Epidural Pros and Cons: Should I get one during childbirth?

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Overview

Childbirth is one of the most challenging moments in one’s life . Your body will be physically strained during the birthing process. Hours or days might pass between painful contractions during labour and delivery, which can involve straining, tearing, and pressure. 

Pain control has become a crucial component of labour. One of the most popular ways for women in labour to control their discomfort is with an epidural.

What is an epidural?

An Epidural is a type of regional anaesthetic, commonly referred to as an epidural block. A medication known as a regional anaesthetic produces a loss of sensation in a significant portion of the body, typically from the waist down.

The location of the numbness can change based on the type and placement of the epidural a doctor employs. For example, receiving an epidural during delivery results in a belt of numbness extending from the belly button to the upper legs.

The drug is injected into the epidural area by a doctor, thus the term, which refers to the injection site. The space between the spinal cord and the dura mater, also known as the dural membrane, is referred to as this region. By inhibiting the spinal cord nerves that often alert the brain to pain by sending a signal, this medication can aid in the prevention of pain.

In surgical operations like abdominal and spinal surgeries, as well as during delivery and labour , a doctor may think about administering an epidural.

What happens during an epidural?

Usually, an epidural is administered in the delivery room. Although the implantation is painless, numbing your skin beforehand may cause you some discomfort. Small tubes are inserted into your lower back during the epidural procedure, allowing a pump to steadily provide painkillers to your lower body. 

In order to make sure the epidural is placed correctly, your doctor might test a little dose. The length of the epidural is not very long. Depending on the anaesthetic being used, it usually takes around 15 minutes for the drug to start working. 

An epidural injection blocks the passage of pain signals from the spine to the brain. 

What are epidural benefits and risks?

You might discuss with your OBGYN when to get an epidural during labour. You might receive an epidural right away when labour begins or later on. If you have gone through any of the following, getting an epidural could come with certain risks: 

  • Recently undergone extensive lower back surgery
  • Issues with blood clotting
  • Utilising specific blood thinners 
  • Lower back infection 

Although epidurals are excellent for managing pain, there are certain hazards involved in the surgery. An epidural might not always be enough to relieve your discomfort. In some cases, epidurals might lower your blood pressure, which will reduce your baby’s heart rate. Epidurals also carry the potential of making labour impossible to move through.

You can discuss alternative methods of pain relief or anaesthesia with your doctor if getting an epidural isn’t the best option for you in order to get through labour. This is something you should talk about before you give birth, before you go into labour.

Pros of an epidural

Pain reduction

One of the best ways to relieve pain during labour and delivery is with an epidural, which has few negative effects on both the mother and the newborn. Within 10 to 20 minutes, it can start to reduce pain. It works swiftly. Most women who have an epidural experience little to no discomfort when giving birth.

It enables you to unwind

You may be able to sleep more soundly if your labour pains are reduced. This may be especially useful if your labour is prolonged. A more satisfying birthing experience might also result from the ability to unwind and stay pain-free.

You may benefit from staying focused

You can participate actively in labour by staying awake with the aid of an epidural. Additionally, if forceps or a hoover are required to help get your baby out, it can save you from agony. If you need to deliver via C-section, an epidural enables you to remain conscious during the process and offers pain relief.

Potentially reduce postpartum depression

According to a study, some women may experience a lower risk of postpartum depression (PPD) if they use an epidural. The assertions that epidural usage lowers the risk for PPD, however, there isn’t enough evidence to support this.

Throughout your pregnancy, it’s crucial to talk to your doctor or midwife about how to manage labour pain. They can assist you in developing a strategy that serves your needs and your objectives. In the event that your initial plans need to change while you are in labour, they can also assist you in developing alternatives.

During labour, an epidural is available at any time. Even if getting an epidural during labour wasn’t in your original birth plan, it’s still a good idea to know that you can if necessary.

They work well for more extensive surgical operations. During lengthy surgical operations, such as a C-section delivery, or while recovering from specific treatments, an epidural can offer continuous pain relief.

Pros and Cons of Epidural Blocks

Cons of an epidural

Results in decreased blood pressure

Your blood pressure may drop suddenly after receiving an epidural. To ensure sufficient blood flow to your baby and throughout your body, your blood pressure is monitored during your labour and delivery. You might require medication, water, and oxygen if your blood pressure falls.

Negative effects

Side effects that some women encounter include shaking, fever, or itching. You can experience nausea or vertigo after having the epidural removed, along with back pain and soreness where the needle was put.

The percentage of women who get a severe headache is somewhere around 1%. Even though it is extremely unlikely, spinal cord damage from a needle or catheter, as well as from bleeding or infection in the epidural space, could result in chronic nerve loss. The potential of long-term harm is quite low for anaesthesiologists because of their rigorous training.

Makes pushing more challenging

With an epidural, some women report having more trouble giving birth. This may raise your likelihood on needing interventions like forceps, medicine, or a C-section.

Makes perineal tears

According to research, women who use epidurals are more likely to experience perineal tears. You are more likely to sustain a perineal tear if you also have the following:

  • Baby with heavier birth weight
  • Labor induction
  • Episiotomy

After giving birth, your lower half could feel numb for some time. After giving delivery, you could feel some numbness in your lower half for a few hours. You might have to stay in bed till the numbness goes away as a result.

Difficulty in urinating

The likelihood that you’ll require a urinary catheter to empty your bladder increases if you receive an epidural. This is merely transitory. You can take out the urinary catheter if your numbness goes away.

Long-term complications of an epidural

Epidurals rarely have major side effects. However, potential long-term issues could arise from:

  • Breathing issues 
  • Spinal cord or nerve damage that is permanent
  • Persistent tingling or numbness

Back discomfort can occur at the injection site and during labour, but it is extremely unlikely that an epidural will result in chronic back pain. And although it is not impossible, studies suggest that the extremely low likelihood of irreversible nerve injury.

Summary

Although epidurals are typically regarded as safe, choosing whether to get one is a personal choice. In the end, you’ll have to balance the advantages and disadvantages and choose what’s best for you and your family.

Talking to your doctor about the advantages and disadvantages of epidurals as well as alternative pain management techniques is also a good idea.

Making a plan can make you feel more ready for childbirth. But keep in mind that even the best-laid plans might change at any time. In order to be ready with a different birth plan that you are still at ease with, it is also a good idea to have a backup plan.

FAQs

1. Is it better to deliver without an epidural?

An epidural may be advised in some circumstances, including as when your labour pain is so severe that you feel fatigued or out of control. However, this is typically a personal choice. You can obtain some rest and improve your attention with an epidural. It’s more likely than average that you’ll require a C-section.

2. What is the biggest disadvantage of taking an epidural?

Despite being rare, a needle or epidural tube could cause nerve damage. Nerve damage can cause a lack of feeling or movement in your lower body. The most common symptom is a small, numb patch with normal movement and strength. Although it typically gets better within a few days or weeks, this might sometimes take months.


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The Information including but not limited to text, graphics, images and other material contained on this blog are intended for education and awareness only. No material on this blog is intended to be a substitute for professional medical help including diagnosis or treatment. It is always advisable to consult medical professional before relying on the content. Neither the Author nor Star Health and Allied Insurance Co. Ltd accepts any responsibility for any potential risk to any visitor/reader.

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