§ Mrs. Iris Robinson
To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on(a) the frequency of epidural use in deliveries in Northern Ireland and (b) changes in that frequency in the last 30 years. 
§ Angela Smith
The information is as follows.
(a) In 2003, the latest year for which figures on pain relief in deliveries are available, there were 5,632 births delivered in Northern Ireland using epidural as a form of pain relief.
(b) In 1994, the earliest year for which data on pain relief in deliveries are available, there were 3,917 births delivered in Northern Ireland using epidural as a form of pain relief.
Over this 10-year period, the proportion of births occurring to Northern Ireland residents in Northern Ireland where epidural was used as a method of pain relief increased from 16 per cent. in 1994 to 26 per cent. in 2003.
The rise in uptake is driven by a number of factors including increased availability and mothers' choice. Mothers are given information antenatally on the forms of pain relief available. Information on epidural is one of the options discussed. Mothers can then make an informed choice as to the method of pain relief they desire during delivery.1648W