No matter what type of birth plan you and your midwife have created, we all know that labour can be unpredictable.


Pain relief can play a huge role when giving birth and this study has discovered that remifentanil PCA could potentially help to decrease the number of epidurals.


The drug isn't usually prescribed during labour.



Commonly pethidine is offered to some 250,000 women annually in the UK, but this study has found it isn't effective as remifentanil PCA in relieving pain. 


Researchers at the Universities of Birmingham, Sheffield and Nottingham compared the two drugs by randomly assigning one of the two pain killers to women in active labour. 


Four hundred women took part in the study and the scientists assessed how many went on to request an epidural, after they took either remifentanil PCA or pethidine. 



Subsequently, the scientists found that half the number of women in the remifentanil PCA group requested an epidural, compared to the pethidine group.


Forty-one percent of those who had pethidine had an epidural, whereas 19 percent of 201 women asked for one, after they had remifentanil PCA.


Commenting on the findings, Chief Investigator Dr Matthew Wilson, formerly of the University of Birmingham and now of the School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR) at the University of Sheffield, said:


“While pethidine is commonly used in labour, its effectiveness in terms of pain relief has long been challenged and its shortcomings are more serious when set against known side effects which include women feeling sedated and nauseous; it can also transfer to the baby via the placenta producing side effects.



“Prior to our research it was already known that around a third of women who receive pethidine go on to have an epidural due to inadequate pain relief."


“There was also no difference in the health of babies born to women who received remifentanil PCA, which was very reassuring,” he added. 


It is hoped by the researchers that national clinical guidelines will change to adopt the more routine use of remifentanil PCA.


However, before you go to demand the drug; it will require further testing before being routinely offered, according to experts


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