Phase 1 development of an index to measure the quality of neuraxial labour analgesia: exploring the perspectives of childbearing women
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PURPOSE: Modern neuraxial labour analgesia reflects a shift in obstetrical anesthesia thinking - away from a simple focus on pain relief towards a focus on the overall quality of analgesia. However, advances in the methods used to measure outcomes have not kept pace with clinical progress, and these approaches must evolve to facilitate meaningful assessment of the advances provided towards the quality of analgesia. Developing a tool to measure the quality of neuraxial labour analgesia that research has achieved is best guided by women's perspectives. As the initial step in developing an instrument to quantitatively measure quality neuraxial labour analgesia, this qualitative descriptive study explored childbearing women's experiences and perspectives regarding this subject. METHODS: Twenty-eight postpartum women, all delivering with neuraxial labour analgesia, were recruited from three hospitals in the greater Toronto area. Twenty-five women described a priori plans to use neuraxial labour analgesia, or they described themselves as having been open to the idea. Women's experiences and perspectives of neuraxial labour analgesia were explored in focus groups and in-depth interviews < or =72 hr following childbirth. RESULTS: Four major themes emerged: 1)The Enormity of Labour Pain; 2) Fear and Anxiety Related to Epidural Pain Relief; 3) What Women Value about Epidural Pain Relief; and 4) The Relative Value of Achieving Epidural Pain Relief vs Avoidance of Epidural Drug Side Effects. Participants broadly described quality neuraxial labour analgesia as pain relief without side effects. Responses affirmed the importance of traditionally measured outcomes as attributes of quality neuraxial labour analgesia, e.g., pain relief and side effects, as well as the overall importance of pain control during labour and delivery. For research to capture the experience of quality neuraxial labour analgesia, findings suggest that this outcome involves physical, cognitive, and emotional dimensions that must be measured. The findings further suggest an important relationship between each of these dimensions and perceptions of control. CONCLUSIONS: Women's perspectives must be incorporated into the assessment of quality neuraxial labour analgesia in order for research to measure this outcome in a meaningful manner. Study findings have important implications for scale development, interpretation of existing research, and antenatal education.
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