Research Article|Articles in Press

Pain relief for childbirth: The preferences of pregnant women, midwives and obstetricians

Published:January 27, 2012DOI:



      To compare the personal preferences of pregnant women, midwives and obstetricians regarding a range of physical, psychosocial and pharmacological methods of pain relief for childbirth.


      Self-completed questionnaires were posted to a consecutive sample of 400 pregnant women booked-in to a large tertiary referral centre for maternity care in South Australia. A similar questionnaire was distributed to a national sample of 500 obstetricians as well as 425 midwives at: (1) the same hospital as the pregnant women, (2) an outer-metropolitan teaching hospital and (3) a district hospital. Eligible response rates were: pregnant women 31% (n = 123), obstetricians 50% (n = 242) and midwives 49% (n = 210).


      Overall, midwives had a greater personal preference for most of the physical pain relief methods and obstetricians a greater personal preference for pharmacological methods than the other groups. Pregnant women's preferences were generally located between the two care provider groups, though somewhat closer to the midwives. All groups had the greatest preference for having a support person for labour with more than 90% of all participants wanting such support. The least preferred method for pregnant women was pethidine/morphine (14%).


      There are differences in the personal preferences of pregnant women, midwives and obstetricians regarding pain relief for childbirth. It is important that the pain relief methods available in maternity care settings reflect the informed preferences of pregnant women.


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