Painkillers administered during labour could inhibit early bonding between mother and child
Painkillers could be producing a numbing effect in the infants
Early study results show that the impact on the newborn is to render them incapable of feeding as efficiently as those not exposed to painkilling drugs
The Karolinska Institute in Stockholm has just conducted research into the impact of painkilling drugs such as bupivacaine, mepivacaine or pethidine administered during labour in the form of epidurals and injections. Such drugs cross the placenta and are absorbed by the baby.
Early study results show that the impact on the newborn is to render them incapable of feeding as efficiently as those not exposed to painkilling drugs. They are slower to latch onto the nipple, less interested in taking the breast and tend not to feed at all until after two and a half hours after birth. Consequently the levels of oxytocin are inhibited - this is the hormone produced by newly delivered mothers to encourage early, close bonding.
Anna-Berit Ransjo-Arvid - one of the Institute's research midwives - believes that the painkillers could be producing a numbing effect in the infants - but more research is due to be undertaken to study the connection in more depth. She points out, 'We need to do more studies, especially as there is a very high increase in the use of epidural and other pain relievers.'