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US Research Discovers That Epidural Painkillers Do Not Slow Down Labor

In contrary to the popular belief, epidural painkillers found ineffective in slowing down labor in pregnant women. This has been proved by a US study published on Tuesday.

US Research Discovers That Epidural Painkillers Do Not Slow Down Labor

Epidural painkillers do not slow down labor

HIGHLIGHTS

  1. Epidural painkillers found ineffective in slowing down labor
  2. Subjecting the mother to epidural will have no affect on labor
  3. Epidural medication did not have any effect on health of the babies

In contrary to the popular belief, epidural painkillers found ineffective in slowing down labor in pregnant women. This has been proved by a US study published on Tuesday. The findings of this study also reveal that that a long-held practice of reducing or controlling an epidural in the later stages of labor could be termed as "outdated and misguide". This report is present in the journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. Epidurals are known for delivery pain-numbing medications close enough to the nerves of the spine through a catheter which have been widely in use since the 1970s.

For this study, 400 agreed to receive epidural in early labor. They were then randomly assigned to continue taking the same throughout labor or exchange is with saline placebo outside their knowledge.

The women, the researchers, doctors or midwives, none knew about what was in the catheter-delivered infusions. This study design is known as "double-blind" which aims at enhancing reliability and avoiding bias. 

The second stage of labor begins when the mother's cervix is dilated to 10 cms and the baby is delivered. When this stage of labor goes, there is a chance of harm to the baby. In order to avoid such complications, doctors prefer to avoid this stage of epidural.

But the results showed that subject the mother to epidural will have no affect whatsoever on the length of labor. All mothers were healthy and first-time mothers.

Duration of labor was at an average of 52 minutes for women who were given active medication as compared to those who were given saline who had 51 minutes of labor. A 3.3% difference was observed according to the report.

"We found that exchanging the epidural anesthetic with a saline placebo made no difference in the duration of the second stage of labor," said senior author Philip Hess, director of obstetric anesthesia at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and associate professor at Harvard Medical School.

Epidural medication did not have any effect on health of the babies, vaginal delivery, foetus position or any other parameter for measuring fetal-health and well being.

"Twice as many women given the placebo reported lower satisfaction with their pain relief compared to those provided the anesthetic," said Hess, stating the need for more research on the matter.

"We didn't see any negative effects, but epidural analgesia in the second stage of labor remains controversial and merits follow up studies."

With inputs from AFP



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