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Postpartum - After Delivery

Epidural During Labor

Just about every pregnant woman must make the decision on whether or not to take an epidural during labor. There are many pros and cons to taking an epidural during labor. While some think the risks outweigh the benefits, others could not do delivery without it.

Because the epidural during labor is the most effective and popular means for pain relief while giving birth, more than 50 percent of women are given the epidural anesthesia. As a pregnant woman, it is important to properly research the different types of pain relief when it comes to giving birth. There are different types of an epidural that can be administered during labor. There are also risks involved, which make many women leery when making the decision to use an epidural during labor or not. Keep reading to find out more about the risks associated with taking an epidural during labor.

 What is an epidural?

An epidural is a type of anesthesia targeting toward a certain region to block pain from that particular part of the body. The idea is just to provide pain relief rather than complete lack of feeling, this is meant to help the mother continue to push during delivery rather than be so numb she is unable to push. However this still happens occasionally with some women and other tools like forceps must be used to help assist in the delivery. The epidural blocks the nerve impulses from the lower segments of the spine. This results in a decreased sensation in the lower half of the body to help with pain management during labor and delivery.   

How is an epidural administered?

The epidural during labor and delivery process begins with IV fluids given to the pregnant woman to help keep her hydrated throughout the entire process. The epidural is administered with an anesthesiologist or a physician or nurse who specializes in anesthesiology. The pregnant woman will be asked to arch their back and remain as still as possible while laying on the left side or sitting up. The positioning during the epidural process is vital to ensure it works correctly and does not harm the mother. If taken wrong, there are severe risks involved for both mother and baby. The small area of your back chosen as the spot to administer the epidural will be numbed, then the needle will be inserted into the numbed area of the back that surrounds the spinal cord. A small tube is then threaded through the needle to the specified epidural space. Then the needle is removed leaving the tube in place so that medication (the epidural) can be injected continuously or periodically. The tube is taped to the back to prevent it from falling out. 

Types of epidural:

There are two basic types of epidurals during labor a woman can use. However, many doctors choose to vary on the combinations or dosages of these types. The first is considered a regular epidural. This works through a combination of narcotic and anesthesia. It is given through a pump or periodic injections. The combination used is meant to assist in treating some of the side effects associated with the anesthesia.  The other type of epidural is called a combined spinal epidural or is often referred to as a "walking epidural." After the initial dose, the tube is left to administer more of the drug as needed. This allows more movement in the bed. 

Benefits of taking an epidural during labor

For many first-time mothers, labor can be a long and severely painful process. However, the use of an epidural can  help provide rest and relief in these situations. By relieving the pain associated with child birth, more women have a more positive birthing experience. Child birth is also a scary process for some and may cause severe stress and anxiety. The epidural during labor is a great tool to help provide relief and rest from some of those feelings. 

Risks of an epidural

While doctors are getting better and better at finding ways and techniques to perfect the epidural during labor process, there are still some risks associated with taking the drug. It may cause your blood pressure to suddenly drop or cause severe headaches. The epidural might also make pushing more difficult for some pregnant women, and other tools might have to be used to complete the birthing process. Walking after delivery might be difficult if the anesthesia has not worn off completely. Although it is extremely rare, there are some instances where the needle insertion can cause permanent nerve damage and paralysis in the area where the catheter was inserted. 

Taking an epidural during labor can be a different experience for every woman. It is a good idea to weigh the pros and cons of having an epidural during labor to find out if it is the best option for you. 


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