Examine Debunks Notion That Epidurals Lengthen Labor

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By Mary Elizabeth Dallas

HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Oct. 10, 2017 (HealthDay Information) — Epidurals are a preferred type of ache management for ladies throughout labor, however they’ve lengthy been blamed for hindering progress within the supply room.

Nonetheless, new analysis challenges this broadly held perception, suggesting that epidurals haven’t any impact on how lengthy labor lasts — or when infants are born.

“We discovered that exchanging the epidural anesthetic with a [non-drug] saline placebo made no distinction within the length of the second stage of labor,” mentioned examine lead researcher Dr. Philip Hess. He directs obstetric anesthesia at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Middle in Boston.

Dr. Jennifer Wu, an ob/gyn who reviewed the brand new findings, mentioned there are “essential facets to this examine.”

Use of “low-dose epidurals versus placebos in the course of the pushing stage of labor didn’t enhance length of pushing” or the necessity for a C-section, mentioned Wu, who works at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York Metropolis.

Because the examine authors defined, epidurals contain a mix of sturdy painkillers and anesthetics delivered by way of a tube positioned close to the nerves of the backbone. However since their introduction within the 1970s, epidurals have been thought by some to gradual labor as soon as the cervix is totally dilated — a interval referred to as the second stage of labor.

When this stage of labor is extended and the delivery of a child is delayed, the chance for issues additionally rises. In consequence, some docs might scale back or stop epidural ache administration in an try to hurry up supply.

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However do epidurals actually delay labor? Wu mentioned that generally it will possibly appear that strategy to sufferers.

“Sufferers usually cite longer pushing as a purpose they’re attempting to keep away from epidural,” she defined. “The problem for these sufferers is that there could also be many hours of contractions — and lack of sleep — earlier than they even get to the second stage or the ‘pushing’ stage. So, when sufferers are too numb to push successfully, docs usually cite this as a purpose to show down epidural.”

However, in fact, reductions in epidural ache aid can imply extra discomfort for the lady, Wu famous. It is a “delicate stability,” she mentioned.


Within the new examine, the Boston crew in contrast the consequences of low-dose epidural to an ineffective saline resolution placebo, each of which had been delivered by way of a catheter.

The examine concerned 400 wholesome ladies delivering their first child. These first-time moms acquired epidurals in the course of the early stage of labor. However as soon as they reached the second stage, they had been randomly assigned to obtain both the epidural or the placebo, Hess defined.

The examine was double-blinded, which means that neither the ladies nor the docs knew whether or not they acquired the epidural or the saline resolution. Nonetheless, ladies in excessive, extreme ache had been knowingly given ache treatment as directed by their docs. The docs may additionally cease epidural ache management at any time.

Through the examine, the researchers tracked the length of labor in addition to the well being and well-being of the ladies’s infants, corresponding to delivery weight and blood oxygen ranges. The investigators additionally in contrast the ladies’s studies of ache and satisfaction with their ache administration.

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The examine, revealed Oct. 10 in Obstetrics & Gynecology, discovered epidurals had no impact on the length of the second stage of labor. The anesthesia additionally had no affect on the speed of regular vaginal deliveries, the variety of episiotomies [surgical cuts to ease delivery], the place of the fetus at delivery or some other measure used to evaluate the well-being of a child throughout supply.

The length and outcomes of labor had been comparable for each teams of ladies. The second stage of labor was about 52 minutes for ladies given lively ache treatment in comparison with about 51 minutes for ladies who acquired saline, the analysis crew famous.

Citing gradual development of labor, docs had been requested to cease epidural ache management for 38 sufferers. However the researchers discovered that this occurred at about the identical price for ladies receiving the epidural as for ladies who acquired the saline.

Alternatively, “twice as many ladies given the placebo reported decrease satisfaction with their ache aid in comparison with these offered the [epidural] anesthetic,” Hess mentioned.

Dr. Mitchell Kramer is chair of obstetrics and gynecology at Huntington Hospital in Huntington, N.Y. Reviewing the brand new examine, he mentioned its findings are in step with these of prior research. However he additionally agreed with Wu that it is usually powerful to stability ache aid with the necessity to keep away from numbness throughout labor.


“If there’s vital ache block, whereby the affected person can’t really feel contractions in any respect or can’t transfer their legs to help within the pushing course of in the course of the second stage of labor, this may increasingly pose an issue throughout this stage,” Kramer defined.

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“Incessantly, the quantity of anesthetic treatment being infused will probably be decreased, not turned off, to permit some feeling and/or motion to help within the pushing efforts,” he mentioned.

In keeping with Kramer, the Boston examine exhibits that epidurals are largely helpful, so “we are able to reassure our sufferers that we are able to preserve them comfy and but not jeopardize or delay the labor.”

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