Health: More than a month after the Thimphu referral hospital introduced epidural analgesia, 20 women chose the medical technique that helps painless delivery of babies.

Epidural analgesia was launched at the Thimphu referral hospital as a gift from Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen to all the mothers of Bhutan.

From the 20 women, five delivered through caesarean section and two had vacuum deliveries. Health officials said there was no complication from the epidural analgesia administered so far.

Thimphu referral hospital’s medical superintendent Dr Gosar Pemba said epidural analgesia is not administered to reduce caesarean section but to reduce labour pain during delivery.

Dr Gosar Pemba said that they started the services with one anesthesiologist and two trained nurses. “Slowly we will be training more people,” he said.

Responding to accusation that many cannot avail the facility, Dr Gosar Pemba said doctors will have to will determine if a woman is fit for epidural analgesia.

After a woman is administered epidural, she is put under observation until she delivers. If found fit, dates are provided on which the cathedral would be inserted for epidural analgesia.

The service is available only at the Thimphu referral hospital for all pregnant women who opt for it or are suitable for free.

However, there are certain criteria based on which epidural would be administered. Women with deformity on the backbone, bleeding tendencies, low blood pressure and spinal abnormalities, among others, will not be eligible.

Health officials said that if a pregnant woman visits the hospital, fully dilated, they are not given epidural.

While the cost implication is not much, health officials said workload among the hospital staff especially of the birthing centre would further increase with the introduction of epidural. Each dose of epidural analgesia would cost about Nu 3,000 including the cost of the catheter set.

The health minister during the launch of epidural services announced that the maternity ward would be expanded with 30 more beds as the epidural analgesia labor increases labor time. About Nu 26M would be spent for the expansion.

On an average, about 12 babies are born everyday at the Thimphu referral hospital. In 2014, about 4,070 babies were born of which 27 percent were delivered through cesarean section.

Kinga Dema