Epidural - An Anesthesia Administered for Pain Relief for Giving Birth

There's no question about it, labor and delivery can be very painful. Some women prefer to complete their pregnancy with natural childbirth, that is, giving birth to their babies without the aid of any type of drug. They use breathing techniques, relaxation, sometimes hypnosis, and often the help of a doula or midwife. Natural childbirth ensures the baby has not been affected at all by drugs, and in most cases, women delivering their babies this way do so with no problems.

Popularity of Epidural Anesthetic

Many women, on the other hand, opt for pain medication for labor and birth. The most popular form of pain relief medication during birth is epidural anesthesia. Often, women don't even consider other types of pain relief, though there are several options. There are situations where natural childbirth is not viable, as in the case of a pregnancy c-section (caesarean delivery), or if there is difficulty in the delivery and it requires forceps or induction. In cases such as a c-section, the woman can remain awake and hold her baby immediately after the birth, even though she has just undergone major surgery.

Some hospitals and doctors determine that an epidural can only be administered until a certain period in the labor, at which point they will not give this type of medication. The concern is that it will either slow down the labor or stop it all together, which is detrimental to the well-being of the baby. If an epidural is administered for labor and birth, there is an added benefit if an episiotomy is necessary. Since the lower part of the body is already blocked and cannot feel anything, the incision and the stitching of a pregnancy episiotomy is not felt by the woman.

Administration Of An Epidural

The epidural is administered with the woman either sitting or lying down, but curled as tightly as possible to allow the anesthesiologist the best access and view of the spine. The area of the back is cleaned with a solution and then a local anesthetic is given to lessen the pain of the epidural needle going into the spine. The position of the needle is tested to ensure the drugs are going to the right place and then the needle is removed and a catheter is left in place and taped down for safety. Once the test is confirmed, a bag of medications is hooked up to the catheter in the back and the anesthetic does its job. It is important that the woman communicate with the anesthesiologist about the areas of numbness she is experiencing in order for any adjustments to be made if necessary. After the delivery, the catheter is removed and eventually the numbness disappears. However, many women experience pregnancy epidural back pain at the site of the insertion of the catheter. This epidural back pain can last for several days with soreness and tenderness in the area. Pregnancy epidural videos are available to show exactly how the procedure is performed. These epidural videos are clear and helpful when it comes to alleviating fear and answering questions.

When An Epidural Cannot Be Given

There are some cases where an epidural cannot be given. Certain medications, like blood thinners, or problems with the blood work may indicate an epidural is not a good choice. Safety dictates that a woman who is having heavy bleeding or who has an infection in the back, should not be given an epidural either. If the doctor can't find the right spot on the back to make the insertion, of if there is no anesthesiologist available, then having an epidural is a moot point. In some hospitals, after a certain point in labor, the administration of an epidural is prohibited. If, after checking with the doctor about the viability of an epidural, a woman discovers it is not for her, then she can explore some of the other methods of pain relief available for labor and delivery.

Pitocin And Epidural Anesthetic

In some cases, when pregnancy pitocin is used to induce labor or speed it up, an epidural is needed to manage the pain. Pitocin is a synthetic form of the naturally occurring hormone, oxytocin, the contraction hormone. Generally, the contractions felt by a woman who has been given pitocin are reported to be stronger and more painful than without the drug. Pitocin is administered by IV drip and continuous fetal monitoring is required because of the increased risks of fetal distress and uterine rupture. Should a c-section be necessary, the woman has already been administered an epidural, so the time is saved in an emergency situation.

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