Language Disparities Among Latinas Impact Use of Epidurals

A new study has found that language influences whether one receives an epidural during labor. Latinas have the lowest rate of epidural use, but according to the study this is also affected by whether they primarily speak English or Spanish. 

Findings show that the use of epidurals is lower for Spanish-speaking Latinas (66 percent) than for English-speaking Latinas (81 percent). Spanish-speaking Latinas had as much as a 40 percent lower odds of using an epidural than English-speaking Latinas. In addition, 96 percent of all women who requested an epidural received one, suggesting system level issues were not responsible for the lower epidural rate.

The Northwestern University study, funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, evaluated electronic medical record data for 1,424 Hispanic women who delivered at a large urban maternity hospital. Statistical methods were adjusted for factors that could influence epidural use including age, insurance status, income and marital status.

For many, the use of an epidural could be tied to notions of a natural childbirth: in recent years, the push for deliveries sans medication (including epidurals) and even at-home births has increased.