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Pregnant Mothers’ Use of Pain Medication Rising

Earlier this week the Chicago Tribune published an interesting story that shared information about the rise in popularity of pain control measures during childbirth. Each Chicago birth injury lawyer at our firm appreciates that these sorts of decisions are very personal ones that must be made individually after serious conversation between families and their doctor. From a legal perspective the main issue is ensuring that the advice and conduct of involved medical professionals is reasonable as it relates to all matters-including pain medication-ensuring that preventable birth injuries do not develop.

In any event, data suggests that use of pain medications-usually called an “epidural”-has been growing. The medication is usually delivered via an injection in the epidural space of the spinal cord. The result is that the mother loses sensation in her pelvis area for a time. As one new Chicago mother explained, “After having the epidural, I felt pressure but not the horrible plain. I cannot imagine doing it without the epidural.”

Local obstetricians have suggests that roughly 90% of local women have epidurals during their pregnancy when delivering vaginally. This compares to roughly 75% use only ten years ago. The doctors explain colloquially that they’ve seen a clear rise in popularity of the pain control. In the past, there was a larger push to “go natural.” Beyond the philosophical changes, in the past the epidural use was lower in part because some maternity wards were less likely to have an anesthesiologist on duty who could provide the pain relief.

The problem of available anesthesiologists still exists in some places. University hospitals are more likely to have one of these medical professionals available at all hours and so epidural statistics at those facilities is usually higher. In fact, non-university hospitals that do have an anesthesiologists available 24/7 often use that fact as a marketing point, urging mothers to chose the hospital specifically because of the availability of this pain control option. Our Illinois birth injury lawyers understand that more and more mothers are conducting more sophisticated planning of all aspects of their pregnancy. It is logical for the availability of an anesthesiologist around-the-clock to be a consideration in those preparation efforts.

Interestingly, a 2008 report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that epidurals were more common depending on the mother’s age and education level. The younger and more educated the mother the more likely they would seek an epidural. Also, expectedly, hospital births are more likely to include an epidural as compared to at-home births. In addition, the more prenatal care that a mother has received prior to delivery increases the likelihood of an epidural. The report also found that of those who began a delivery without planning to have an epidural, more than fifty percent of them will eventually ask for pain medication.

Some mothers cannot receive epidurals for a variety of medical reasons. In those cases, mothers can have narcotic painkillers through IVs or use hypnosis or acupuncture. The IV painkiller option is often avoided, however, because it usually leads to the child becoming sleepy.

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