What is an epidural?
An epidural is an anesthetic technique using a small tube placed in the lower back to deliver local anesthetic or other pain medicines to decrease or eliminate pain during labor. After an Epidural block is injected, it takes 10-20 minutes for it to take effect. You will remain awake and alert while receiving this type of anesthesia. Sometimes Epidural refers to as Epidural block.
Does it hurt to get an epidural?
Compared with the contraction pain, placement of an epidural results in minimal discomfort. As the epidural is placed, you will feel a brief sting on the skin. After this, you should feel only pressure in your back during the procedure. The needle is then removed entirely. I personally had an Epidural and I’m glad I made that choice. It reduced my pain so much that I thought it was a godsend. My delivery experience would have been filled with intolerable pain without Epidural. Getting an Epidural is a personal choice and you should consult with your doctor to find what is best for you and your baby.
What are the risks of an epidural?
According to American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, although it is rare, an epidural block can cause the following side effects:
- Decrease in blood pressure— this in turn may slow the baby’s heartbeat.
- Fever—some women develop a low-grade fever as a normal reaction to an epidural.
- Headache—if the covering of the spinal cord is pierced while the tube is being placed and spinal fluid leaks out, you can get a bad headache. This happens rarely.
- Soreness—after delivery, your back may be sore for a few days.
- Serious complications with epidurals are very rare:
- There is a small risk that the anesthetic medication could be injected into one of the veins in the epidural space. This can cause dizziness, rapid heartbeat, a funny taste, or numbness around the mouth when the epidural is placed.
- If anesthetic enters your spinal fluid, it can affect your breathing muscles and make it hard to breathe.
When will my epidural be placed?
Typically epidurals are placed when the cervix is dilated to 4-5 centimeters and you are in true active labor.
Does using an epidural increase my chances for a C-Section?
According to the National Institutes of Health, “Epidural analgesia does not increase the rates of cesarean section.” This is also supported by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology who states, “Fear of unnecessary cesarean delivery should not influence the method of pain relief women can choose during labor”. You should ask your health care provider about his or her beliefs and feelings about pain relief during childbirth.
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References and Resources
- American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists – Medications for Pain Relief During Labor and Delivery
- U.S. National Library of Medicine – Pregnancy and birth: Epidurals and painkillers for labor pain relief
- U.S. National Library of Medicine – Epidural analgesia for labor: Current techniques
- National Institutes of Health – Epidural Pain Relief During Labor Does Not Increase Chance of C-Section