Giving Birth with Epidurals Has Come a Long Way and the New Studies Have Good News for Pregnant Moms

Giving Birth with EpiduralsThis Grandma gave birth to her first child under anesthesia, “twilight sleep,” it was called in the early 1970s. I remember nothing of the birth and remember a beautiful baby put in my arms when I awoke. My second childbirth experience lasted less than an hour with absolutely no anesthesia. I had wanted the then new fangled “epidural.” It was so new that I knew only one friend who had had an epideral in a fancy New York hospital. She said she was awake during the birth but felt no pain. It sounded so wonderful that I wanted one too for the birth of my second child, but I was told that my labor progressed too fast and it was too late for me to receive any anesthesia, much less that coveted epideral. Boy, do I wish I had had the new studies that just came out now. For those of us who have given birth, an hour of intense labor seems a lot longer than an hour. Childbirth is worth it when you have the beautiful child in your arms, but labor is not forgotten.

The New York Times, October 13, 2014, had an article, “Epidurals May Be Given Early or Late in Labor,” by Nicholas Bakalar. He writes:

Whether a woman has an epidural – an injection of a local anesthetic into the spine – early or late in labor makes no difference in birth outcome, a large review of studies has found. . . .
The review, published by the Cochrane Library, found no clinically meaningful difference between the early and late epidural groups in the risk for cesarean section or forceps birth, no difference in the length of labor, and no difference in Apgar scores of the babies. The lead author, Dr. Sng Ban Leong of the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Singapore, said that the analysis reassures women and health care providers that, contrary to some studies, early epidurals do not lead to adverse outcomes.

This Grandma had asked, immediately upon admission to the hospital in the late 1970s, when I could have the epidural. I was told I had to wait until a certain progression of labor. No More!

The best time to give an epidural, the analysis concludes, is when a woman asks for it. “Women should discuss the pain relief options with their doctors before their labor,” Dr. Sng said, “and make informed decisions that are evidence-based.”

What I wonder, always, when it takes nearly 40 years to make such a discovery, is whether if men gave birth, would these wonderful studies have come earlier in time! It is definitely too late for me. Grandchildren, not children, are on my mind and I think I have all the grandchildren that I am going to have, for now, at least. However, if you happen to know a pregnant woman, pass this information along for her to discuss with her doctor.



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