The epidural is a very popular pharmacological pain management technique used for labor and birth. An epidural procedure is designed to take away the pain of contractions while leaving pressure sensations so women can push their babies out. As many people know, there are epidural side effects to be aware of, including back pain after epidural. But there are also benefits to an epidural.
The epidural procedure is only done by anesthesiologists or nurse anesthetists. During the epidural procedure, the patient either sits up or lies on their side , with their back toward the anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist. The practitioner will cleanse the area then numb it with a local anesthetic. Once the patient is numb, they’ll insert an epidural needle into the epidural space (an area close to the spinal cord). Using the needle, they’ll thread a catheter—a thin plastic tube—into the epidural space. The needle is removed and the catheter remains. The practitioner will give a test dose of medication to make sure there’s no allergic reaction. The catheter is then taped to the shoulder and usually attached to a machine that dispenses the epidural medication in the correct amount. If working correctly, pain relief should last until the epidural is turned off.
While the epidural does provide pain relief in about 85% of laboring women, there are other benefits to the epidural.
- Does not appear to affect the baby. However, some lactation consultants feel initial breastfeeding is affected.
- Does not make moms drowsy. She’s awake and can participate in the birth. It also should not affect her mentally—she shouldn't hallucinate, lose touch with reality or become sleepy.
- Helps tense moms relax. If your labor has slowed down because you’re tense, getting an epidural and pain relief may help you to relax, potentially speeding up your labor.
While the epidural provides pain relief during labor for many women, there are some side effects to be aware of though.
- May slow down your labor. Once you get an epidural, you have to lie in bed. Because you’re not upright with an open pelvis, this may slow down your labor. Then you need pitocin or the doctor to break your water to keep things moving. Click here to learn more about pitocin.
- Might need a vacuum. Epidurals increase the potential for needing a vacuum to help the baby be born because your pushing muscles are numb and difficult to control. Click here to learn more about vacuums.
- Decreased blood pressure. This is why your blood pressure is checked every 15 minutes. IV fluids can help prevent this from happening.
- Back pain after epidural. Many women report they have back pain after an epidural. This may be due to the epidural or it may be due to an injury during the pushing process.
- Headache. There’s a 1% chance of getting an epidural headache, or a migraine that can last several days.
- May not give you the pain relief you want. 12% of women getting an epidural get a patchy block where they’re only numb on half of their body. 3% of women getting an epidural don’t get any or much pain relief.
- May affect initial breastfeeding. Some studies show that babies don’t breastfeed well in the first hour to mother’s who have had an epidural. More research needs to be done on this though.
- May give you a fever. Doctors see fevers in women who have had epidurals for several hours. While not related to an infection, fevers increase the chances of other interventions and doctors may observe your baby in the NICU for a while.
The information in this article is not medical advice. This information is not meant to treat, diagnose, prescribe or cure anything during your pregnancy, birth, or postpartum time. Always check with your care provider before following any advice from TheOnlyBabyStop.com.