Published studies assessing the effect of epidural analgesia in nulliparous labor on the frequency of cesarean delivery for dystocia are reviewed. There are at least four retrospective studies and two prospective studies that suggest that epidural analgesia may increase the risk of cesarean delivery for dystocia in first labors. The potential for epidural to increase the frequency of cesarean delivery for dystocia is likely influenced by multiple variables including parity, cervical dilatation at epidural placement, technique of epidural placement, management of epidural during labor, and the obstetrical management of labor after placement of epidural analgesia. Two studies suggest that delaying placement of the epidural until 5 cm of cervical dilatation or greater may reduce the risk of cesarean birth. Epidural is safe and may be a superior labor analgesic when compared with narcotics. However, patients should be informed that epidural analgesia may increase the risk of cesarean birth in first labors.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Obstetrics and Gynecology