Epidurals can cut risk of severe childbirth complications by 35 pc: Study

London, May 23 (IANS/DPA) Women who have an epidural during labour face a lower risk of severe complications during childbirth, according to a study on Thursday.

Making epidurals more widely available and providing more information to those who would benefit from one is important, researchers said.

The study by the University of Glasgow and the University of Bristol involved 567,216 women who were in labour in Scottish hospitals run by the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) from 2007 and 2019 and went on to give birth vaginally or by an unplanned caesarean section.

Of the total, some 125,024 women had an epidural, which is administered through an injection in the back and blocks pain in certain parts of the body.

Researchers analysed the rate of serious complications, including heart attacks, eclampsia, and hysterectomies during childbirth.

Having an epidural cut the risk of these events by 35 per cent, the study found. They were also more effective in women who went into labour prematurely, or who had previous medical or obstetric conditions.

Researchers said their findings, published in The BMJ, suggest “expanding access to epidural analgesia for all women during labour, and particularly for those at greatest risk, could improve maternal health”.

“This finding underscores the need to ensure access to epidurals, particularly for those who are most vulnerable – women facing higher medical risks or delivering prematurely,” said lead author Professor Rachel Kearns from the University of Glasgow, UK.

“By broadening access and improving awareness, we can significantly reduce the risk of serious health outcomes and ensure safer childbirth experiences,” she added.

Instances of severe complications during childbirth almost doubled between 2009 and 2018 in the UK, according to researchers.

They said this reflects the trend of people waiting until they are older to have babies or being obese.

“That women, and their partners, have control over their treatment during pregnancy, including the use of an epidural during labour, is important,” said Prof Deborah Lawlor of the University of Bristol, UK.

“It is also important that women who would benefit from an epidural to prevent them becoming seriously ill are provided with easy-to-understand information to help them make an informed decision,” she added.



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