Study Finds Women Who Had Epidural Had Lower Risk of Severe Maternal Complications Interview with
Prof. Rachel Kearns
Consultant Anaesthetist, Glasgow Royal Infirmary
Honorary Professor, University of Glasgow
Senior NRS Fellow What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: This was an observational study which looked at health data from over half a million mothers giving birth in Scotland. We compared women who had received an epidural in labour with those who had not and found that women who had an epidural had a lower risk of severe maternal morbidity (severe health complications during childbirth or the 6 weeks following birth).  

We found that women with a higher underlying risk for having complications, for example women delivering a baby pre-term or women with pre-existing health conditions, had an even greater reduction in risk. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: We hope that the message—that epidurals can protect against adverse outcomes, especially in women at higher risk of complications —will be widely shared and helpful for women and their partners in making informed decisions. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: Further understanding the mechanisms behind these effects is important to maximise the beneficial impact of epidurals. Furthermore, previous research has shown that women from minority ethnic groups and areas of socioeconomic deprivation are at higher risk of poor health outcomes, and are also less likely to have an epidural, and we need to understand and address the reasons for this. Is there anything else you would like to add? Any disclosures?

Response:  Our findings highlight the importance of giving women accurate information about epidurals and ensuring that all women have equal access to them. This is especially important for women at higher medical risk or delivering preterm. We hope this information will help inform mothers and support their decision-making process.

Citation: Kearns R J, Kyzayeva A, Halliday L O E, Lawlor D A, Shaw M, Nelson S M et al. Epidural analgesia during labour and severe maternal morbidity: population based study BMJ 2024; 385 :e077190 doi:10.1136/bmj-2023-077190

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Last Updated on May 24, 2024 by