A natural, pain-free birth may seem impossible. But with the advancement of science and technology, it is possible to experience labor naturally and without pain. This is possible by experiencing an epidural pregnancy.
No matter how many books you have read or stories you have heard from your friends. You will not know how you will feel during labor until you are actually in the middle of it.
An epidural injection is one of the most prevalent ways of anesthesia for pregnancy. Here, you will learn the essential information about this pain reliever.
What is Epidural?
For a long time, mothers have been giving birth to their children in two ways, natural and C-section. Today, a new method has been developed for natural childbirth. This way the mother can give birth to her baby without enduring the pain of natural childbirth. In this method, epidural anesthesia is used to labor pain management.
Epidural is only one of the types of pain reduction methods during natural childbirth. But at the same time, it is the most effective of them.
In this method, the anesthesiologist inserts a needle in the lower back in the epidural space and not in the spinal cord. Then the epidural needle is removed but leaves the thin plastic catheter on the needle. Afterward, the local anesthetic medication is injected into the back through the catheter to numb the birth area and reduce the pain.
As a pregnant woman, you may have chosen epidural anesthesia as a part of your delivery. It is not uncommon for some mothers to choose an epidural when preparing for natural birth in the hospital. Others may choose to have a delivery without anesthesia and pain medication.
Benefits of Epidural
- Pain relief
- Relaxation of body muscles: in some cases, the fetus is tuned correctly and ready for delivery but cannot pass through the birth canal. Here, the use of epidural anesthesia can relax the muscles of the pelvic floor.
- Rest: If you have experienced long labor and uterine contractions, do not allow yourself to rest. Epidural anesthesia can help you to reduce pain.
- Reducing anxiety: anxiety and stress during childbirth can slow down the progress of the delivery. With the use of painkillers, pain and anxiety are reduced, and delivery may progress faster.
- No need to receive anesthesia during cesarean delivery: If you need to have a c-section during delivery, epidural anesthesia comes in handy. This way, you do not need to receive general anesthesia during the surgery and are awake during the surgery.
Side Effects of an Epidural Medicine
Epidural anesthesia is generally a very safe and convenient procedure if done correctly. But pain relief is not enough in about 5 to 10% of cases. Also, in rare cases, the amount of epidural anesthesia may be too high and cause breathing problems. There are no long-term side effects of epidural, but some other side effects include:
- Excessive numbness: Sometimes, you become too numb and cannot feel contractions or push effectively.
- Low blood pressure: The mother's blood pressure rarely drops significantly. This can slow the baby's heart rate and complicate the delivery process. However, this happens rarely and is entirely transient. IV fluids can usually reduce this problem, but a cesarean section may be necessary in rare cases.
- Headache: Few mothers may experience a headache after epidural anesthesia. This headache can be mild, transient, or severe and last from a few days to a few weeks. Drinking plenty of fluids, taking painkillers, and resting is enough to treat it. The more you lie on your side and rest, the sooner the headache will disappear.
- Inability to urinate: You may not be able to urinate after giving birth. This problem is caused by various factors. For example, the use of drugs that induce labor pain, the pressure of the fetal head on the birth canal, prolonged labor, and of course, epidural anesthesia. In this case, the bladder may be numb and may not feel the need to urinate.
Urinary retention is such a way that the bladder has a large volume of urine, and the person cannot expel it. In such conditions, a urinary catheter is inserted into the bladder.
Best Time to get Epidural during Labor and Delivery
Not all mothers want to undergo epidural anesthesia. Your doctor (surgeon and gynecologist) will talk to you if you are exposed to the complications of epidural anesthesia. They introduce you to other options. People who should not use epidural anesthesia include the following:
- If using blood thinners
- Low platelet count
- Heavy bleeding with low blood pressure
- Active infection in the body. This increases the risk of meningitis and catheter insertion site infection.
- The cervix has opened less than 4 cm. Which means that the active phase of labor has not yet started.
- Delivery is imminent, and there is not much time left until delivery.
After epidural anesthesia, the mother may feel less pressure in the pelvic area due to less pain. Then she may not be able to push sufficiently and effectively in the last stage and help the fetus come out. So, it is preferred to avoid epidural anesthesia to prevent slowing down the labor process in the final stages. Doctors should use other pain relief methods such as injectable painkillers, anesthetic gas, massage, and relaxation techniques for these people.
Essential Points about Epidural for Pregnancy
- Using this method indeed removes the fear of many mothers for natural childbirth. But you should note that it requires an expert anesthesiologist and gynecologist so that everything goes well without any problem.
- Epidural anesthesia does not cause back pain or spinal cord injury during natural childbirth or cesarean section.
- There is an opinion in society that this type of anesthesia causes back pain after childbirth. At the same time, we should know that one factor causes back pain after delivery. About one year after childbirth, this factor increases the intensity of previous back pain. This factor is an increase in lordosis or lumbar depression during pregnancy.
- In epidural anesthesia, the medication enters the space around the spinal cord. Its effect is entirely transient and does not cause any damage to the spinal cord.
- You can prevent aggravation or back pain development by exercising during pregnancy. Wearing a medical pregnancy band and sleeping and sitting or standing correctly during pregnancy can also help.
- Some of the best labor positions with epidural include: Kneeling at the foot of the bed, semi-sitting (supported by legs), supported squat, and side-lying.
Any pregnant woman can, at the discretion of the doctor, request epidural anesthesia. However, it is only recommended for women who do not have a history of illness or do not have any contraindications for epidural anesthesia.
This is often at the beginning of the active phase. Most pregnant women want to receive this anesthesia when they feel severe labor pain. It is also used when the labor has entered the active phase.
The catheter inserted for the injection of epidural anesthesia can remain in the mother's body until the end of labor and the removal of the placenta. Even it can relieve pain caused by stitches.