|

Epidurals for Pain Relief

In This Article:

Epidurals

An epidural is a regional anesthetic that can be given at any stage of labor to numb the abdomen and therefore block the pain of contractions, but it's typically given when the woman is at least 4 cm dilated. In some cases, if a woman's labor progresses very quickly and she doesn't request one right away, she may not be able to get one before delivery. Epidurals are the most popular form of pain relief during labor in the US, with more than half of pregnant women delivering in hospitals choosing this treatment.

How epidurals work

A hollow needle is inserted between two vertebrae in the lower back. A tiny plastic tube is then passed through the needle and into the epidural space surrounding the spinal cord. A local anesthetic is injected into the needle and flows through the tube into the epidural space so that the nerve roots carrying the pain stimulus to the brain are coated with anesthetic and pain is reduced or completely blocked. This will affect sensation in your legs so that you need to remain in bed and your baby will be closely monitored. A stronger epidural also affects sensation in your bladder, so you will need to have a catheter. Used late in labor, a stronger epidural may mean that you need help to push the baby out, since the pelvic floor muscles will be heavy and ineffective. In this case, your doctor will put a hand on your abdomen to feel when a contraction starts and will tell you when to push. In some cases, an assisted delivery becomes necessary.

When are epidurals used?

Epidurals can be used throughout labor, but they're typically given during active labor when a woman is 4-5 cm dilated. Since everyone has varying pain thresholds, the time when one is requested varies. There are factors to bear in mind should you opt for an epidural late in labor. To minimize the risks, you must remain completely still during the placement of the epidural tube. If your labor has progressed too far to enable you to do this, the anesthesiologist may refuse to proceed with an epidural for your own interest. Also, if you choose to have an epidural late in labor, it may be necessary to give a high dose so that it takes effect in time, which has disadvantages (see Considering an epidural).

If you're considering using an epidural, inform your doctor early in labor so that she can consult the anesthesiologist. The anesthesiologist may then discuss this with you and take a brief medical history to ensure that it's safe for you to have an epidural. She will discuss any risks, and answer any questions that you or your partner has, all of which can save time later on if you decide to go ahead.

There are occasions when an epidural is not advised. These include cases where a woman has had spinal surgery or is taking blood-thinning medication. Rarely, a woman may have an infection that could be exacerbated by an epidural.



 Previous   1   2   3   Next 

excerpted from:

Excerpted from Pregnancy Day by Day.
Copyright © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited.
Buy this book now!

Pregnancy Day by Day

Tell us your due date to receive our daily newsletter and find out what is happening in this day of your pregnancy!

Already a member? Log-in here

Name of the Day

highlights

6 Questions to Ask Before Getting Your Child a Cell Phone
At what age should you get your child a cell phone? Before you decide to add your child to your family plan, ask yourself these questions.

Find Today's Newest & Best Children's Books!
Looking for newly released books for your child? Try our new Book Finder tool to search for new books by age, type, and theme, and create reading lists for kids!

10 Great Mother's Day Gifts for Grandma
Looking for a special Mother's Day gift for Grandma? Bring a smile to her face with one of these thoughtful and creative gift ideas!

Registered for Kindergarten — Now What?
Wondering what to do now that you've signed your child up for kindergarten? Try our award-winning Kindergarten Readiness app! This easy-to-use checklist comes with games and activities to help your child build essential skills for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Facebook icon Follow Us on Pinterest

© 2000-2015 Pearson Education, Inc. All Rights Reserved.