, and race. We examined these factors using a logistic regression analysis.

Results: After controlling for all factors mentioned above, epidural was negatively associated with laceration (odd ratio [OR], 0.886; 95% CL, 0.665, 0.991). Other factors negatively associated with laceration included black race, parity, and delivery at Truman Medical Center Lakewood (TMCLW).

Conclusions: Patients who received epidural analgesia experienced fewer vaginal lacerations. There was no increase in OVD in patients who received epidural analgesia. Patients who delivered at a suburban hospital staffed by family medicine residents experienced fewer lacerations than those delivering at an urban hospital staffed by Obstetrics and Gynecology residents after controlling for race and other factors.

Keywords: Epidural Analgesia; Family Physicians; Gynecology; Lacerations; Logistic Regression; Obstetrics; Parity; Urban Hospitals.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Analgesia, Epidural / adverse effects*
  • Delivery, Obstetric / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Urban / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Lacerations / ethnology*
  • Lacerations / etiology
  • Logistic Models
  • Missouri / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Vagina / injuries*