Epidural

Epidural anaesthesia is a safe and effective method for pain relief during labor and delivery. Learn how an epidural is given, and the benefits and risks associated with it.

Last Updated: Oct 22, 2020 11:29 GMT

Epidural
Epidural

Yes, labor is painful! Women have endured pain for centuries. With medical developments, however, epidurals have come to relieve women of labor pain.

What is an epidural?

An epidural is a local anesthetic administered to a pregnant mother during labor in order to ease the pain in the lower part of the body. On an epidural, one will still be awake and alert to proceed with the normal birthing process. It is also given for a C-section delivery. Epidurals are not given to all women in labor though.

How is an epidural given?

An anesthesiologist must have gone through your medical history for bleeding, allergies, infection and blood pressure disorders before deciding to put you on an epidural. Also, the stage of your labor will also be considered to decide when to begin the epidural. 

An epidural is given as an injection of an anesthetic dose on the lower back. You will sit with light forward bend or lie on your side with your legs curled towards your inside. The anesthesiologist will then insert the needle on the lower spine, into what’s called the epidural space, outside the spinal cord and spinal fluid. Followed by the needle, a catheter will be passed through after which the needle is removed. 

The medication will continue to pass through the catheter during the delivery. It may take anywhere between 10 to 30 minutes for the anesthetic to take its full effect. You will start to feel the loss of sensation in the lower part of your body but you will still be able to feel your contractions without the pain associated with it, helping you to push the baby. 
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What are the benefits of epidural?
Here are the benefits of taking an epidural during labor:
Epidural is a safe and effective method for pain relief during labor and delivery.
  • The localization of anesthesia only to the lower part of the body helps you to remain awake and progress naturally through the birthing process.  
  • Epidural causes no or minimal risk to the baby. 
What are the risks of epidural?

While an epidural can be soothing for your labor process, it does involve some risks including the following:

  • Epidural may cause your blood pressure to drop. This can slow down the blood supply to your baby, resulting in reduced heart rate of the baby. 
  • With natural pain, your force to push the baby out is stronger. But with an epidural, the numbness in your lower part might impede the active birthing process which might demand forceps delivery in the latter stages. 
  • You might have to be on a urine catheter because, with the epidural effect, you will not feel the sensation to pass urine. This may cause urinary tract infections post delivery. 
  • You may develop headache, nausea, vomiting or itching after the baby is born.

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