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Pros and cons of epidurals during labor

Pros and cons of epidurals during labor
September 09
10:01 2014

For lots of women, labor pain is the most frightening part of the pregnancy. The thought of contractions, pain and the urge to push, makes women feel horrified. As the due date approaches, women start to feel nervous and worried. To ease your pain during the labor, varieties of pain killers and anesthetics are available and depending on your condition doctors use an appropriate type of anesthesia.

Epidural is one of the very common anesthetics used during labor. So, let’s try and find more about it. Here will be discussing pros and cons of epidurals to help you understand its effects in a better way.

Epidurals: It is a special type of local anesthetic. During an epidural, pain killers are injected into the small area of your back through a fine tube. It is a regional anesthetic; as a result, the drug is injected around the nerves that send signals from the body parts that feel pain during labor. It will anesthetize your tummy and present you with very effective pain relief. Epidural is known to provide complete pain relief to most of the women who are injected with it, but it is not always 100% effective. It can be an effective option for women who are getting worried or are having long painful labor.

How much you will be able to move your legs depends on the local anesthetic used. Some doctors offer ‘mobile’ epidurals, in which you can easily walk around.

What is involved in having an epidural:

Epidural is performed by an anesthetist. He first uses local anesthetic to numb the area in order insert a hollow needle with a shaped point.

Once the needle is appropriately placed, a fine tube is passed through it. The needle is then removed, leaving the tube in place.

The anesthetists, through a tube, then inject the anesthetic in to your back. More than a few attempts might be required to place an epidural but once it is there extra doses can be administered easily. More than 90% of women find it really effective in blocking the pain of contractions.

Generally, women who opt for epidural, do so during the active phase of the first stage of labor.

Epidural unlike opiates, offers total pain relief without the high, so you will know what is happening. If your labor is exhausting and long, it provides the chance to get your breath back before you feel the need to push again.

Pros of epidural:
  • Very effective pain relief during labor
  • Offers exceptional pain relief instantly after c section
  • Permits mother having cesarean to stay awake during the procedure.
  • Allows mother to rest during a long labor
  • Very effective for pregnancy provoked hypertension, as it lowers blood pressure.
  • Nice alternative to general anesthetic
  • If mothers can’t handle the pain, it may allow emotionally more positive birth experience
Cons of epidural:

It can make you numb right the way down to your feet, making it difficult for you to stand

  • Moderate to extreme, unbearable headaches
  • Make you feel sick or drowsy
  • Uncontrollable shivering
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Causes a drop in blood pressure
  • Increases the chances of instrumental birth like vacuum suction or forceps
  • Increases the chances of c section
  • Increases chances for increase of pitocin as contractions are at times slowed down
  • May lengthen the duration of labor
  • Reinsertion or adjustment is required if block is not one-sided
  • Due to trouble inserting a number of attempts are required
  • Being limited to bed with epidural slow down an active birth
  • Reduces the need to push and makes pushing very troublesome as you become numb from the waist down.
  • Epidural can cause fetal heart rate changes
  • Requires close monitoring of Blood pressure
  • May cause enduring back ache
  • It may cause itching
  • May cause vomiting and nausea
  • Difficult in urinating
  • May cause Arachnoiditis, nerve damage, Cauda Equina Syndrome
  • In very rare cases, it has been known to cause epidural abscess, respiratory distress, paralysis and death.
What is mobile epidural:

They are administered just like usual epidural, the key difference is that lower and a little different dose of drugs is injected.

The advantage of a mobile epidural is that you maintain sensation in your legs, so you may be able to move your legs a bit, while how much completely depends on how you react to the drugs. You may need assistance and you certainly won’t be able to run in any marathon (at that time).

Remember that not all hospitals provide mobile epidurals. Also there are chances of longer labor and the need for assisted delivery, even though the risk is lesser as compared to usual epidural. Even with mobile epidurals you may feel itchy or have difficultly passing urine.

It completely depends on your doctor that what anesthetic he or she may use to diminish your labor pain and make delivery quick and smooth.

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