Cynthia’s threshold for pain was really low. As a child, she avoided any form of rough play that could result in painful injuries. Eventually, the inevitable call of puberty and menstrual cramps came along, and she had to rely on minor analgesics (paracetamol and others) to deal with the pain every month. When pregnancy came, she couldn’t get her mind off the possibility of extreme pain during childbirth. During one of her antenatal clinics, she explained this fear to the attentive doctor, who prescribed an epidural as a means to block out the pain.
What Exactly Is An Epidural?
The word ‘epidural’ means ‘near the spinal cord’.
It refers to an injection that is administered close to the spinal cord with the aim of preventing pain. These injections usually contain steroids or pain relief medication.
It is a common pain relief method during labour.
Epidurals create a certain degree of numbness from your bellybutton to the upper parts of your legs. This enables you to stay awake and active all through the delivery process. They allow you to watch your little one come into the world while causing you minimal pain.
How Is It Done?
In cases where an epidural is necessary, the doctor will insert a needle and a tiny tube (catheter) into the lower section of your back. After insertion, the needle would be removed while the tube would remain in place to serve as a delivery channel for the medication.
When Does It Begin?
An epidural can begin at any point during labour.
Some women prefer it at the beginning while others would rather wait till the end. Actually, the choice is yours to make (in consultation with your doctor)
Is It Really Painful?
Just before the procedure, the doctor will numb the region where the medication is to be administered. In most cases, this action may result in a quick burning sensation at the selected site.
However, this is very helpful because it prevents you from feeling any pain as a result of the epidural injection. Although, most people tend to feel a little pressure when the needle is inserted.
What Are The Advantages?
- They reduce pain during labour
- You can continue to receive pain relief medications via an epidural for as long as you require
- The amount of medication delivered through an epidural can be regulated as necessary
- It aids relaxation, thereby speeding up the first stage of labour in most women.
Is Your Child At Risk After An Epidural?
The quantity of medication that reaches a baby from an epidural is really small. Therefore, there is little or no risk to your little one after having one.
Additionally, studies show no evidence of a birth defect caused by an epidural.
Is There Any Side Effect?
Generally, epidurals are very safe.
In most cases, there is a very low risk of complications as a result of epidural. However, as it is with all drugs, there are potential side effects.
- Decreased Blood Pressure (hypotension). The doctor will be on the lookout for this and be on hand to carry out measures or give medications to prevent or counter this effect.
- Sore Back
If you experience any of these symptoms after an epidural, please consult your doctor for proper care. Learn more about the causes of back pain after childbirth.
One More Thing
It is a really good idea to share all concerns with your doctor before delivery day. Don’t be afraid to seek out help or ask for medications to deal with pain in this period.
Epidurals are safe, easy and advisable in most cases.
You Are Not Alone.
- Salynn Boyles, 2003. Epidural Injections for Childbirth Rising https://www.webmd.com/baby/news/2030122/epidural-injections-for-childbirth-rising.
- Epidurals. https://www.asahq.org/whensecondscount/pain-management/techniques/epidural/