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Study: Epidurals Do Not Cause Longer Delivery

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RALEIGH, N.C. — An epidural is the most common method used to deliver medication to ease intense labor pains. There is some suspicion that epidurals slow down the delivery process and prolong labor, but a new study shows that is just not true.

Before Wilson Moore came into the world at Rex Hospital, his mom, Betsy, wanted to see if she could endure labor without medication.

"I was just nervous about the needle in my back," she said. "But once I got here and had gone through the labor and contracting, I really wanted the epidural at that point."

Moore also heard other things about epidurals.

"Well, I had heard people say that it would prolong delivery, but we did not experience that at all," she said.

A study in the

New England Journal of Medicine

shows epidurals, given early in labor, do not cause longer delivery and they do not increase the odds of Cesarean birth.

"So that's encouraging, so at least now we actually have the research we need. We have the data that supports what, in practice, we already knew," said Dr. Anita Hudson-Fraley.

Hudson-Fraley always encourages her patients to get pain relief when they want it early in labor, before 4 centimeters of dilation or later. Some patients express fear that the medication will make it harder for them to push the baby out. That was not Betsy Moore's experience.

"It wasn't to the point where you couldn't feel what was going on. You could still feel pressure when you had a contraction, so you knew you needed to push," she said.

Some women choose to go without medication. They use natural techniques to endure the pain. That is the way the Moores thought they would go.

"I think once anyone has the contractions that she had, it will change their minds real quick," father Trey Moore said.

The study also showed epidural anesthesia gave women more complete pain relief than those who received opioid medications. It is a good idea to discuss pain medication with your doctor long before the due date arrives.


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