The Best Time for an Epidural? New Study’s Surprise Finding

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By Anisa Arsenault, Associate Editor
Updated March 2, 2017
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Potential good news for moms about to go into labor: If you want an epidural, STAT, a new study says that’s exactly when you should be able to get it.

After randomly assigning 15,752 first-time mothers from nine different studies to “early” or “late” epidural groups, researchers from The Cochrane Library found that women who had early epidurals were no more or less likely to need a C-section than those who had a late epidural. And early epidurals weren’t linked to a longer time spent pushing. “Early” was defined by less than four to five centimeters dilated, and “late” more than four or five centimeters.

This finding contradicts the idea that poor epidural timing (generally thought to mean too early) can be blamed for prolonging labor or the need for a C-section.

“The right time to give the epidural is when the woman requests pain relief,” said lead researcher Dr. Ban Leong Sng of KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH), Singapore. “If they request an epidural early during their labor, the evidence we have does not provide a compelling reason why this should be refused.”

The study, of course, doesn’t say women should or shouldn’t receive an epidural. It’s still an individual choice.

We want to know: If you had an epidural, when did you have it administered?

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

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