Epidurals Do NOT Prolong Labor

The newest research provides evidence against the popular belief that it does.

Epidural-Anesthesia
A recent study published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology looked at the effect of an epidural on length of delivery.

Good News!

A recent study out of the Beth Israel Deaconells Medical Centre shows that having an epidural during the pushing stage of labor does NOT negatively affect the duration of labor.

Previous evidence and common sense from health professionals suggested a link between using an epidural and a longer second stage of labour (the stage where you push). It was therefore thought that there was a link between using an epidural and an increased risk of needing to intervene with an instrumental delivery (such as having to use forceps) or even having to have an emergency caesarean section.

The thought was that due to the numbing effects of the epidural, the pelvic floor muscles would not work optimally to push. Because of this, it has been common for doctors to limit pain meds flowing in an epidural if labour started to progress too slowly, meaning moms-to-be experienced more pain.

Good news is that this new study demonstrates that the epidural did not negatively impact delivery!

Let’s go over the study in more details:

The Study

The study conducted was a double-blind, randomized controlled trial. For those of you who aren’t in the research world, this translates to being a high quality study.

Between March 2015 and September 2015 400 women who had never before had a child completed the study. One group received an epidural during their second stage of labour, while the other group received a placebo epidural during this same stage. Length of vaginal delivery rate, incidence of episiotomy, position of the fetus at birth, as well as other measures of fetal well being were measured.

The Results

Findings of the study demonstrated that the epidural had NO effect on any of the above measures – length of delivery, incidence of episiotomy, position of the fetus at birth, or any other measure of fetal well being.

Not surprisingly, results also showed that the women in the control group (a placebo epidural) had a lot more pain than there control group counter parts.

What it All Means

This study provides some fantastic evidence to show that there is no down side to having an epidural during the second stage of labor. This is important as labor can be an incredibly painful experience, and the decision to have an epidural as a form of pain relief should lie with the patient in collaboration with her physician and/or midwife.

Key Takeaways

  • An epidural is a safe form of pain relief during the pushing stage of labor
  • It does not have an effect on length of delivery, or any measure of fetal well-being
  • The decision to have an epidural should lie with the patient in collaboration with her physican and/or midwife

 

Read the full study here!

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