BACKGROUND: We aimed to establish if epidural analgesia is associated with a higher incidence of operative vaginal delivery, longer duration of labor and more frequent use of oxytocin than labor without analgesia. METHODS: We analyzed a cohort of 207 women with no risk factors who delivered with epidural analgesia in the labor unit of Spedali Civili, Brescia, Italy, during 2001. Length of the first and second stage of labor, mode of delivery, neonatal cord blood pH, neonatal Apgar score and neonatal outcomes were evaluated. RESULTS: Epidural analgesia was performed on request in 6%: in this group (group A) there were 141 (68%) nulliparae and 66 (32%) pluriparae; mean ( +/- standard deviation) gestational age at delivery was 39.4 +/- 1.3 weeks (range: 34.1-41.5 weeks). In this group, 184 (89%) had vaginal delivery and 23 (11%) delivered by Cesarean section. Among controls (group B), 368 (89%) had a vaginal delivery and 46 (11%) delivered by Cesarean section; vacuum extraction was used in 18 deliveries (9%) in group A and in 13 deliveries (3%) in group B. The duration of the second stage of spontaneous labor in the nulliparae of group A was significantly longer than in group B. No statistically significant differences were found between mean umbilical artery pH values of groups A and B. CONCLUSION: Our results confirm that epidural analgesia does not affect the rate of Cesarean delivery, while increasing the use of oxytocin augmentation, the duration of the second stage of labor and the rate of instrumental vaginal delivery.
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