Women who receive epidurals to ease labor pains may be increasing discomfort for their newborns, according to a study published in Pediatrics. The study says that epidurals can cause fevers in mothers during childbirth, which, in turn, causes doctors to test newborns for blood and tissue infections (sepsis), and to treat the newborns with antibiotics. Of babies born to 1,047 women, 34% needed an evaluation for sepsis, as compared to less than 10% of babies born to mothers who had no epidural. Newborns whose mothers had received an epidural were four times as likely to be treated with antibiotics because doctors were concerned about the possibility of sepsis. However, babies of women who received an epidural were not more likely to actually have infections, which was very rare in both groups.
Lieberman E, Lang JM, Frigoletto F Jr, Richardson DK, Ringer SA, Cohen A. Epidural analgesia, intrapartum fever, and neonatal sepsis evaluation. Pediatrics 1997; 99(3): 415-9 / Medline ID: 97193713.
This article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #05.
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