7 things about an epidural that all moms-to-be should read NOW!

7 things about an epidural that all moms-to-be should read NOW!

Gone are the days “when a huge needle was injected into your spine”. These days, a small catheter is inserted into your lower back and through it, pain-relieving medicine is passed on to your lower body, which is the main area that is affected during the time of delivery.

Talk of labor and the thought alone sends chills down a mom-to-be’s spine. Every mom who has gone through it would agree that labor pain was the worst pain of her life, but one which gave it a new beginning.

This is why more and more moms-to-be are opting for epidural anesthesia these days. However, there are many myths and misconceptions that surround the usage of epidurals.

Read: It’s now okay to eat while you’re in labor, says study

theIndusparent caught up with Dr Ragini Agrawal, leading gynecologist and Clinical Director of W-Hospital in Pratiksha, Gurgaon, to understand how an epidural works, answering the most commonly asked questions surrounding the usage of an epidural.

“The delivery of the infant into the arms of a conscious and pain-free mother is one of the most exciting and rewarding moments in medicine. The labor pain is said to be one of the most severe pains experienced by humans. At our hospital we have the policy of low dose (mobile) epidurals to ease labor pain for mothers,” she says.

#1 How does an Epidural work? 

You must have heard that an epidural is the most effective way for labor to go “smoothly”, but it would still be wise to know as much about it as you can before opting for it.

Gone are the days “when a huge needle was injected into your spine”. These days, a small catheter is inserted into your lower back and through it, pain-relieving medicine is passed on to your lower body, which is the main area that is affected during the time of delivery.

“The anesthetist passes a fine catheter into epidural space (space around the spinal cord) through which continuous infusion of measured doses of drugs are administered. It is removed after the episiotomy has been sutured or can be continued for pain relief for 24-78 hrs if cesarean is done,” says Dr Agrawal.

The drug contains a combination of a local anesthetic and a narcotic. The anesthetic blocks the pain, while the narcotic stop the transmission of pain to your brain through your nerves.

#2 How is an epidural administered?

The hospital staff would brief you about the position you need to be sitting in before you get your epidural shot. Mostly, you’ll be asked to sit up and lay on your side so that the spine is more visible. A small prick would then be made at the lower back where the catheter goes in and you would feel that the pain would start easing off in sometime.

Epidural_Anesthesia cropped

Image courtesy: wikipedia

The medications would be administered into your bloodstream either at brief intervals or continuously. It would be wise to consult your gynecologist much before your delivery if you plan to opt for an epidural. 

#3 Does epidural affect the baby?

 “The effect of low dose epidurals on maternal and fetal respiration and well being are negligible,” says Dr Agrawal.

It must be noted here that there are other medicines as well that are used during labor and delivery and most of them are safe and have no effect, whatsoever, on the baby. However, it can cause a drop in the blood pressure levels of the mother for the first few minutes. But the doctor and the anesthesiologist would be there to monitor you, so there’s nothing to worry about!

Read more epidural facts on the next page

#4 Does epidural increase the chance of a C-section?

There are no studies that say that epidurals increase the chance of a C-section or other complications during delivery. However, if a C-section does happen, it would be mostly due to delivery complications and not due to the epidural.

“The Cochrane Database Systemic trials have clearly emphasized that epidural analgesia had no statistically significant impact on the risk of cesarean section. Besides, this, large randomized trial involving 1,054 patients (COMET study) has shown that low dose of epidural infusion was associated with a 25% decrease in the instrumental vaginal delivery, ” says Dr Agrawal.

#5 Does epidural hamper breastfeeding?

This is another myth associated with the usage of epidurals and one that has no studies to validate it. “No, several studies and trials failed to demonstrate a significant association between epidural and lactation failure or less-successful breastfeeding attempts,” says Dr Agrawal.

# 6 Does epidural prolong labor?

“Yes, they do. On an average, epidurals increase labor by an hour,” adds Dr Agrawal.

#7. Does epidural increase the incidence of chronic backache?

Back pain affects around ninety percent women during and after pregnancy and it does not follow that those who take an epidural experience back pain.

“No, it doesn’t. That’s another common misconception about epidurals,” adds Dr Agrawal.

Republished with permission from: theIndusparent

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