Everything You Need To Know About Epidural

Everything You Need To Know About Epidural

Epidural procedure is one of those topics where you can often get lost among confusing medical terms and contrary information. Let us provide you with some well researched information on this important topic.

What is an epidural and what does it do?

An epidural is an anaesthetic injection administered to women in labour to relieve pain. It is normally given during the first stage of labour as there’s a time window when it can be administered. Usually it’s between dilation of  3-4 cm and up until 8 cm.  
It numbs the area between the belly button and upper legs.
Although the anaesthesia causes part of your body to go numb, you will still be conscious and alert throughout labour and childbirth. As such, during the second stage of labour, you will feel some pressure that should help you push.

How is an epidural administered?

A labour epidural is placed in your lumbar spine, which is in your lower back. First, the doctor will inject you with a local anaesthetic to numb the area around your lumbar spine. They will then insert a tiny tube called an epidural catheter. You should experience minimum pressure while the catheter goes into your lower back. Once in place, the doctor should use the catheter to administer the labour analgesia. You should start to feel the effects of the medication within 15 minutes of administration. Although the pain will subside significantly, you will still feel some pain. It is the best way to ensure that you stay alert during the labour.

Who is suitable for epidural labour?

Your healthcare professional should discuss your health history with you before performing an epidural on you. Once they determine that you have progressive labour, you are free to ask for an epidural. However, if you have a skin infection around your lumbar spine you should avoid an epidural. People with a history of bleeding disorders, specific brain/spine disorders, specific back surgeries, or any conditions that affect the nervous system should not get an epidural either. If you fail to comply with the procedure for medical reasons, it is unlikely that your doctor will perform an epidural on you.

Does an epidural cause back pain?

The doctor should numb the area of the epidural administration before inserting the catheter. As such, you should only feel a short-lived sting or burning sensation during the administration process. Since medicine will numb your nerves, you should only feel minimal pain during the epidural administration.    It should not feel like pain, but pressure as the needle goes into your body. An epidural has not been identified as the source of back pain pre or post-birth.

Are epidural injections safe?

Generally, epidurals are safe. Cases of serious complications are almost non-existent. Once administered by a trained anaesthetist, it should be safe as that’s a medical procedure with strict requirements to ensure its safety.

What are the risks and side effects of an epidural injection?

Irrespective of the high safety status of the epidural injections, they still pose a few potential side effects. These include:

  • Headaches: If the needle impales the spinal cord covering, you may suffer a recurring headache for the next few days after your procedure. It is extremely rare for this to happen. If it does, however, it is vital that you discuss possible treatment options with your healthcare professional.
  • Sore back: You may experience soreness on the point of insertion. Your back should stop feeling sore within a few days. If it does not, seek medical attention. It is unlikely that it will get to that point since no evidence exists on epidural causing back pain.
  • Low blood pressure: The injection may lower your blood pressure, and consequently slow your baby’s heart rate. To avoid this physician could give you extra fluids through your IV. Other times it is likely that the doctor will give you medicine to avoid the decrease in your blood pressure.

What are the advantages of an epidural during normal childbirth?

There are several upsides to requesting an epidural during normal childbirth. These include:

  • You will enjoy total pain relief without experiencing drowsiness or confusion
  • In case you have to undergo Caesarean Section your physician will only need to up your dose
  • If you are given a small dose of the epidural analgesia, you should retain the ability to still feel your contractions
  • It allows you to relax and save energy that you will need during delivery 

What are the advantages of an epidural during the C-Section?

  • It keeps you from feeling any pain, but you should be conscious throughout the process. This speed up the recovery process
  • You’ll resume your normal feeding, drinking, and movement much faster
  • It is highly unlikely that you will experience any side effects of the analgesia, such as vomiting or clotting

Please note that the information provided here is not meant to be treated as medical advice. Be sure to consult your GP if you have any concerns or if you need further clarification on anything. Good luck! 

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