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New Research Suggests Epidurals Do Not Slow Labour

More than 400 first time mothers participated in the study

Researchers in the US have found having an epidural does not slow down labour for pregnant women, contrary to popular belief. 

The new study, which examined more than 400 first time mothers, concluded that epidural painkilling medication had no effect on the time it took for the women to deliver their child, The Telegraph reports. 

The research was published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology from researchers from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston in the US. 

Researchers compared the effects of low-concentration epidural anaesthetic with a saline placebo on the study participants, reports.

“We found that exchanging the epidural anaesthetic with a saline placebo made no difference in the duration of the second stage of labour,” Senior author Professor Philip Hess said.

“Not even the pain scores were statistically different between groups. However, pain scores in women receiving the saline placebo increased over time, as would be expected.”

(Credit: Getty)

As The Conversation reports, women who have an epidural have on average a 14 minute longer second stage of labour. The second stage begins when the cervix is fully dilated.

Professor Hess acknowledged that his team’s findings required further investigation.  

“We didn’t see any negative effects, but epidural analgesia in the second stage of labour remains controversial and merits follow up studies,” he said.

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