Epidural During Pregnancy- 101

One of the main anxieties of the most mother-to-be in the 9 months of pregnancy is the pain of childbirth and whether they will be able to handle it. There are so many horror stories about how bad the labor pains can be, which are enough to wake the poor mamas in cold sweat in the middle of the night. However, it is reassuring that there are several pain relief options which are available for the expecting moms nowadays, one the biggest names of which is the epidural. An epidural is a kind of anesthesia which is injected in the back to stop you from feeling pain in part of your body, commonly given for pain relief in childbirth and in some types of surgery.  Epidural eases the pain while delivering a baby. It is a regional anesthesia that blocks pain in a particular body part. Whether you chose for the epidural is completely up to the parents, however, it is your basic right to know about the options available to you.

Types of epidurals

There are several types of epidurals available for your benefit. However, it is important that you talk to your doctor and narrow down your choice, according to your pregnancy status and what will suit you. There is the difference between the procedures and the kinds of medications used in each of the epidural types.

Traditional epidurals: The traditional epidurals is used to block and anesthetize the lower part of the body. These epidurals take about 20 minutes to show their effect. Even if they work pretty well, the traditional epidurals can sometimes affect the mother’s ability to push the baby out.

Walking epidurals: Walking epidurals is a newer procedure which relieves labor pain effectively, ensures comfortable childbirth as compared to traditional pain relieving methods. Walking epidurals numbs woman's abdominal nerves, because of which she can still move around and feel herself pushing a baby. Walking epidurals takes only about two minutes to show their effect after the injections are shot. This type of epidural allows more freedom with regards to movement in the bed and ability to change positions with assistance. Make sure you ask your doctor about moving around and eating and drinking restrictions after the epidural is injected.

Spinal epidurals: A dose of one injection is given if spinal epidurals are used during childbirth. The numbing effect of these epidurals fades off quickly as compared to other forms of epidurals.

Epidural Procedure

The procedure of placing epidural on an expecting mom is an important step and any problem in any one of the steps can lead to serious repercussions.

  • You will start receiving IV fluids will be started before the active labor kicks in and before the epidural is placed. You will receive close to  1-2 liters of IV fluids throughout the process of labor and delivery.

  • You will now need to arch your back and be in a position to receive the epidural. The position demonstrated by the doctor is crucial for avoiding problems and increased effectiveness.

  • Your waistline is first wiped with an antiseptic solution in order to reduce the chance of infection. First, your back will be injected with a local anesthetic to numb the area.

  • A needle is now inserted into the numbed area.

  • A small tube or catheter is placed into the epidural space.

  • The needle is gently removed, while the catheter is taped in place to provide epidural through injections or infusion.

Advantages of epidurals

Epidural comes as a savior for an expecting mom in the time of labor and helps make the grueling and painful process a lot more bearable. Some of the benefits of epidural anesthesia are highlighted below:

  • Epidurals make childbirth a lot less dreaded experience by relieving pain significantly and allowing you to get some rest if labor is prolonged.

  • Walking epidurals enables the mother to stay awake even when a cesarean delivery is going on.

  • Epidurals are great for people having tocophobia-the fear of childbirth.

  • With the differences in the dosages and types of the epidurals, the mother might be able to move in bed even when part of her body is numb.

  • When other coping mechanisms are a failure, an epidural can an effective medium of dealing with exhaustion, irritability or fear.

  • The intensity of epidural can be increased or decreased without a separate injection which allows the hospital administrations have control on how much epidural is to be given and when.

Disadvantages of epidurals

Even though epidurals might feel like a lifesaver to most mom, there are some disadvantages attached to them too. Some of the most apparent drawbacks are highlighted below:

  • If you have local epidural anesthesia, your lower half of the body might be completely numb.

  • Risk of drop in a mother's blood pressure.

  • Since the mother is  connected to IV and monitor, her movements are restricted and closely monitored.

  • It might making the pushing process much more difficult thus requiring c section or assisted delivery like forceps or a vacuum.

  • Some women feel cold or itchy all over the body

  • Some women get no pain relief or very little relief.

  • Some women get weakness in the legs

  • There are also some cases of permanent nerve damage.

Discuss with your doctor:

  • Whether you can have an epidural at your chosen hospital or birth centre

  • What epidural procedures the hospital uses

  • What other types of pain relief are available to you and might suit you best.

Frequently asked questions about Epidural

Does the placement of epidural anesthesia hurt?

The pain of placing epidural anesthesia differs with pain tolerance of a women. Some might describe it as a feeling of discomfort in the area where the back was numbed, while for others, it can be a bit more painful.

When exactly is the epidural be placed?

Epidurals are generally placed when the cervix is dilated to 4-5 centimeters and your labor has truly started.

How can my epidural affect labor?

Your epidural can surely make your contractions feel weaker or not feel them at all. It is important to maintain a fine balance so that the pushing does not stop, which can significantly slow down the whole process.

How can an epidural affect my baby?

Even though the researches are ambiguous on this, some of the effects of an epidural include difficulty in latching during breastfeeding and the baby becoming lethargic and have trouble getting into position for delivery. The medications can also cause respiratory depression in some cases.

Will epidural work for me?

Epidurals are effective in most cases and are excellent for relieving pain during labor. However, they are easier on some women compared to others. While there are cases where the woman can still feel the pain, there are also cases where the body becomes too numb to push and require assistant delivery options. There is guarantee on how a particular body will react to a particular process of epidural.

Not all women have a high pain tolerance during labor. Even though every woman has a desire to give birth to her baby naturally, there is no shame in seeking aid from pain relief procedures when pain becomes unbearable. Every woman might have  a different opinion on the epidural, the risks around it, and whether it is worth the risk, and it is a decision which needs to be made by mom alone, as she is the one who has to endure the pain in the first place and she gets to take the call on whether she can bear it or not.

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