Epidural Analgesia In Labour

Every pregnancy is different and every birth story is different too. What a mother goes through during delivery is unique and not the same for every woman. As you progress into the third trimester, the time to think about your own decisions regarding the birthing process also arrives. If you are not facing any pregnancy complications, it is most likely that your doctor will recommend a normal delivery for you. Although many women do compare c-section and normal delivery before deciding when the choice is in their hands. Once you know what type of birthing process is going to take place, the next big thing to consider is Epidural Anesthesia. Both vaginal birth and cesarean births have use of epidural analgesia, especially when the labour is long.

What is Epidural Analgesia?

It is a way of making labour pain relief for a woman going through delivery. In fact, it is one of the most common methods of pain relief, women asking for it more than any other known method.

The actual method goes about injecting regional anesthetic drugs into your epidural space, covering your spinal cord, causing a numbing sensation instead of the pain you are supposed to experience. But you should know that it does not guarantee complete pain relief because of the varying dosage that is administered to different women.

Pregnant woman being given epidural analgesia in labor

Administration of Epidural Analgesia for Labour

In the clinical administration of epidural analgesia in labor, a special needle is used to put the local anesthesia into the lower lumbar region of your body. A thin plastic tube is introduced in the epidural area, also known as the lower spinal region, to help in this. The drug blocks your nerve impulses causing decreased sensations in the lower half of your body, and ultimately very little to no pain at all. 

Labour time and intensity varies from case to case, therefore it is not unusual to be given more than one dose if your pain is too high. Sometimes, pregnant women are also administered epidural analgesia for labor in constant small dosages through a pump rather than as separate bigger dosages. It takes about 10-20 minutes for the drug to start the action and finally numbing your pain. Doctors usually take precautions with the amount of the epidural analgesia given to you because the over-dosage of the drug can also be very harmful to you.

Advantages of Epidural Analgesia in Labour

Here is a list of some of the very clear advantages and benefits of using epidural analgesia in labor:

  • It gives you the chance to relax and rest for a bit if your labor is long and exhausting.
  • Giving birth to your child is an irreplaceable experience and epidural can help it make a more positive memory with reduced discomfort.
  • Since local anesthesia is used in epidural analgesia, you can be an alert and active participant in the birthing even when its c-section.
  • It is an effective pain relief even when other methods of reducing the pain fail to work.
  • Since it is so widely used, the method is constantly being refined and made more advanced to benefit pregnant women more.
Epidural analgesia and labor pains

Risks of Epidural Analgesia in Labour

Just as there are certain benefits to it, thee are also a number of possible risks and disadvantages of the combination of epidural analgesia and labor pains:

  • There is a very real possibility of your blood pressure dropping to worrying levels during labor due to the use of analgesia. In such cases, you might be given IV fluids, oxygen and medication to tackle the problem.
  • Since the epidural numbs the lower half of your body, it makes pushing out the baby more difficult as your muscles don’t function the way you would like them to. To prevent your labor from slowing down, the doctor will make you take turns in laying on your side on the bed. 
  • Anesthesia can sometimes react in a negative way and cause some of the following symptoms in you- shivering, ringing in the ears, backache, soreness where the needle is inserted, vomiting or even difficulty in urinating. These are temporary problems that can be resolved by your doctors when you inform them.
  • The numbing effect of epidural analgesia in labor might linger till after birth and you make require some assistance in moving. There are rare cases when some permanent nerve damage happens at the place where the needle was inserted. 

Using epidural is an important decision in your birth plan, something you should do more research about when you are going through a third-trimester checklist of things to do. Make sure that you discuss it and any potential risk with your doctor before choosing to go with epidural analgesia. After all, you have to take care of yourself and your baby the best in this time!

FAQs about Epidural Analgesia and Labour Pains

Q1. Does epidural analgesia in labor lead to cesarean birth?

Ans. No, epidural does not necessarily cause a c-section birth. Although it usually increases the duration of the labor process, analgesia leads to more instrument-assisted deliveries rather than causing cesarean births.

Q2. At what time during labor, the epidural is administered?

Ans. The time during your labor when the epidural is administered is typically when the cervix is dilated to 4-5 centimeters and you are in true active labor.

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