Around 4 in 5 (79%) women who had labour in Australia received pain relief. In 2020, the most common types were nitrous oxide (inhaled) (51%), followed by epidural or caudal analgesic (40%) and systemic opioids (12%).
More than 9 in 10 women who had an instrumental vaginal birth received pain relief (97% for vaginal births assisted with forceps and 93% for vaginal births assisted with vacuum extraction). Additionally, women who gave birth in a private hospital were more likely to receive pain relief (84%) than women who gave birth in a public hospital (81%).
Compared with mothers who had pain relief, mothers who did not have pain relief were more likely to:
- be aged 40 or more (26%)
- have given birth before (from 26% for mothers with one previous pregnancy to 40% for mothers with four or more previous pregnancies)
- be Indigenous (21%).
For more information on analgesia see National Perinatal Data Collection annual update data table 2.30 and 2.31.