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Study links fevers in women given epidurals to birth injury risk: Part 1

It is very commonplace these days in Ohio and around the country for women in labor to receive an epidural shot to ease the pain of childbirth. A study recently published in the February issue of Pediatrics found there was an increased risk of birth injuries in babies born to women who had received epidurals and developed fevers during labor.

This study involved the review of 3,200 women who delivered a child in a Boston, Massachusetts, area hospital in 2000. This latest study built off of previous research that showed a link between epidurals or anesthesia and fevers in mothers during delivery. The study illustrated a previously unknown correlation between fever during labor and a greater risk of breathing difficulties, seizures and poor muscle tone in newborns.

According to the authors of the study, one out of every five children born to a mother who used an epidural experienced some sort of adverse outcome following birth. The study also noted that the higher the mother's fever temperature the greater the likelihood that the baby would experience problems.

Despite the research into childbirth problems and the relation between epidural-caused fevers, not much is known about why the fevers occur. It is believed that the fever is an inflammatory response to the medications.

In many incidences of fever, the mothers tended to be older, have large babies and experience longer, more complicated deliveries, which could include other birth injuries, such as shoulder dystocia. For this reason, many doctors delay administering an epidural if there is a risk of a complicated or prolonged delivery because fevers tend to develop after 6 or more hours of numbness.

The next post will continue to discuss this issue.

Source: U.S. News and World Report, "Epidural Plus Fever in Mom May Raise Risks for Baby," Jenifer Goodwin, Feb. 3, 2012

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