There are benefits attached to letting women who are giving birth control epidural intake levels, according to new research presented at a US conference on 9 February 2011.
Epidurals are a standard feature of childbirth procedures, and involve the supply of drugs, via catheter, into the spine for pain relief purposes.
If requested, epidurals are in the main supplied through a constant feed, but, in some cases, mothers-to-be can control the dosage themselves through self-medicated epidural. When this is done, said the researchers, less anaesthetic seems to be used and the births are less likely to involve medical assistance through the application of forceps or similar.
These findings came from a study involving 270 women which took place at California’s Long Beach Memorial Medical Centre. Here, two-thirds of the study participants were given a continual epidural flow, while the remainder had the self-control feature.
The self-medicating epidural group were purposely not allowed to administer epidurals on a constant basis but, instead, could obtain it in short blasts with gaps in between.
The results showed that labour length was unaffected but, on average, there was a 30 per cent reduction in anaesthetic consumption levels when so-called PCEA (Patient-Controlled Epidural Analgesia) was used.
There was no significant difference in patient satisfaction between the groups but, that said, the manual epidural group did say that their births were slightly more painful when pushing peaked.
Childbirth Epidural Study
Details of this new childbirth epidural study were unveiled at the annual meeting of the Society for Foetal Maternal Medicine, held in San Francisco.
“Though patients in each group showed equal satisfaction, we did note that there was more pain during the final delivery stage in the PCEA group”, study author Michael Haydon explained.
“The next step is to look at shortening the lock-out intervals between doses, or having the option of administering additional analgesia during the final pushing stage.”
Haydon added that the day may come where an automated epidural technique evolved that would be responsive to pain levels and base its dosage levels on this information.
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