Most women experience severe pain during labor and childbirth. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists says “Labour results in severe pain for many women. There is no other circumstance where it is considered acceptable for a person to experience untreated severe pain, amenable to safe intervention, while under a physician’s care“.
There are different methods of providing pain relief during childbirth but Epidural analgesia is the most effective method of pain relief.
What is epidural analgesia?
Epidural analgesia decreases pain in a specific area of the body — in this case, the lower part of the body. The procedure involves a small injection placed in your lower back, through which a fine tube (epidural catheter) is passed into your back. Medications can be injected through this tube to relieve the pain of labour. These medications are local anaesthetics which cause numbing of the nerves and pain sensation without affecting the ability to move. An epidural takes about 10 minutes to place and an additional 10 to 15 minutes to work.
How safe is it for my baby?
In general, epidurals are safe for the baby as it is injected into the spine and not through veins. Any medication that you receive during labour, including pain-relieving anesthetics, surely reaches the baby’s bloodstream through the umbilical cord. Medications used in the epidural analgesia are as safe as any other painkillers that are given to expectant mothers and hence do not affect the baby in adverse ways. There aren’t any long term side effects of using epidurals.
The mother’s blood pressure is monitored closely, just as the baby’s heart rate , throughout the course of anesthesia administration. This is to make sure that there is not a drop in the blood pressure of the mother due to epidural as this could reduce the oxygen supply to the baby.
Benefits of Epidural analgesia
Epidurals are usually very safe and are a very effective form of pain relief. Some of the benefits are:
- There is no drowsiness from having an epidural like with other forms of pain relief. You will be able to stay alert throughout the labor.
- You are usually still able to move around and feel when it’s time to push.
- If for any reason you need to have a C-section, the same epidural can be used to administer anesthetic medication. This is excellent because it relieves the pain for a c-section but you can stay awake for the birth.
- There is no right or wrong time to have an epidural analgesia during labour. However, it is usually given during the active stage of labour, when you feel more frequent contractions and your cervix has dilated.
Possible disadvantages of Epidural analgesia
An epidural can be used to deliver different types of local anaesthetics, which also differ in the side effects that they cause. Common epidural side effects include
- The medication given may make you feel nauseous and/or vomit.
- You may have a drop in blood pressure but this is not usually serious.
- You may experience itching after having an epidural injection but we will usually give you something to relieve the itch.
- About 25% of all women who have an epidural will experience a fever during labor. It is not known why this happens but is usually nothing to worry about.
- After your baby is born your back may feel quite sore. This usually clears up in a couple of days and we also provide pain relief when needed.
Epidural Service at La Loma Luz Adventist Hospital
We offer epidural service, and make sure that you have painless and normal delivery. We have an anesthesiologist trained in providing labour analgesia and dealing with any problems that may arise. If you need further information to help you decide if you would want an epidural, in your next prenatal visit, I can provide further information. It does not matter if you get an epidural or not, I am here to assist you through all the process of labour till you can hug your baby.