Epidural anesthesia is the most popular and best known method of anesthesia for pain relief during labor. What you can expect from the anesthesia and whether it is recommended for everyone, explains Dr. spec. Slavica Vasiljevic, a gynecologist obstetrician from the clinics “Merida”.
What is an epidural anesthesia?
An epidural is given by the anesthetist in the area of the lower spine. You will have to be in a lying or sitting position, completely calm. Before that, a catheter will be inserted in the sterilized area, like in any other surgical procedure; you will receive a local anesthetic to reduce pain during puncture in the epidural spine. The anesthetic will be injected periodically through the catheter during the delivery. Depending on the dose of anesthetic used, there will be anesthesia (complete motor and sensory blockade) or analgesia (preserved motor skills, sense of feeling is significantly reduced, but still present).
Advantages of epidural anesthesia
– Reduction of unpleasant pain during childbirth.
– If you choose to have a caesarean the epidural anesthesia will relieve pain during the procedure, but also afterwards, during recovery.
– If the childbirth is long and hard and the woman who is giving birth is dog-tired then the epidural anesthesia can jump in and help the pregnant woman compose herself and actively finish with the delivery ofthe baby.
Disadvantages of epidural anesthesia
– The process of giving childbirth has a strong influence on the nervous system, and some women can’t walk, and their legs and lower spine feel numb due to the epidural. Additionally, some can’t even pick up the baby.
– It may cause a sudden lowering of the blood pressure. Therefore, doctors often check the mother’s and baby’s blood pressure. If there is a sudden drop in thee pressure, infusion, drugs, air is provided, and often an urgent caesarean is performed.
– When you inject an anesthetic, you will need to change frequently the body position (from one side to another). If you lie still, this may prolong delivery.
– Other side effects: shivering, ringing in the ears, back pain and pain in the area where the catheter was inserted, dizziness and problems with urination.
– There is a possibility that epidurals hinder compression during the last stages of labor, and the midwife will have to pull the child under vacuum. Other options are caesarean section or cutting of the perineum.
– If epidural anesthesia is not injected properly, there is the possibility of permanent nerve damage and spinal cord injury.