Babies born to mothers who had an epidural during labour are four times as likely to have antibiotics because of the fear of infection.

Epidurals can cause fever, which pediatricians associate with an increased risk of infection.

Researchers from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School studied 1047 women given epidurals for pain relief during labour and, of these, 14 per cent developed a fever.

Of the babies born to the women in the study, 34 per cent needed an evaluation for infection, whereas only 10 per cent of babies born to mothers who did not have an epidural needed one.

The researchers found that babies were four times as likely to be given antibiotics if their mothers had been given epidurals. But the fears may be more in the minds of the pediatricians because the actual incidence of infection was no higher in the epidural group (JAMA, 1997; 271: 951).

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