The immense pain that a woman undergoes during labor is the reason they opt for epidurals. Pain management is a critical aspect during delivery, which can be achieved by medical (epidural or spinal block) or complementary methods (breathing techniques or acupuncture). Recent studies report that about 60 percent of women receive an epidural for pain management during hospital deliveries.
Most epidural side effects are mild and rare and can be minimized if a trained anesthesiologist administers them. Some common side effects of an epidural include
- Sudden drop in blood pressure
- Ringing in the ears
- Difficulty urinating
- Increases chances of a Cesarean section
Some of the rare serious side effects include:
- Severe headache caused by leakage of spinal fluid
- Decrease in the fetal heart rate if the mother doesn’t alternate sides
- Delayed labor because the epidural makes pushing more difficult
- Numbness of the lower body for a few hours after childbirth
- Rarely, permanent nerve damage can occur at the site of catheter insertion
- Some babies may have latching problems. Babies might also experience
- Respiratory depression (the lungs fail to exchange carbon dioxide and oxygen effectively).
- Fetal malpositioning (the back of the fetal head is in an abnormal position)
- Increase in fetal heart rate variability (a sign of fetal distress)
Thus, if you wish, you can choose other alternatives for pain management, including
- Water birth
- Acupressure and acupuncture
- Relaxation exercises
Medications may have side effects, but natural therapies are devoid of side effects. However, natural therapies won’t cut through your pain. Based on your pain tolerance and comfort, you can choose any of the above methods. However, make sure to learn about the procedure in detail from your physician.
What is an epidural?
An epidural is a form of regional anesthesia that blocks pain in a particular region of the body. It combines analgesic and anesthetic pain relievers, which are delivered through a catheter (fine tube) in your lower back. The function of an epidural is to block pain signals before they reach your brain. After receiving an injection, you’ll lose sensation below the waist. However, you’ll be awake and capable of pushing when you’re ready to deliver your baby.
The most commonly used anesthetics include
The most commonly used analgesics include
There are two types of epidural
- Regular epidural: After placing a catheter, the anesthesiologist administers a combination of narcotic and anesthesia either by a pump or by periodic injections into the epidural space.
- Combined spinal-epidural (CSE) or walking epidural: The anesthesiologist may sometimes combine a spinal block with an epidural to provide instant pain relief. With a spinal block, the medications are injected into the spinal fluid to numb the lower half of the body. The effect of a spinal block lasts for one to two hours.
Although an epidural makes your delivery less laborious and painful, it isn’t devoid of side effects. Therefore, discuss the procedure in detail with your doctor before you decide to have one.
How is an epidural given?
Before placing an epidural, the anesthesiologist will start you on intravenous fluid. Before giving an epidural, you will have to sit and arch your back. The anesthesiologist then cleans the site and administers the epidural.
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