Is it safe to take epidural during labor?
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All women know that with epidural anesthesia they will not feel severe pain during labor. However, it is important not to base your decision solely on this fact. It certainly helps to learn more about this method for pain reduction, how it works and how it feels and what its major pros and cons are.
What is Epidural anesthesia
Epidural anesthesia is one of the most popular methods of pain relief during childbirth. Women specifically ask for an epidural, more than any other way of pain relief. More than 50% of women who give birth in hospitals use epidural anesthesia.
The term epidural anesthesia is used to describe the administration of a numbing drug in the place around the spinal nerves in the lower back.
The epidural space is located between the dura and the ligamentum flavum. Extending from the foramen magnum to the sacral hiatus, and it contains the emerging nerve roots of the spinal cord, fat, and veins.
Epidural anesthesia involves the injection of a local anesthetic and an opioid in the lumbar epidural space, from where it gradually diffuses through the dura mater to the subarachnoid space.
The drug is injected by a medical professional trained especially for the purpose and called the anesthesiologist. During the procedure, the anesthesiologist uses a needle to place a catheter at your waist or below. The catheter is taped to your back and goes upwards to be taped at your shoulder as well. This allows for the administration of the numbing drug throughout the whole birthing process.
The medication administered with the epidural anesthesia will work to numb your body from the waist down. You will still feel all sensations, but the sensation of pain will be considerably reduced. You will be able to move as well, even though your ability to push may be affected. You will be perfectly conscious and capable of making decisions.
The amount of pain that you feel after the administering of the epidural anesthesia will depend on the amount of the numbing drug given to you. Just keep in mind that as the level of pain is reduced your ability to push actively will be reduced as well. In general, you are the one who will work together with the doctors to have the dose appropriately adjusted.
What are the types of epidurals?
Currently, two necessary epidurals are used. Hospitals and anaesthesiologists will have different doses and combinations of medications. Ask your hospital care providers about their practices in this regard.
Once the catheter is in place, a combination of narcotics and anesthesia is administered by a pump or by periodic injections into the epidural space. An anesthetic such as fentanyl or morphine is given to replace some of the higher doses of anesthetics, such as bupivacaine, chloroprocaine or lidocaine.
This helps reduce some of the side effects of anesthesia. You want to know more about your hospital’s policy to stay in bed and eat.
Spinal-Epidural Combination (CSE) or “Epidural Walk”
An initial dose of anesthetic, anesthetic or a combination of both is injected under the outer membrane covering the spinal cord and in the epidural space. This is the intrathecal area. The anesthetist will remove the needle from the epidural space, insert a catheter into the needle, remove the needle, and leave the catheter in place.
Benefits of Epidural Anesthesia during labor
The main benefits of the epidural injection include effective pain relief, control over the amount of the numbing drug introduced to your system and greater relaxation and rest during labor allowing you to gain more strength for pushing. Only an insignificantly small amount of the drug can reach your baby, and it cannot cause any harm. If a c-section becomes necessary, the anesthesia will be administered more quickly, and this will speed up the procedure lowering the risk of complications for you and the baby.
Risk of Epidural Anesthesia during labor
There are some side effects associated with epidural anesthesia during labor. These include low blood pressure and less common ones such as loss of sensation in the legs, fever during labor, facial itching and nausea and a prolonged strong headache.
When this pain relief method is used, the pushing stage of labor may become longer as the mother cannot push strongly enough. The chances of the labor process being slowed down are higher.
In such cases, the doctor may have to use vacuum extraction of the baby or resort to forceps delivery. C-section is required in fewer of the cases.