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Open Access Research article

Ethnic differences in the use of intrapartum epidural analgesia

Alberto Jiménez-Puente12*, Nicolás Benítez-Parejo123, Jorge Del Diego-Salas5, Francisco Rivas-Ruiz23 and Claudio Maañón-Di Leo4

Author Affiliations

1 Evaluation Unit, Hospital Costa del Sol, Autovía A7, Km. 187, 29603, Marbella, Spain

2 CIBER Epidemiología y Salud Pública (CIBERESP), Barcelona, Spain

3 Research Support Unit, Hospital Costa del Sol, Marbella, Spain

4 Obstetrics and Gynecology Area, Hospital Costa del Sol, Marbella, Spain

5 Department of Preventive Medicine, Hospital Virgen de la Victoria, Málaga, Spain

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BMC Health Services Research 2012, 12:207  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-12-207

Published: 20 July 2012



Obstetric epidural analgesia (EA) is widely applied, but studies have reported that its use may be less extensive among immigrant women or those from minority ethnic groups. Our aim was to examine whether this was the case in our geographic area, which contains an important immigrant population, and if so, to describe the different components of this phenomenon.


Cross-sectional observational study. Setting: general acute care hospital, located in Marbella, southern Spain. Analysis of computer records of deliveries performed from 2004 to 2010. Comparison of characteristics of deliveries according to the mothers’ geographic origins and of vaginal deliveries noting whether EA was received, using univariate and bivariate statistical analysis and multiple logistic regression (MLR).


A total of 21,034 deliveries were recorded, and 37.4% of these corresponded to immigrant women. EA was provided to 61.1% of the Spanish women and to 51.5% of the immigrants, with important variations according to geographic origin: over 52% of women from other European countries and South America received EA, compared with around 45% of the African women and 37% of the Asian women. These differences persisted in the MLR model after adjusting for the mother's age, type of labor initiation, the weight of the neonate and for single or multiple gestation. With the Spanish patients as the reference category, all the other countries of origin presented lower probabilities of EA use. This was particularly apparent for the patients from Asia (OR 0.38; 95%CI 0.31-0.46), Morocco (OR 0.49; 95%CI 0.43-0.54) and other Africa (OR 0.55; 95%CI 0.37-0.81).


We observed a different use of EA in vaginal deliveries, according to the geographic origin of the women. The explanation for this involves a complex set of factors, depending both on the patient and on the healthcare staff.

Epidural analgesia; Delivery; Immigrants; Ethnicity