Loading
Welcome to Babble,
Settings
Sign Out

Get the Babble Newsletter!

Already have an account? .

MENU

12 Things to Know About an Epidural

  • 12 Things to Know About an Epidural 1 of 13

    1: It's an effective way to cope with pain in labor

    It’s an effective way to cope with pain in labor When it works — and it most often does — epidural anesthesia is extremely effective at eliminating pain in labor. Sometimes known as the "Cadillac of analgesia,” the epidural blocks the transmission of signals through nerves in or near the spinal cord with a combination of anesthesia (which numbs the lower part of the body) and narcotics (which change the perception of pain).

  • 12 Things to Know About an Epidural 2 of 13

    2: It can decrease the chance of
    a C-section

    It can decrease the chance of a C-section If a woman is really exhausted and/or has been laboring for over a night (or two) without sleep, her labor may stall. At this point, the pain relief and relaxation from an epidural might get her labor back on track and help her avoid a C-section. Studies have shown that an epidural given after 5 centimeters dilation is less likely to slow down labor and lead to other interventions (such as a C-section) than those given earlier in labor.

  • 12 Things to Know About an Epidural 3 of 13

    3: It can increase the chance of a C-section

    It can increase the chance of a C-section Conversely, studies have shown that an epidural given early in labor — before a woman has dilated 5 centimeters — can sometimes slow down labor and lead to an increased likelihood of medical interventions such as a C-section. However, some studies suggest that the way labor progresses before the epidural has an impact on how the epidural affects labor. Women who hope to avoid risks associated with receiving an epidural early in labor may benefit from staying home until active labor begins and familiarizing themselves with other coping techniques and/or hiring a doula.

  • 12 Things to Know About an Epidural 4 of 13

    4: There are risks

    There are risks An epidural slightly increases rates of forceps and vacuum deliveries and vaginal tearing. In some cases it causes a sudden drop in blood pressure, which may or may not affect baby’s heart rate. (This is typically prevented or stabilized with medications and fluids). In addition, if the epidural is in place for over five hours it can cause a fever in mother and baby. Spinal epidurals are associated with slight increased risks such as difficulty swallowing and shortness of breath. Keep in mind, however, life-threatening consequences only affect around 1 in 4000 women.

  • 12 Things to Know About an Epidural 5 of 13

    5: There are different kinds

    There are different kinds An epidural consists of pain medications delivered to the epidural space (a.k.a. your back) via a catheter. The meds are on a drip so it takes a little while to kick in, but it can be adjusted or removed, if necessary. A spinal is a one-time injection of drugs into the spinal space backed up by a slow drip of meds. The benefit is instant relief; the downside is an inability to adjust or turn off the meds. A walking epidural is usually a lower-dose form of one of the above. The best fit for you will depend on the situation and what the anesthesiologist recommends.

  • 12 Things to Know About an Epidural 6 of 13

    6: A walking epidural is not what it sounds like

    A walking epidural is not what it sounds like A walking epidural sounds perfect: You get pain relief and you can move, which helps labor progress. But in practice, this form of pain relief — which is either a weak spinal-epidural or an epidural without anesthesia — doesn’t usually allow for much walking. Even if a woman has enough sensation to move around, the continuous electronic monitoring, blood pressure cuff and IV — all of which are required when medications are used in labor — limit mobility. Those who can bear some weight (and have a doctor’s approval) will benefit from getting into gravity-friendly positions such as leaning forward or kneeling.

  • 12 Things to Know About an Epidural 7 of 13

    7: There are side effects

    There are side effects The most common side effects from an epidural are nausea, itching and shaking. Most women also experience some temporary postpartum numbness and discomfort at the site of the injection (which can make some feel anxious), 10-12% have back pain for weeks or months postpartum, and about 1% suffer from a debilitating headache. The narcotics can also cause constipation, which is no fun postpartum (take stool softeners and stay hydrated).

  • 12 Things to Know About an Epidural 8 of 13

    8: It can make you feel more (or less) present for the birth

    It can make you feel more (or less) present for the birth Some women find the epidural makes it possible for them to really feel present at the birth. The elimination of labor pain allows a woman to chat or sleep or otherwise feel more clear-headed and aware of what's going on. However, for others, the disappearance of pain can feel weird or disconcerting. In non-medicated births, women can experience euphoria after the birth due to endorphins and hormones triggered, in part, by the challenges of labor. After a medicated birth, this relief may feel less pronounced.

  • 12 Things to Know About an Epidural 9 of 13

    9: It's not always ready when you are

    It’s not always ready when you are Hospitals in the U.S. are pretty efficient when it comes to giving laboring women epidurals, but that doesn’t guarantee yours will be administered the second you want it. For this reason, learning about other options for pain relief can be a good idea. Even if you know you want an epidural, you may feel reassured to know there are other ways to ease labor pain before you even get to the hospital — and at each subsequent stage of labor. Many women find it’s not one thing that helps, but a combination.

  • 12 Things to Know About an Epidural 10 of 13

    10: The window for getting one depends on where you deliver

    The window for getting one depends on where you deliver In some major hospitals, women can get epidurals pretty much whenever they want, (from very early labor to transition) but anesthesiologists are not always available at a moment's notice. Also, your care-provider may have specific ideas about whether it’s too soon or late for anesthesia. Talk to your care-provider about his or her opinion on this matter so you can consider your options.

  • 12 Things to Know About an Epidural 11 of 13

    11: It's common

    It's common It’s estimated that somewhere between 70-90% of women laboring in U.S. hospitals get epidurals. This can be reassuring if you know you want pain medication in labor, but not so reassuring if you’re trying to avoid it. It’s really wonderful that pain relief has gotten so good and so safe, but it’s unfortunate that many hospitals offer little else in the way of non-medical pain relief. Ask your care-provider or hospital-tour leader what options you’ll have for pain relief in your facility.

  • 12 Things to Know About an Epidural 12 of 13

    12: It's neither good nor bad

    It's neither good nor bad As you can see, weighing the benefits and risks of epidurals gets complicated. The importance of pain relief varies from woman to woman and labor to labor. Similarly, the risks of epidurals are not all static: they can slow down labor or help it progress it, depending on the situation. Learn your birthing options but know that in the end, you are the only one who can make the decision that’s right for you.

  • 12 Things to Know About an Epidural 13 of 13
FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrPinterest
Tagged as:

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, profile photo and other personal information you make public on Facebook (e.g., school, work, current city, age) will appear with your comment. Learn More.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrPinterest