Labour pains? Forget the epidural and try nasal spray instead

Gas is good and pethidine priceless when it comes to dealing with the pain of labour, but maternity hospitals will soon offer women a new drug to try – and it’s as easy as a spray in the nose.

Maternity hospitals in Australia will begin offering the new drug to labouring women within months after a trial found Fentanyl spray was more effective than pethidine injections in dealing with labour pain and had less of a drugging effect on the baby. The trial involved 156 women, with more than 80 per cent saying they would choose to use it again.

The spray, a narcotic that crosses the placenta to the baby, resulted in less nausea and sedation, shorter labour, fewer babies admitted to the nursery and fewer breastfeeding problems.

UniSA midwifery researcher Dr Julie Fleet says mothers need better options for pain relief.

“Women can self-administer a controlled dose using the nasal spray, under a midwife’s supervision, which helps them feel more in control of their pain management and avoids the need for additional intervention and painful injections,” she says in The Daily Telegraph. “Fentanyl is out of the system within two to seven hours so has less chance of producing negative effects on the baby.”

Dr Fleet says the Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Adelaide was likely to introduce the fentanyl spray in the coming months, followed by other maternity hospitals. Gawler Hospital continued to offer it to women in labour after the trial ended.

fetal monitor pregnant

Dr Fleet says if women respond well to the spray, they may be less likely to progress to an epidural.

“Fentanyl administered by the nasal spray doesn’t completely eliminate pain, so it is suited to women who still want to be able to feel something,” she says.

Raewyn Brownbill was offered the spray when in labour with baby Nate five weeks ago.

“Every five minutes you could spray it once, then it locked for five minutes,” Raewyn says. “It doesn’t take the pain away but it does take the edge off it and then I could concentrate on what I was doing.”

(via The Daily Telegraph)

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