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Epidural Analgesia During the Second Stage of Labor: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Shen, XiaoFeng MD; Li, Yunping MD; Xu, ShiQin MD; Wang, Nan MD; Fan, Sheng MD; Qin, Xiang RN; Zhou, Chunxiu RN; Hess, Philip E. MD
doi: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000002306
Original Research: PDF Only

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate whether maintaining a motor-sparing epidural analgesia infusion affects the duration of the second stage of labor in nulliparous parturients compared with a placebo control.

METHODS: We conducted a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial involving nulliparous women with term cephalic singleton pregnancies who requested epidural analgesia. All women received epidural analgesia for the first stage of labor using 0.08% ropivacaine with 0.4 micrograms/mL sufentanil with patient-controlled epidural analgesia. At the onset of the second stage of labor, women were randomized to receive a blinded infusion of the same solution or placebo saline infusion. The primary outcome was the duration of the second stage of labor. A sample size of 200 per group (400 total) was planned to identify at least a 15% difference in duration.

RESULTS: Between March 2015 and September 2015, 560 patients were screened and 400 patients (200 in each group) completed the study. Using an intention-to-treat analysis, the duration of the second stage was similar between groups (epidural 52±27 minutes compared with saline 51±25 minutes, P=.52). The spontaneous vaginal delivery rate was also similar (epidural 193 [96.5%] compared with saline 198 [99%], P=.17). Pain scores were similar between groups at each measurement during the second stage. More women who received placebo reported satisfaction scores of 8 or less (epidural 32 [16%] compared with saline 61 [30.5%], P=.001).

CONCLUSION: Maintaining the infusion of epidural medication had no effect on the duration of the second stage of labor compared with a placebo infusion. Maternal and neonatal outcomes were similar. A low concentration of epidural local anesthetic does not affect the duration of the second stage of labor.

CLINICAL TRIAL REGISTRATION: Chinese Clinical Trial Register,, ChiCTR-IOR-15005875.

Corresponding author: Philip E. Hess, MD, YA-204B East Campus, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, 330 Brookline Avenue, Boston, MA 02215; email:

© 2017 by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Published by Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.