What are the negative effects of an epidural?

From: The Cochrane Collaboration

Journal rating:
rating: 98%
Study Quality:
rating: 100%
%

Overall Reliability

Article Quality:
rating: 75%
Partcipants
rating: 50%

Participants/situation

  • 38 studies involving 9,658 women

Study

  • The paper is a systematic review / meta analysis of all relevant trials.
  • This means that the data from all similar trials has been grouped to form an overall outcome.

Results

  • Epidurals relieved labour pain better than other types of pain medication but led to more use of instruments to assist with the birth.
  • Caesarean delivery rates did not differ overall and nor were there effects of the epidural on the baby soon after birth; fewer babies needed a drug (naloxone) to counter opiate use by the mother for pain relief.
  • Women who used epidurals were more likely to have a longer delivery (second stage of labour), needed their labour contractions stimulated with oxytocin, experienced very low blood pressure, were unable to move for a period of time after the birth (motor blockage), had problems passing urine (fluid retention) and suffered fever.

Answer

  • Negative effects; primarily an increased risk of having an instrumental delivery

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