OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the use of analgesia during labor in women who had a vaginal birth and to determine the factors associated with its use. METHODS: A secondary analysis was performed of the WHO Multicountry Survey on Maternal and Newborn Health, a cross-sectional, facility-based survey including 359 healthcare facilities in 29 countries. The prevalence of analgesia use for vaginal birth in different countries was reported according to the Human Development Index (HDI). Sociodemographic and obstetric characteristics of the participants with and without analgesia were compared. The prevalence ratios were compared across countries, HDI groups, and regions using a design-based chi(2) test. RESULTS: Among the 221 345 women who had a vaginal birth, only 4% received labor analgesia, mainly epidural. The prevalence of women receiving analgesia was significantly higher in countries with a higher HDI than in countries with a lower HDI. Education was significantly associated with increased use of analgesia; nulliparous women and women undergoing previous cesarean delivery had a significantly increased likelihood of receiving analgesia. CONCLUSION: Use of analgesia for women undergoing labor and vaginal delivery was low, specifically in low-HDI countries. Whether low use of analgesia reflects women’s desire or an unmet need for pain relief requires further studies.
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