Epidural for Labor

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Apart from the incomparable joys of bringing life to earth, pain is perhaps another thing that comes to our mind when we think of pregnancy. The thoughts of a painful labor and delivery have always been plaguing mothers everywhere. But these days we hear of pain-free deliveries and pregnancy experiences and we can safely assume that it is epidural that they are all talking about. Almost two-thirds of women are now opting for an epidural for labor and delivery, if they choose to deliver in a hospital setting whether it’s vaginal or c-section delivery.

Epidural is in fact a type of anesthesia used to provide pain relief during labor and delivery. It is considered as a safe method for pain control because only a small dose of medicine is needed to get the desired effect. Unlike general anesthesia, this will not enter the bloodstream, so the possibility of the medications affecting the baby is not there.  Once the epidural is administered the contractions pain relief is expected to take effect within 10 to 15 minutes. The aim of an epidural injection is to keep the mother as pain-free and comfortable as possible so she can be alert and awake to welcome her baby into the world.

An epidural injection is given at the bottom of the spine and this works by blocking nerve signals or impulses that are responsible for feelings of pain from the lower part of the spine. An epidural can be given anytime during labor so even if this wasn’t a part of the mother’s birth plan it can still be given if the need arises during the delivery. Epidural are especially effective for longer surgical procedures like a C-section or while recovering from certain procedures. Having a pain management plan in place for the labor could also help reduce the risk for postpartum depression.

For most women the fear factor related to an epidural might be the needle size but this is no cause for worry as the needle is left in place only for a short time after administering a local anesthetic. Only a pinch or a sting can be felt for a few seconds and then slight pressure and no pain will be felt. The epidural medication may be continuously administered via the catheter as required and this can last throughout labor.

There are three types of epidurals; An epidural that is administered via a catheter into the epidural space in the spinal area. The catheter is left in place so medication can be given at a later time if required. A spinal injection epidural is given directly into the spinal fluid, this single dose injection can be used either alone or in combination with an epidural but this might wear off more quickly. A combined spinal-epidural or a “walking epidural” is a combination of spinal and epidural. This involves a lower dose of medication and it leaves the mother with some feeling in her lower half so she can move around and change positions. In this the pain relief is slightly more customized when compared to other two types.

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