Epidurals, used to reduce labour pains, lengthen the second stage of labour, and so increase the risk of surgical intervention. And US doctors are more likely to give them because there is a financial incentive than because there is a genuine need to
These findings were made by a 12-month study carried out at a community based family practice residency in the US.
Doctors have long suspected that epidurals slow labour, although this has clearly not stopped them claiming the cash incentive for giving them. The study showed that the cash was a more likely reason for giving the anesthetic than a genuine medical need to do so, such as when there is a large-for-gestational-age (LGA) baby.
The length of second-stage labour almost doubled from 46 minutes to 84 minutes among women given epidurals who had given birth to one child before, and from 17 minutes to 40 minutes among women who had several children (Journal of Family Practice, March 1995).