Background: Epidural anesthesia, as an effective pain relief method, could be viewed as an attempt to encourage vaginal delivery and control cesarean section. Increased demand caused by psychosocial factors such as fear of childbirth and labor pain is supposed to be one predictable drive of high cesarean section rate in present China. Little qualitative information on women’s awareness and perceptions of epidural anesthesia was found, but conscious efforts should be focused on this part to help generate policy-making priority. Methods: This study was carried out under an exploratory descriptive design in Bao’an Maternity and Child Health Hospital. Those interested in participating would be invited to focus group discussion or individual interview according to a semi-structured open-ended guide after collecting the participants’ demographic characteristics. The thematic content analysis approach was used for data analysis. Results: Five major themes were identified: 1. the sources to gain information on epidural anesthesia; 2. clinical impact; 3. social impact on awareness; 4. association between epidural anesthesia and cesarean section; 5. attitudes and questions about the current service implementation. Discussions: The interplay between pregnancy knowledge, socio-economic conditions, social support, insurance policy environment, women’s judgment of health care quality influences the ways women acknowledge and utilize epidural anesthesia service. Conclusions: As maternal requested CS due to low pain tolerance emerges gradually, natural labor with epidural anesthesia is a more suitable childbirth option, which is also expected to function in reducing CS rate by service-providers and administrators in the health departments of China besides building up a pain-free labor environment.
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