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The effects of epidural analgesia on the course and outcome of labour

, : The effects of epidural analgesia on the course and outcome of labour. Bailliere's Clinical Obstetrics and Gynaecology 12(3): 473-483

The potential effects of epidural analgesia on the progress and outcome of labour have been the subject of lasting controversy. Retrospective reviews indicate that epidurals are associated with longer labours and/or an increase in the incidence of instrumental or operative delivery. Similar results were obtained in non-randomized prospective studies. None of them established a causal relationship, because without randomization the selection bias cannot be ruled out. Other factors, such as premature rupture of membranes and maternal socioeconomic status, may affect the outcome of labour. It was also reported that introduction of the on-demand epidural service did not increase the primary caesarean section rate. The few prospective randomized studies are contradictory and not very reliable owing to small patient populations and high cross-over rates. There is, however, unanimity among the authors regarding the superiority of pain relief provided by epidural blocks over systemically administered opioids.


PMID: 10023433

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