Effects of epidural anesthesia on newborns and their mothers

Child Dev. 1981 Mar;52(1):71-82.


The effects of epidural anesthesia on newborns were studied using a sample of babies from mothers having (a) little or no medication during childbirth (N = 15), (b) epidurals with bupivacaine (N = 20), and (c) epidurals in combination with oxytocin to stimulate labor (N = 20). Outcome measures included assessments of neonatal behavior (Brazelton Scale), mother-baby interaction during feeding, and mothers' perceptions of their babies' behavior during the first month after delivery. Effects of drugs on the neonatal behavior were strongest on the first day. By the fifth day, there was evidence of behavioral recovery, but the medicated babies continued to exhibit poor state organization. At 1 month, examiners observed few differences between groups, but unmedicated mothers reported their babies to be more sociable, rewarding, and easy to care for, and these mothers were more responsive to their babies' cries. The importance of the first encounters with a disorganized baby in shaping maternal expectations and interactive styles was discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesia, Epidural*
  • Arousal / drug effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn*
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Maternal Behavior
  • Mother-Child Relations*
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • Pregnancy