Study links fevers in women given epidurals to birth injury risk: Part 2

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As discussed in the previous post, Ohio residents may be interested in a study published in the February issue of Pediatrics that found an increased risk for birth injuries when a mother had received an epidural and developed a fever during labor.

It has been found that these fevers tend to develop after 6 or more hours of numbness so, to combat the potential onset of epidural-related fevers, many doctors delay giving the medication as long as possible. This is especially true if other factors for a potentially complicated delivery are present, such as gestational diabetes or a large infant.

Some researchers and health officials point out that fevers during labor and related birth injuries can have other causes besides epidurals. For example, intrauterine infections can also occur during childbirth and cause an elevated fever. In order for the researchers to rule out intrauterine infections as the cause of the studied women’s fevers they would have had to examine the placenta of each child in question, which was not done.

Intrauterine infections can come on suddenly and cause brain damage and cerebral palsy in the newborn. The study did not state whether intrauterine infections were present and not properly diagnosed or treated with antibiotics, or whether fevers were properly treated with medications in an effort to reduce the mother’s temperature.

The epidural study may not have done enough to conclusively determine that epidurals are linked to birth injuries, but it demonstrates that a fever in childbirth does raise the risk for injury to mother and child.

Studies like this illustrate how critical it is for everyone involved, from the doctor to the mother, to be aware of all the potential outcomes and causes of problematic births so that we can do our best to safeguard against them. The more we know about potential hazards, the better our doctors’ procedures will be and the healthier our children will be as a result.

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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