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UWI doctors delivering babies faster

Published:Sunday | January 31, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Despite the unspeakable joy associated with the birth of a healthy child, the process of labour is usually long and painful.

There are now methods of reducing the pain associated with labour - such as epidural anaesthesia - which is achieved by passing an extremely fine tube into the spine and injecting pain killers to decrease pain sensation in the lower half of the body. However, this highly effective method is not yet widely available to women in Jamaica.

Another means of administering strong pain killers is by injecting them directly into the bloodstream, but this does not always totally ease the pain, and often causes temporary breathing problems in the newborn. Buscopan is a widely available drug, usually used to treat period pain and stomach cramps. Doctors and nurses throughout Jamaica had long noticed that Buscopan, and certain similar drugs, seemed to shorten the duration of labour, when given through the veins. The labour ward team of the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) set out to investigate whether the drug worked as well as rumour had it, and whether or not it was safe for use.

The researchers were Dr Leslie Samuels, Professor Horace Fletcher, Professor Joseph Frederick, Dr Loxley Christie and Dr Bianca Roberts-Gittens. All the team members are consultant obstetricians and gynaecologists at the UHWI. The team gave more than 120 women a dose of either Buscopan or salt water (normal saline) in the early stages of labour. Neither the doctor nor the patients knew which was being given at the time. After the infants were born, the time for the labour process was compared between the two groups.

It became evident that women who received the drug had their babies faster by over an hour. Of equal importance was that there was no difference in the other aspects of their labour processes, like blood loss, nor was there any difference in the health of the babies. The team concluded Buscopan is safe to be administered.