In Summary
  • Neither the women, researchers, doctors or midwives knew what was in the catheter-delivered infusions — a study design known as "double-blind" which tends to enhance reliability and avoid bias.
  • The second stage of labour begins when the cervix is completely dilated and ends when the baby is delivered.

Contrary to popular belief, epidural painkilling medication does not slow down labour for pregnant women, according to a US study published Tuesday.

The findings suggest that the long-held practice of reducing or stopping an epidural in the later stages of labour could be "out of date and misguided," said the report in the journal Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

Epidurals, which deliver pain-numbing medications close to the nerves of the spine via catheter, have been widely used since the 1970s.

For the study, 400 women agreed to receive an epidural early in labour and then be randomly assigned to have that painkiller continued throughout the later part of labour, or exchanged with a saline placebo without their knowledge.

'DOUBLE-BLIND' STUDY

Neither the women, researchers, doctors or midwives knew what was in the catheter-delivered infusions — a study design known as "double-blind" which tends to enhance reliability and avoid bias.

The second stage of labour begins when the cervix is completely dilated and ends when the baby is delivered.

When this stage of labour runs long, adverse outcomes — including harm to the foetus — are more common.

To avoid complications, obstetricians routinely discontinue the epidural at this stage.

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