Why do so many French women have epidurals?

Almost 80 percent of French women will have an epidural during childbirth, new statistics show, ranking them among the most dependent on the pain killers in the world. But why?

Why do so many French women have epidurals?
So why exactly are epidurals so popular in France? Photo: AFP
Fresh stats show that 77 percent of French women will have an epidural injection to help ease childbirth pain.
The research was carried out by the French national institute of health and medical research, Inserm, in an effort to find out why so many women were switching to the procedure when they had initially requested not to have it.
Inserm noted: “France is one of the countries – perhaps THE country – where epidurals are the most common.”
Indeed, around the world the statistics are usually much lower with rates closer to 40 percent in the UK and between 50 and 70 percent in the US. 
So why are French women so keen on the procedure?
Béatrice Blondel, the researcher behind the study, said that there were a large number of reasons behind the fact and that she didn't know which was the most important. 
“For some aspects of childbirth, French hospital staff are very much more active than in other countries,” she told The Local. 
“We pay a lot of attention to aspects of care, we can have anesthesiologists on site 24/7 in many maternity units around the country and have an active management of labour policy.”
“And we prescribe ocytocine in 60 percent of women, meaning we have to administer an epidural on them as most women have very painful contractions as a result,” she added. 
Ocytocine is a labour-inducing drug that is used in slow childbirths. 
Blondel added that “a shortage” of midwives in France meant that those on the job were typically too busy to share out there time to women choosing to undergo natural childbirth. 
Other experts suggest that the “boom” in the procedure's popularity was thanks to a female empowerment surge in the 70s and 80s.
“Women were saying: 'There's no reason that I should suffer as much as my mother and grandmother',” anesthetist Dan Benhamou told L'Express newspaper. 
And ever since 1994, epidural procedures in France have been 100 percent reimbursed with health insurance. 
Then again, similarly to what some experts in the UK have suggested, maybe the women going into childbirth just “want to avoid the pain”.
As one French woman wrote on an online pregnancy forum: “In France they assume you're going to want an epidural because why on earth would you suffer for no reason?”
The Inserm study concentrated on French women who had unplanned epidurals, discovering that while 26 percent of women don't want or plan to have an epidural, 52 percent of these women end up having one anyway.
The data showed that the French women who typically requested to not have the injection were under the age of 25, had previously had children, were not highly educated, or were foreigners.

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These are Germany’s most popular baby names for 2020

New research revealed on Wednesday what the top names for both boys and girls in Germany are - and which names are growing (or falling) in popularity.

These are Germany's most popular baby names for 2020
Photo: DPA

Ben is no longer the most popular first name among newborn boys in Germany.

Noah has overtaken the top spot for the first time in nine years  – but just barely, according to new statistics from name researcher Knud Bielefeld published on Wednesday in Ahrensburg, Schleswig-Holstein.

Trailing only closely behind Noah and Ben, the second place name, is Matteo.

It was a similarly close race with girls' names, Bielefeld told DPA. There, Mia, Emilia and Hannah ranked in first through third place, overtaking Emma – long the favourite girl's name in Germany.

“For me, it was extremely exciting. That was a head-on-head race until the last second,” said Bielefeld.

Bielefeld evaluated the names of about 23 percent of all children born in Germany in 2020.

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: German birth rate falls as more women have children later

“If my sample had looked a little different, the name that is now maybe in second or third place would now be in first place,” he said. “There are only minimal differences between them.”

Bielefeld said that several of the top names, such as Emilia and Matteo, had climbed steadily higher in the list of most popular first names in recent years.

“If you want me to predict: I expect Matteo and Emilia to be at number one next year if the upward trend continues like this,” he said.

Emma, Sophia, Lina, Ella, Mila, Clara and Lea landed among the top ten names for girls. Among the boys, Finn, Leon, Elias, Paul, Henry, Luis and Felix made it onto the list.

The most popular middle names in 2020 were Sophia, Marie and Maria, as well as Alexander, Elias and Maximilian.

There were several regional differences in top baby names, though, depicted state by state in the map below using a sample size of 23 percent of all children born in 2020. (Credit: DPA)

International names – above all those from the English-speaking world and Scandinavia – as well as older German names, also ranked highly.

“Emil, Anton, Paul, Emma and Anna – these are older names that we’ve known for a long time,” said Bielefeld.

Gerda has climbed higher every year, and in Saxony in particular, the name Kurt has now also become more and more popular.” 

There was also a large decline in the popularity of the first name Greta. The name, also borne by the Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, fell from 30th to 130th place between 2019 and 2020.

“That's really the most remarkable observation I've ever made since these statistics. Such a steep drop,” said Bielefeld.

Of course, parents again gave their children unusual names in 2020. For example, girls were graced with names such as Amore, Divora and Marvelous, while boys were handed over creative choices such as Archibald, Hotte, Rhett and Denver.

According to Bielefeld, these names were all given at least twice in Germany. 

One name, however, did not appear at all: Corona.

Bielefeld and his assistants usually evaluate both the official reports of a city, as well as the photo galleries of birth clinics. Due to the pandemic, however, photographers were less frequent there in 2020.

Instead, significantly more registry offices gave him data related to first names this year, said the expert.

For the statistics, Bielefeld evaluated data from 465 locations, corresponding to about 23 percent of all children born in 2020.

A similar statistic is released each year from the Society for the German Language, which says it uses 90 percent of all data from the registry offices.

In a forecast in mid-December, it had seen Emil and Lena as having the best chances of coming out on top nationwide.

READ ALSO: REVEALED: Germany's most popular baby names