Analgesia is used to relieve pain during labour. Data are therefore limited to mothers who had labour, whether spontaneous or induced (note that some mothers who labour may go on to have a caesarean section and receive anaesthesia rather than analgesia). More than one type of analgesic can be administered.

The figure shows a bar chart of the proportion of women who had labour be analgesia administration status by a range of topics in 2020 and a line graph displaying topic trends over the period from 2010 to 2020. In 2020, 176,614 women, or 79%, who laboured had pain relief.

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.