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Epidural analgesia has some adverse effects on newborns

Published on January 25, 2016 at 4:11 AM · No Comments

Researchers from the University of Granada observed that babies born after epidural analgesia show a small decline in Apgar index values, a quick test applied to newborn babies in order to assess their general health.

They carried out this work by analysing a total population of 2609 children born between 2010 and 2013 at San Juan de la Cruz hospital in Úbeda, province of Jaén, Spain

Their research, published in Midwifery magazine, indicates that resuscitation was significantly more frequent in babies born after epidural analgesia, early breast feeding onset was less frequent in them, and they needed to be admitted, to a greater extent, to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

Babies born after epidural analgesia show a small decline in Apgar index values (a quick test applied to newborn babies in order to assess their general health), both one and five minutes after birth.

Moreover, resuscitation was significantly more frequent in babies born after epidural analgesia, early breast feeding onset was less frequent in them, and they needed to be admitted, to a greater extent, to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

Those are some of the conclusions of an article published in Midwifery magazine by researchers from the University of Granada (UGR), who carried out a retrospective investigation on the existing relation between the use of epidural analgesia and certain parameters assessed in newborns.

The researchers carried out their investigation by analysing a total population of 2609 children born between 2010 and 2013 at San Juan de la Cruz hospital in Úbeda, province of Jaén, Spain.

Adverse effects of epidural analgesia
As Concepción Ruiz Rodríguez, professor at the Department of Nursing of the University of Granada and lead author of this work, explains: "epidural analgesia is one of many ways of easing the pain suffered during labour. Nowadays, it's the most valuable strategy due to its efficacy, so its use has greatly spread in developed countries".

However, beside the numerous advantages associated with epidural analgesia, "a series of adverse effects have been observed both on the mother and on the baby. Adverse effects observed on the baby are attributed to a direct pharmacological effect, due to a placental transmission of the drug administered to the mother, or due to an indirect secondary effect as a consequence to the physiological changes the drug causes in the mother, such as hormonal changes", the UGR expert explains.

Nevertheless, data are contradictory and are discussed by health professionals. Because of that, the authors of this research thought about the convenience of studying the effect of epidural analgesia on a series of parameters in newborns.

The results obtained by the researchers "prove that epidural analgesia has some adverse effects, which we have to study more deeply, on the newborn baby", stresses Ruiz Rodríguez.

"For that, we consider that it's important that both mothers and health professionals (obstetricians and midwives) know and have in mind those risks when the time for taking a decision comes", the UGR researcher concludes.

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