In general, epidural analgesia is considered a safe and efficient way to relieve pain during active labour and is increasingly used in childbirth. It is well documented that epidural analgesia during birth has benefits but also adverse effects. However, evidence is limited on how epidural analgesia influences neonatal outcome in a low-risk population of birthing women.
To examine low Apgar score, foetal hypoxia and admission to the neonatal intensive care unit in neonates of low-risk women receiving epidural analgesia during birth.
A cohort study using registry data to investigate a population of 23,272 low-risk women giving birth at a university hospital.
Epidural analgesia was used in 21.6% of low-risk women during birth. Low Apgar score, foetal hypoxia, and admission to the neonatal intensive care unit were found in 0.6%, 0.6%, and 10.0%, respectively in neonates of mothers receiving epidural analgesia during birth compared to 0.3%, 0.6%, and 5.6%, respectively in the non-exposed group. Epidural analgesia was associated with low Apgar score, adjusted odds ratio 1.76 (95% CI 1.07–2.90) and admission to the neonatal intensive care unit, adjusted odds ratio 1.43 (95% CI 1.26–1.62). A mediation analysis indicates the impact of epidural analgesia on adverse neonatal outcomes was mediated by obstetric complications like maternal fever, labour augmentation, and foetal malpresentation.
This study found use of epidural analgesia during birth in low-risk pregnant women was associated with infant low Apgar score and admission to the neonatal intensive care unit.
Abbreviations:EA (epidural analgesia), BMI (body mass index), NICU (neonatal intensive care unit), PROM (prelabour rupture of membranes)
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Published online: June 18, 2020
Accepted: May 19, 2020
Received in revised form: May 12, 2020
Received: November 26, 2019
© 2020 Australian College of Midwives. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.