Study Reveals Epidurals May Prolong Labor
In a recent, in-depth study on the labor process, researchers at The University of California, San Francisco looked at more than 42,000 women who delivered vaginally between 1976 and 2008. The study compared the length of the second stage of labor, which is basically the amount of time it takes for “pushing” the baby out, among women who chose to have an epidural and those that did not.
It is widely accepted that administering an epidural can lengthen labor by about an hour, but researchers found in this study that it’s actually between 2-3 hours longer. So not only are women laboring longer with an epidural, the study suggests their prolonged labor may be subject to unnecessary interventions by doctors, worried that the labor has gone on too long. In fact, doctors may need to wait before intervening with oxytocin, forceps, vacuum or a cesarean.
For those women giving birth for the first time, The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) defines an abnormally long second stage labor as more than three hours for women who received an epidural and more than two hours without an epidural. However, the new study suggests a normal second stage (for first births) can take as long as 5.6 hours for women who get epidurals and as long as 3.3 hours for those who do not get epidurals.
For women who have already given birth at least once, the group’s guidelines define an unusually long second stage as two hours with an epidural and one hour without. The new study once again found differing results; that the second stage for these women can be as long as 4.25 hours and 1.35 hours, respectively. The study makes a good case that the ACOG should update their guidelines (which haven’t been updated since 2003).
In the meantime, pregnant ladies, it seems that in your last remaining moments before baby is here, well, patience is key… epidural or not.
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