Epidural anesthesia is the most popular method of pain relief during labor. Women request an epidural by name more than any other method of pain relief. More than 50% of women giving birth at hospitals use epidural anesthesia.
As you prepare yourself for “laborday,” try to learn as much as possible about pain relief options so that you will be better prepared to make decisions during the labor and birth process. Understanding the different types of epidurals, how they are administered, and their benefits and risks will help you in your decision-making during the course of labor and delivery.
What is epidural anesthesia?
An epidural is an anesthetic technique that consist of administering drugs in the epidural space via a catheter inserted into the lower back. It alleviates or eliminates contraction-induced pain by acting on the pain-transmitting nerves.
This technique has now become very popular. Nowadays, over 80% of women giving birth in our institution benefit from an epidural.
This film has been prepared for pregnant women who wish to know more about the technique and how it is performed.
Different anesthetic techniques are used for vaginal and cesarean deliveries.
What are the benefits of epidural anesthesia?
Allows you to rest if your labor is prolonged.
By reducing the discomfort of childbirth, some women have a more positive birth experience.
Normally, an epidural will allow you to stay alerted and remain an active participant in your birth.
If you deliver by cesarean, an epidural anesthesia will allow you to stay awake and also provide effective pain relief during recovery.
When other types of coping mechanisms are no longer helping, an epidural can help you deal with exhaustion, irritability, and fatigue. An epidural can allow you to rest, relax, get focused, and give you the strength to move forward as an active participant in your birth experience.
The use of epidural anesthesia during childbirth is continually being refined, and much of its success depends on the skill with which it is administered.
What are the risks of epidural anesthesia?
Epidurals may cause your blood pressure to suddenly drop. For this reason, your blood pressure will be routinely checked to help ensure an adequate blood flow to your baby. If there is a sudden drop in blood pressure, you may need to be treated with IV fluids, medications, and oxygen.
You may experience a severe headache caused by leakage of spinal fluid. Less than 1% of women experience this side effect. If symptoms persist, a procedure called a “blood patch”, which is an injection of your blood into the epidural space, can be performed to relieve a headache.
After your epidural is placed, you will need to alternate sides while lying in bed and have continuous monitoring for changes in fetal heart rate. Lying in one position can sometimes cause labor to slow down or stop.
You might experience the following side effects: shivering, a ringing of the ears, backache, soreness where the needle is inserted, nausea, or difficulty urinating.
You might find that your epidural makes pushing more difficult and additional medications or interventions may be needed such forceps or cesarean. Talk to your doctor when creating your birth plan about what interventions he or she generally uses in such cases.
For a few hours after the birth, the lower half of your body may feel numb. Numbness will require you to walk with assistance.
In rare instances, permanent nerve damage may result in the area where the catheter was inserted.
Though research is somewhat ambiguous, most studies suggest that some babies will have trouble “latching on” causing breastfeeding difficulties. Other studies suggest that a baby might experience respiratory depression, fetal malpositioning, and an increase in fetal heart rate variability, thus increasing the need for forceps, vacuum, cesarean deliveries, and episiotomies.