It is no secret that childbirth can sometimes be a painful and daunting experience. Talk to almost any mother who has gone through it, and they’ll most probably tell you that it didn’t feel good.
However, giving birth is a personal experience, and whatever somebody else went through might not be the same case for you. Today, expectant mothers have a wide range of options for achieving a calm, relaxing, and pain-free birth.
Epidural anesthesia is one of the commonly used ways of managing pain during childbirth. But, what exactly is an epidural, how does it work, and what are some of its benefits and risks? Read on to find out everything that you need to know about epidural.
What Is Epidural Anesthesia?
Epidural anesthesia is a pain management injection that is usually administered to your lower back. The primary goal of epidural is to numb the nerves and stop the expectant mother from feeling pain.
Apart from childbirth, epidural; anesthesia can also be used in surgery. The areas that can be numbed by an epidural include the pelvic region, abdomen, and the legs. How numb the nerves become will depend on the type of drug that is used and the amount administered.
Typically, you can get epidural anesthesia at any stage of your labor, but most women tend to request for it when the contractions start getting strong.
How Is an Epidural Done?
Your anesthesiologist will request you to sit up on the edge of the bed, and he/she will proceed to wipe your back with an antiseptic to reduce chances of infection. Next, he/she will give you an injection in the lower back region. The injection contains the drug that will numb the area.
After that, the anesthesiologist will carefully position a large needle between the bones of your spinal cord in the lower back region to create space for the catheter to be inserted into the area outside the cover of the spinal canal.
The injection works with gravity so your anesthesiologist will ask you to lie down for about 20 minutes before you can start to feel the pain relief effect.
How Long Will the Epidural Stay In?
Typically, the tube will stay in your back until the pain is completely under control, and you can take pain relief pills. Remember the fact that the primary goal of the epidural is to help you achieve a pain-free birth, and as long as you can still feel the strong sensations, the tube will stay in.
Not Everyone Can Get an Epidural
While epidurals are safe for a majority of expectant mothers out there, for a small segment of the population, the procedure might be risky. There are a few medical conditions that can prevent one from getting an epidural.
You may not be a right candidate if you have a blood infection or if you have a low platelet count. The doctor may also advise against it if you have got infections on your back or if the anesthesiologist has difficulties locating the epidural space.
Sometimes, It Might Fail to Work
Perhaps, one of the greatest downfalls of epidurals is that it might fail to work even after withstanding two injections in your spinal canal. Sometimes, you may be forced to go through the process more than once to achieve the desired results. Fortunately, if your epidural doesn’t work, the doctor will recommend other pain management options.