In the United States, approximately 61 percent of women giving birth receive an epidural or spinal anesthesia for pain relief in labor. The administration of this medication has often been blamed for an increased length of labor. However, a double-blinded, randomized control trial was published October 10 in Obstetrics and Gynecology, which demonstrated that epidurals have no effect on the length of the second stage of labor (10cm to delivery of the infant).
According to WSHA’s Safe Deliveries Roadmap, a nulliparous patient (first time mother) with an epidural should be allowed 4 hours in the second stage before an operative vaginal birth or cesarean section is recommended. This timing guideline is 3 hours for a multiparous patient (has delivered a baby before) with an epidural. This research can reassure physicians, midwives, nurses and patients that the administration of an epidural for pain relief is a reasonable intervention that will not increase the length of time in labor.
Read more about this research from Medline Plus. WSHA’s Safe Deliveries Roadmap has recommendations on length of labor that you can find on the WSHA website. (Amber Weiseth)