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Scientists have revealed that women who have an epidural in labour are 40 per cent more likely to have complications delivering their baby. The Cochrane Review, an independent health database, reviewed studies involving 6,664 women and discovered that women opting for an epidural were more likely to experience a longer second stage of labour - when the baby is pushed out of the birth canal - and to have drugs to stimulate contractions or require instrumental medical assistance like forceps. The review found they also faced a greater risk of being unable to move for a short time after birth and to experience low blood pressure. But there were no significant differences in the risk of having a Caesarean, long-term backache or immediate adverse effects on the baby between the women having epidurals and those who did not. The authors of the review, led by Dr Millicent Anim-Somuah from Liverpool Women's Hospital, England said that more research was needed to evaluate the risks linked to epidural as pain relief during birth. They added, "Women who use this form of pain relief have an increased risk of instrumental delivery when compared with women who used non-epidural forms of analgesia or no analgesia at all. The evidence presented in this review should be made available to women considering pain relief in labour. The decision about whether to have an epidural should then be made in consultation between the woman and her carer." (SH/WNWCCB/SC)
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