02 March 2009

Epidurals on the way out in the UK

In Australia, it is no secret that medicalised birth is increasingly becoming the norm. With a greater push for less intervention and more one-to-one care, maternity reform is a red hot issue on the national agenda. Nevertheless, while the prospect of having wholly funded home births and more accessible birth centres throughout the country is exciting, should less intervention mean no intervention?

In the UK, doctors and patients are struggling over new regulations surrounding the use of epidurals during birth. As new guidelines have characterised the use of epidurals and caesareans as 'unnatural' in a bid to reduce interventions by up to 40%. The goal of the new guidelines is to ensure that more women are having 'normal' or 'traditional' birth. Obstetricians, however, have problems with this.

Kim Hinshaw, a consultant obstetrician at Sunderland Royal Hospital, said: ‘I have major concerns with this. I don’t think we will ever reach a figure of 60% normal delivery using this definition. For example, in Sunderland we have an epidural rate in first labours of 60%.

‘This definition implies that if you ask for an epidural for pain relief, but go on and deliver normally after a six-hour labour, your birth was not ‘normal’. That is a disgrace.’

And Professor James Walker, a consultant obstetrician at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust added: ‘This is a very rigid definition of what normal birth should be. Epidurals should not be done without reason; they should be kept to a minimum. There are some women, however, who require an epidural because they cannot cope with the pain in any other way.’

I have to agree. While I am fully in favour of supporting national guidelines that seek to minimise the unnecessary interventions, at the same time, I bristle at the thought of women giving birth in pain and not being allowed to have relief if they ask for it.

Would you be happy with this model of care in your own country?

Source: http://tinyurl.com/ccz8vh


Craving Cinnabon said...

Before I gave birth, my birth plan was "no epidural" and I had my baby naturally. Would I do it again? Hell no. If I can reverse time I would have so asked for the epidural. I had a fast labor, around less than 5 hours? I cannot imagine those pour women that spend hours and hours without pain relief. Some woman can handle it and some cannot, they shouldn't intervene with this choice.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure there are some woman that "can't cope any other way" but I truly belief the vast majority can, but OBs don't exactly give you a variety of non medical pain relief. I could not have had my son in a hospital without an epidural or at least some medication, but my midwife was so great with massage and other techniques ("midwitchery") that it was made possible for me at home.
I do think epidurals can be very useful for a long labor. Labor is tiring, a woman who might have needed a c-section or vacuum delivery tiring out after a 15 hour + labor could really benefit from a break to gain back the strength needed for pushing.

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