• Vol. 27 No. 2, 235–242
  • 15 March 1998

Epidural Analgesia in Obstetrics



An ideal analgesic for labour would preferably be non-invasive, as effective as spinals and epidurals without their attendant complications and is safe to mother and child and should not complicate the labour process.

Analgesia for labouring women ranges from the use of opioid injections to invasive methods, chiefly epidural injections. Each has its advantages and drawbacks.

This article provides a review of analgesic methods and techniques for labouring women. Itfocuses mainly on the role of epidurals, how it is utilised by anaesthetists and the differing methods of drug delivery through the epidural route. It discusses various concoctions of local anaesthetics and adjuvants used.

The epidural route is probably the most effective and most commonly used invasive route for achieving analgesia during labour. Local anaesthetics of varying concentrations are administered as intermittent boluses or as a continuous infusion. Adjuvant drugs are able to enhance the quality and duration of the analgesia. Opioids including fentanyl and sufentanil, and clonidine are discussed. The use of patient-controlled epidural analgesia and combined spinal-epidural analgesia are reviewed.

Ambulatory or mobile epidurals are increasingly popular. They are known to improve maternal satisfaction because of preservation of motor power. Ambulation may help with cervical dilatation and engagement, and abolition of backpain, among other advantages. This article describes the methods of establishing mobile epidurals and offers guidelines on safe ambulation and contraindications to its use.

Most obstetric anaesthetists have their favourite epidural concoction for use in labour, This paper surveys the variation in techniques of drug delivery and types of drugs used in labour epidurals.

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