Epidural anesthesia in labor. Benefits versus risks

J Nurse Midwifery. Sep-Oct 1997;42(5):377-88. doi: 10.1016/s0091-2182(97)00052-9.


Epidural anesthesia is used for relief of labor pain by 29% of women having hospital deliveries in the United States, a number that has doubled within the past 10 years. Although epidurals provide objective pain relief that is exponentially better than the other pain relief methods, there are many purported complications and side effects. This article reviews how epidurals work, summarizes the literature regarding complications, and presents some of the ethical dilemmas inherent in the use of this technology for labor.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesia, Epidural* / adverse effects
  • Anesthesia, Epidural* / history
  • Anesthesia, Epidural* / methods
  • Anesthesia, Epidural* / nursing
  • Anesthesia, Obstetrical* / adverse effects
  • Anesthesia, Obstetrical* / history
  • Anesthesia, Obstetrical* / nursing
  • Cesarean Section
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Fetus / drug effects
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Infant Behavior / drug effects
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Labor, Obstetric / drug effects
  • Labor, Obstetric / physiology
  • Pregnancy
  • United States