Whether or not to have an epidural during labor has been a controversial issue. But many women ultimately opt to have their hospitals administer epidurals during childbirth because of the pain. However new reports show that epidurals might make matters worse rather than better.
Epidurals are known to decrease the pain caused by labor. But studies show that epidurals cause the labor process to take a great deal longer.
“Researchers found some women who received epidural anesthesia during labor took more than two hours longer to deliver their child, compared to women who didn't get the pain reliever. For women who had never had a child before and were in the 95th percentile for length of labor, the second stage took about three hours and 20 minutes to complete without anesthesia and five hours and 40 minutes with the (epidural) shot.” according to Reuters. This is a substantial amount of time and can lead to complications.
The doctor who led the study told Reuters, “The effect of epidural can be longer than we think and as long as the baby looks good and the women are making progress, we don't necessarily have to intervene (and perform a Cesarean section) based on the passage of time.” But sometimes a C-section becomes necessary.
Caesarian sections have become increasingly common in the U.S. in recent years. Reuters offers statistics, “Cesarean sections, or C-sections, are now used for about one of every three births in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's about 50 percent more than in the mid-1990s. C-sections come with longer hospital stays and extra risks for mothers and babies.”
Epidurals are highly effective in reducing significant pain during labor and delivery. If a woman were to have no epidural and then required a C-section on an emergency basis, she would need to have general anesthesia and be put to sleep. That type of anesthesia tends to carry greater risks than an epidural.
What this study does not discuss is what the alternative would be to not having an epidural.
In today's society, the majority of women ask for and want pain relief during labor. As long as the health and well-being of the baby is properly monitored and the baby is doing okay, epidurals have long been used without a problem.
There is also a distinction between a prima gravida and a multi-gravida. In other words, there is a significant difference between the length of time a woman is in labor with her first child compared to having multiple prior births regardless of whether an epidural is used.