Hundreds of thousands of pregnant women should be offered a better pain relief drug that halves the need for epidurals, the first trial of its kind has concluded.

Remifentanil is better at controlling pain than other opioids while helping women avoid the complications that sometimes come with epidurals, the study found. Women taking the drug were also half as likely to need forceps or suction to deliver their babies, said the researchers, who called for the drug to be a routine option on the NHS.

Epidurals are the most effective form of pain relief but many women are wary of the spinal injections, which lengthen labour and increase the need for instruments, risking long-term damage.More than a third of the 700,000 women a year… Article Rights