Everything You Need to Know About Getting an Epidural for Labour
Pregnancy and childbirth are significant events in a woman’s life that come with their fair share of discomfort. For centuries, women have used various techniques to manage labour, from breathing exercises and hypnobirthing to acupuncture. However, epidural anaesthesia has emerged as one of the most popular pain management options for women in labour. In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about getting an epidural for labour.
What is an epidural?
An epidural is a type of regional anaesthesia that numbs a particular region of the body. In the case of labour, the epidural is administered in the lower back, which blocks the pain signals from the uterus and cervix. The procedure involves inserting a needle into the epidural space between the spinal cord and the protective sheath surrounding it. A catheter is then inserted through the needle, and the anaesthetic medication is delivered continuously or intermittently, as required.
Epidurals are known to be effective in managing labour pain. They offer complete pain relief in the lower half of the body, allowing the woman to relax and focus on the labour process. This can be particularly useful in cases of prolonged labour or if the mother has a medical condition that can make labour more painful.
Another benefit of an epidural is that it can help lower stress levels during labour. Women who receive epidurals are often more relaxed and less anxious, which can lead to a more positive birth experience. Additionally, epidurals can also be used to manage high blood pressure and other medical conditions during labour.
Like all medical procedures, epidurals come with some risks. One of the most common side effects is a drop in blood pressure. This occurs because the epidural numbs the nerves that control blood vessels, causing them to relax and expand. In most cases, this can be managed by administering IV fluids or medication to increase blood pressure. However, if the blood pressure drops too low, it can cause dizziness, nausea, or even fainting.
Another potential risk of epidurals is a prolonged second stage of labour. This is the stage when the baby is born, and the cervix is fully dilated. The epidural can slow down or even stop the contractions, making it harder for the baby to move down the birth canal. In some cases, this can lead to an assisted delivery.
In rare cases, epidurals can cause nerve damage or infection. This can occur if the needle or catheter damages the spinal cord or surrounding nerves. However, these risks are rare.
When is the best time to get an epidural?
The best time to get an epidural during labour varies depending on the individual woman’s circumstances and preferences. Typically, an epidural is given when a woman is in active labour and experiencing significant pain or discomfort. This is usually when the cervix has dilated to around 4-5 centimetres.
However, some women may prefer to wait longer before getting an epidural, while others may want one as soon as possible. It’s important to discuss your preferences with your healthcare provider and make an informed decision based on your individual situation and the recommendations of your healthcare team.
It’s worth noting that epidurals can slow down the progress of labour. So if you’re hoping for a natural birth or shorter labour, you may want to consider waiting until later in the process or apply hypnobirthing instead. However, if you’re experiencing significant pain or distress, an epidural can provide relief and help you feel more comfortable during labour.
If you’d like to try hypnobirthing as an alternative to epidural, please click here for online classes.