How Does An Epidural Work And Is It Safe For Me And My Baby?
Epidural is a form of pain relief during labour. It is a numbing medication that is administered through a catheter tube in your lower back and it aims to ease the pain of contractions and delivery. It usually offers a numbing sensation from the belly button down and takes just a couple of minutes to start working. You might be wondering why on earth all women don’t opt for an epidural in this case? People have very strong opinions on Epidurals and like all things concerning labour and your baby, it is important to be armed with the facts.
Can All Women Get The Epidural?
Technically the answer to this is no. An epidural can be given to a women at any stage during labour but it is not recommended unless the women is in active labour as epidurals, in some cases, can slow labour down. If an epidural is your preference the doctor will usually give you a rough idea as to when she will be happy to call for the anaesthetist. It may be when you are dilated to a certain amount but not over another amount. Epidurals are also not administered when a woman is labouring in the water. During this kind of birth gas and air are offered instead.
How Is The Epidural Given?
When the anaesthetist enters your room you will most likely want to throw your arms around them. They are the magic people who take the pain away. In most cases, they will ask you to sit on the bed with your head bared down while you remain completely still. In most cases, the epidural is not very painful as the contractions are intense and painful in comparison. It usually involves a quick sting or pinch and it is all over within a couple of minutes. It is very important to stay still and follow the instructions of the anaesthetist as the needle is placed in a very delicate area of your spine and it must be very precise to avoid complications.
Can I Be Mobile After I’ve Been Given The Epidural?
In some cases, the epidural can be given at a low enough dose to allow women to walk around during the first phase of labour. Gravity will always be your best friend during labour but usually, when a woman has received the epidural she will remain in the bed and will labour in this way due to her lower tummy and the tops of her legs feeling numb.
How Does The Epidural Affect A Woman During Labour?
The desired effect of an epidural is local pain relief so that a woman can still feel completely alert during labour but with reduced or minimal pain. However, it can cause labour to slow down which is not ideal. In some cases, the epidural can affect a woman’s blood pressure. Your care team will keep a close eye on your blood pressure to ensure that adequate blood flow can reach your baby. In most cases a urinary catheter will be fitted as the numbness in your lower tummy makes urinating very difficult. The catheter will be removed an hour or two after the labour as the numbness begins to wear off.
How Does The Epidural Affect The Baby?
There are minimal risks for your baby. The medication is a local anaesthetic and only a tiny amount is absorbed by the bloodstream and available to pass through the placenta. In rare cases, a drop in the mother’s blood pressure can reduce the flow of blood to the baby which can lead to the baby’s heart rate dropping. This is usually rectified by IV fluids or the mother changing position.
Written by Tracey Quinn staff writer at FFHQ who also blogs at www.loveofliving.ie.