Weighing the Risks; May 2012; Scientific American Magazine; by Melinda Wenner Moyer; 1 Page(s)
One of the biggest choices an expectant mother faces is how to handle the pain of childbirth. More than 60 percent of American women choose relief in the form of an epidural, a combination of local anesthetic and narcotic administered into the epidural space surrounding the spinal cord. Although most doctors believe that the injections are safe, a new study suggests that they may increase the risk that a mother will develop a fever during labor, which could, in rare instances, pose risks to her baby.
Epidurals have long been controversial. Some studies have suggested that women who ask for them are more likely to have emergency cesarean sections, but a 2011 review reported that epidurals do not increase C-section risk compared with other forms of pain relief. The same study did find, however, that epidurals make it more likely that doctors will have to deliver with the help of forceps or a vacuum.