The Italian Almanac

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Italian News - May 24

Livia Turco directed her first thoughts as health minister to women, making a commitment to ensure pain-free childbirth was always an option in Italy's public hospitals. She said it was "absurd" that mothers should still be obliged to suffer pain while giving birth, when a solution - epidural anaesthesia - was widely available.

Epidural anaesthesia is a method of eliminating the pain of childbirth by injecting an anaesthetic into part of the lower spine. Turco promised to make sure the 'epidural' was clearly included in the list of "essential assistance" services that Italian hospitals are obliged to supply free of charge.

She promised to push for an accord between the state and regional governments, which in Italy control health spending. Recent statistics show that about a third of the women who give birth in public hospitals ask for an 'epidural' but only 4% receive it free of charge. A further 10% decide to pay between 500 and 700 euros to have it.

Turco, who is herself a mother, said she gave birth without an epidural. She said she was helped in the experience by having done a course of pre-natal gymnastics. She said her drive to make epidurals more available would come alongside the presentation of a draft law designed to ensure absolute safety in childbirth, especially where premature births were concerned.