Epidural analgesia during labor

Am Fam Physician. 1998 Nov 15;58(8):1785-92.


Epidural analgesia is a commonly employed technique of providing pain relief during labor. The number of parturients given intrapartum epidural analgesia is reported to be over 50 percent at many institutions in the United States. The procedure has few contraindications, the primary ones being patient refusal, maternal hemorrhage and coagulopathy. Induction of epidural analgesia in early labor remains controversial. However, many physicians induce analgesia as soon as the diagnosis of active labor has been established and the patient has requested pain relief. The most common complications occurring with epidural analgesia are maternal hypotension and postdural puncture headache. Retrospective studies have demonstrated an association between epidural analgesia and increases in duration of labor, instrumental vaginal delivery and cesarean section for labor. However, several recent prospective studies have concluded that epidural analgesia does not adversely affect the progress of labor or increase the rate of cesarean section. These remain controversial issues among practicing physicians.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesia, Epidural* / adverse effects
  • Analgesia, Epidural* / methods
  • Analgesia, Obstetrical* / adverse effects
  • Analgesia, Obstetrical* / methods
  • Contraindications
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Labor, Obstetric*
  • Patient Selection
  • Pregnancy
  • Time Factors