Everything you need to know about an epidural birth
An epidural birth reduces pain during childbirth. Labour pains are very intense, and some women may request an epidural to get through the process as painlessly as possible. Every pregnant woman has the right to decide what childbirth experience is the best for her.
What is an epidural?
Epidurals are spot painkillers, which means that they are administered to treat pain in specific areas of the body. They work for some kinds of surgery and are also used during childbirth. Usually, painkillers are injected into the small of the back or the spine. The injection could contain specific pain medication or a mix of medicines.
During epidural births, the drugs are injected near the nerves that carry signals from your uterus to the brain. This makes it possible to numb contraction pains in the uterus.
Where to get an epidural birth
You can only get epidurals in hospitals. Epidural births have to be monitored by trained medical staff in hospitals. The anaesthetist is responsible for preparing and administering the epidural.
It is unavailable to people who prefer to give birth outside of the hospital environment. Remember not to accept epidurals from untrained non-medical staff.
When do you need an epidural?
Childbirth can be a long process, and your doctor should advise you about when is the best time to get an epidural.
It is common for women to wait until they have stronger contractions before they request an epidural. Also, as the cervix dilates more and more, usually when it is about 6 cm, the doctor may suggest an epidural at this point.
Often times, the doctor will tell you it is too late to get an epidural once you have already started pushing.
One important benefit of an epidural birth is that the pain-relief effect doesn’t end once the baby is born. If you need after-birth stitches or if the doctor needs to reach inside and retrieve your placenta, the epidural does a great job of minimizing the pain.
The epidural birth procedure
For an epidural birth, you’ll need to be awake for the injection.
The anaesthetist will place an IV drip in your arm to provide fluids will you get the injection.
You’ll get into position to get the injection—you can lean forward while sitting or lying on your side while hugging your knees to your chest.
The anaesthetist will numb the area around the injection with a local anaesthetic.
The epidural catheter will be inserted into the back via a needle.
The needle will be removed, leaving only the catheter in place.
Pain relief medicines are then administered through the epidural catheter.
The drugs will kick into effect after 20 – 30 minutes.
Some parts of your body will go numb as the drugs begin to take effect; this is to minimize the pain in these numb areas.
The doctor may elect to leave the catheter in place even after childbirth, this is to enable them to pump in fresh doses of pain relief medication as needed.
What happens after an epidural?
The effects of the drugs will wear out eventually. Until then, your doctor may recommend lying down and resting until you get back feeling in your legs. Let your medical team know if you feel pain. To minimize the risk of accidents, you shouldn’t drive or operate heavy machines 24 hours after an epidural birth.
How effective are epidurals?
• Many women report having pain-free births after getting epidurals
• The woman is awake to relish the total birthing experience
On the other hand, there are many disadvantages to include:
• There are reported cases where epidurals fail completely
• Also, it might take a while for the pain relief to kick in—up to 40 minutes in
some cases—which means that the woman may still feel some pain before the drugs start to work
• Epidurals will lead to loss of mobility. It will be impossible to move around soon after you get it because the legs usually get weak
• Although the risk of developing nerve damage is pretty low, it is still a possibility with epidural births
Epidural birth side effects
If you elect to get an epidural birth, you should be aware of these side effects. This doesn’t mean that you will experience these, but you will still need to watch out for negative effects like:
Loss of bladder control
An epidural birth gives women the option of minimizing or completely eliminating pain during childbirth. If you are considering getting it, this article prepares you for the things you should expect before and after the procedure.
Also Read: Is water birth less painful?