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Epidural Anesthesia – Manage Labour Pain

Epidurals are increasingly used to manage labour pain. Let’s weigh its pros and cons to know should you use it or not. 

Over the last 50 years, more and more women are demanding epidural anesthesia during childbirth to avoid traumatic experience of labour pain. Well, in view of the growing popularity of epidural anesthesia, we thought it will be good to take a look at its pros and cons.

What is Epidural anesthesia?

Epidural anaesthesia is the use of anesthetic agent as an injection in the lower back to cause total or partial loss of sensation in the lower hip region between fundus and pubic. In contrast to the common belief, it does not eliminate labor pain completely but numb the area to any kind of sensation.

Risks vs. benefits of epidurals

Use of medications and interventions during child birth is always a swapping transaction between safety and convenience. Each woman and her delivery conditions are unique and therefore it is good to be aware of all the aspects of epidurals before taking a decision.

If the mother is managing her labour pain and the progress is normal, epidurals may not be very helpful. However, if the mother is in extreme pain for a very long time, it may prove to be beneficial.

Pros

  • Epidural anaesthesia brings pain relief in most of the women and thus, reducing the unpleasant aspects of childbirth.
  • It gives an opportunity to the women to actually observe and build memories of the process.
  • It helps women to relax and not be so stressed out during the delivery. Anxiety produces stress hormones which slow down contractions in woman under labour.
  • It speeds up the labour process and brings it to end fast.
  • Most women like epidurals because they could stay emotionally alert when their newborn comes out
  • In case of emergency caesarean, epidurals prevent the use of general anaesthesia which is comparatively more risky and in case of vaginal birth epidurals can be used for post-delivery stitches.
  • Actively used when mothers are exhausted by long labours.
  • Epidurals are not sedative and have no effect on awareness, memory and thinking process.
  • Its usage can be regulated. One can take a small dose and relax for a while before starting to push again or top up for the remainder of the labour process.
  • Epidurals also lower blood pressure and this may help women with pregnancy-induced hypertension.

Cons

  • If epidural anesthesia is given at the initial stages of labour it is believed to hinder the progress of contractions and may create a need for interventions like forceps, vacuum or c-section.
  • It has also been noticed that women with epidurals tend to get fever during the labour which has to be managed through IV antibiotic treatment. This could risk infection in mother and baby.
  • The effect of epidurals on reducing the maternal blood pressure may cause dizziness in women and fetal distress.
  • Some women also experience pain in the back, shoulders, neck or head for days or weeks after delivery.
  • Complications may occur due to human error or maternal structural anomalies like administration of high dose or accidental injection into blood vessel.
  • Very rarely residual numbness or weakness from needle injury to nerves or brain damage and death may occur.

Epidurals may have worked fine for some and may have caused problems to others. Women are advised to take a well-informed decision based on the complete information, discussion with their doctor and family members, particular condition and childbirth goals.

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