Epidurals can reduce the risk of serious childbirth-related complications for mothers by more than a third, a study has found.

Women who had the pain relief injection were far less likely to suffer conditions such as sepsis and heart attacks during labour and in the following weeks.

The findings suggest that making epidurals more widely available could help to reverse a rising UK trend of deaths and injuries on maternity wards.

Researchers studied 567,216 women who were in labour in Scottish NHS hospitals from 2007 and 2019, who gave birth vaginally or by an unplanned caesarean. Of these, 125,024 had an epidural – an anaesthetic injection in the back. 

The study, led by Glasgow and Bristol universities, found having the jab cut the risk of potentially life-threatening conditions by 35 per cent.

Epidurals can reduce the risk of serious childbirth-related complications for mothers by more than a third, a study has found

Epidurals can reduce the risk of serious childbirth-related complications for mothers by more than a third, a study has found

The findings suggest that making epidurals more widely available could help to reverse a rising UK trend of deaths and injuries on maternity wards

The findings suggest that making epidurals more widely available could help to reverse a rising UK trend of deaths and injuries on maternity wards

They were also more effective in women who went into labour prematurely, or had previous medical or obstetric conditions. 

Lead author Professor Rachel Kearns, of Glasgow University, said: ‘This underscores the need to ensure access to epidurals, particularly for those who are most vulnerable – women facing higher medical risks or delivering prematurely. 

‘By broadening access and improving awareness, we can ensure safer childbirth experiences.’

The study, published in the BMJ, comes a week after a Parliamentary inquiry found maternity services in need of a radical shake-up and a study earlier this year showing deaths during childbirth at the same rate as two decades ago.

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