Pain Relief During Childbirth - Epidural
Epidurals are increasing in popularity as they do offer complete pain relief during childbirth for 90% of women when administered correctly.
Administered directly through a curved hollow needle into a specific area near the spinal cord, the epidural space, an epidural blocks pain signals.
Epidurals need to be administered by an anaesthesiologist who will place a small plastic tube into the epidural spce shich can the be topped up with medication as necessary. To be administered correctly it is necessary to stay very still whilst lying on your side or sitting on the edge of your bed. You will be asked to bend over slightly. It is a good idea to find something to focus all your attention on as this is happening and to breath slowly in through your nose and gently out through your mouth.
An epidural can be administered at any time during labor and topped up as required. Usually women opting for epidurals require a catheter to be passed into the bladder (which can sometimes cause difficulty passing urine afterwards) and a drip in their arm. It is also likely that your baby will be monitored constantly throughout the labor with either the use of an electrode attached to his head or via a belt placed around your belly.
In the past having an epidural meant that a mother was confined to bed both during her labor and until the drug had worn off after the birth. However, many hospitals now offer mobile epidurals which allow mobility right up until the birth itself.
Epidurals, whilst very effective also have side effects which mothers need to discuss with their consultant before birth. These can include severe headaches and blood pressure problems after and during birth as well as an extended labor. However, having an epidural can be of benefit to women with high blood pressure.
In some cases an epidural will not work correctly and in these instances you may find you are numb down one side or that part of your belly is not anaethesitised. They can also cause some women to feel very shivery and if this is the case for you then it may be necessary to remain in bed especially if your feet and legs are also numbed.
Another disadvantage of epidurals is that you may not be able to feel when it is time to push so some mothers feel a little out of control as their midwives have to direct them. This may also result in a forceps or ventouse being necessary in order to deliver the baby.
Women requiring epidurals often have to request them in advance as they are not always available. Some hospitals only offer the at certain times of the day meaning that your baby may have to be induced early if you request one. Others offer them all day and night. It is advisable to find out well in advance what your own hospital offers.
Epidurals are not available for home births!
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