The Epidural Uncovered

Most women today who said that they want pain relief during labor assume that they will take the epidural. Over 50% of women who give birth in a hospital ask for an epidural, and most women ask for this medication by name.

When you are about to go into labor, it’s certainly important to know about all of your pain relief options. As the most popular choice, the epidural is certainly an easy option. You should, however, not plan to take it without understanding both the advantages and disadvantages of its use.

What Is An Epidural?

Epidural anesthesia is regional anesthesia that prevents pain from being felt in a certain area of the body. It blocks the nerve impulses from the lower spinal area and creates a decreased sensation in the lower area of the body. It is a local anesthetic and it is given as a shot to the back. Before taking the epidural, you’ll have 1-2 liters of intravenous fluids. You’ll also have some blood taken. Next, an anesthesiologist will administer the epidural. You’ll have to arch your back and stay in a very still position while they are injecting the local anesthetic to numb you and while they inject the epidural. After you’ve been numbed, a needle will be inserted into the numbed space that surrounds the spinal cord in the lower back. A small tube is then threaded through the needle and the needle is removed. The catheter is then left in place so that medication can be given either periodically or through continuous infusion.

Epidural Benefits

The epidural certainly has many benefits for the woman. It alleviates the intense pain of labor and allows the laboring woman to rest. It can give some women a more positive birthing experience and more sense of control during the birth. It usually still allows you to remain alert and active during your labor. If your labor is prolonged, the epidural can help you to gather strength and to remain focused during this period.

Epidural Draw Backs

Epidurals can cause physical problems for the laboring woman. It may make your blood pressure drop suddenly. You’ll certainly need to be continually monitored throughout the rest of the labor if you have an epidural. You’ll need to stay in the bed, lying on your side and will have a fetal monitor on. Your labor may slow, as you are not moving about, and this can cause extra intervention including Pitocin. You may experience some side effects including ringing in the ears, backache, nausea, difficulty urinating, and severe headaches after delivery. The epidural can certainly make it more difficult to push the baby out, and may require extra intervention including forceps, vacuum extraction and Cesarean. For a few hours after the birth, you may be numb and may either need to remain in bed or to have assistance to move about.

Troubles for the Baby

The epidural does reach the baby during labor. This can result in a few difficulties for the baby. There may be respiratory depression, and an increase in fetal heart rate changes. The baby may also have trouble latching on to breastfeed when it’s first born.

Understanding all of your medication options before labor can help you to make the most informed decision. Remember that this is your labor and your baby – and you have to decide for yourself what the best course of action will be for your emotional and physical wellbeing, and for that of your baby.

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