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An Epidural During Early Labor Is OK After All

Short & Sweet

New research debunks the myth that getting an epidural during early labor may lead to an increased risk of having a C-section or a prolonged and more difficult labor.

The Lowdown

We're all familiar with this commonly held belief about getting an epidural: If it's administered too early, your labor may last longer. You have also likely heard that if you opt to receive this form of pain medication early in labor, your chance of having to undergo a C-section goes up. Or, other extreme means of getting the baby out may come into play, such as the use of forceps or suction. In fact, women have long been counseled to wait until they are dilated to 4 to 5 centimeters to get an epidural.

But new research out of Singapore offers more options for pregnant pain management seekers. Researchers looked at nine studies on epidurals, and the birth outcomes of more than 15,700 women, and they concluded that timing doesn't matter. In other words, it's never too early to ask for one. In the clinical trials, women who received epidurals early or late in their labors saw no difference in how long labor lasted or the need for a C-section.

The Upshot

The study supports the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists' recommendation that a woman should be able to choose when she wants to receive epidural pain medication during her labor. Talk to your doctor about your options, and develop a birth plan that works for you.

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