Background: Epidural analgesia provides the most effective pain relief in labor, but it is not known if it causes adverse long-term effects. The objective of this study was to assess the long-term effects of two mobile epidural techniques relative to high-dose epidural analgesia in a randomized controlled trial.
Methods: A total of 1,054 nulliparous women were randomized to traditional high-dose epidural, combined spinal epidural, or low-dose infusion. Women in all groups were followed-up at 12 months postpartum by postal questionnaire to assess long-term symptoms. The primary long-term outcome was backache occurring within 3 months of the birth persisting for longer than 6 weeks. Secondary outcomes were frequent headaches and fecal and urinary stress incontinence.
Results: No significant differences were found in long-term backache after combined spinal epidural or low-dose infusion relative to high-dose epidural. Significantly less headache occurred in combined spinal epidural analgesia than high-dose epidural (OR: 0.57, 95% CI: 0.36–0.92), but no difference was found for low-dose infusion. Significantly less fecal incontinence (OR: 0.51, 95% CI: 0.30–0.87) and stress incontinence (OR: 0.65, 95% CI: 0.42–1.00) occurred with low-dose infusion.
Conclusion: Trial evidence showed no long-term disadvantages and possible benefits of low-dose mobile relative to high-dose epidural analgesia. (BIRTH 38:2 June 2011)