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What Happens During an Epidural?
on Oct 21, 2012
by Alyssia Granger
For the many pregnant women who opt for an epidural for pain relief in labor, find out what to expect of the procedure and any possible risks.
Epidurals are the most popular method of pain relief during childbirth. Some studies show that up to 60 percent of women who give birth in a hospital setting have an epidural. However, epidurals do come with some risks, and a lot of women who have never used one before have questions about what exactly happens during an epidural. The point of this post is to educate women everywhere on what exactly an epidural is all about. Claim Your 20 Free Pregnancy Tests – Click Here
An epidural is known as “regional” anesthesia, that is, anesthesia that blocks pain to a certain region of the body. In the case of epidural, pain is blocked from the waist down. If you are getting an epidural, you can plan on not having any feeling from your waist down for at least a few hours. Epidurals are given via an injection. If you are already in labor, you can expect that you will already have an IV in place. That is one of the first things that you will get upon entering the hospital. You might also have fetal monitors in place to monitor what your baby is doing. You will not get the epidural right away, you will usually wait until your contractions are very intense and close together. This is to help ensure that the epidural does not “wear off” during labor and that it lasts the whole time. The longer you wait to get it, the better chance you will have that it will last through your whole labor.
When it is time to get your epidural, you will usually be sitting up on the hospital bed, leaning forward. You might also be asked to lie on your side with your back arched. You have to remain very still while the epidural injection is being administered. You might have someone help to hold you still or you might hold onto a pillow to help stabilize you. The anesthesiologist will use an antiseptic to clean your skin to prevent an infection. Then, a small needle will be used to inject a local anesthetic into the area to numb the skin. After that, it’s time for the main event. The anesthesia needle will be injected into your back, between your vertebrae, near the spinal nerve. The epidural needle is very long and yes, scary looking. Some women feel nothing when the epidural goes in, others feel a hot sensation, or tingling. There is usually no pain when the epidural needle goes in. After the needle is removed, a small catheter will be put in its place to allow the doctors easy access to the site.
Once the epidural is administered, you will not be able to get up and walk around. You will remain numb from the waist down. If you begin to feel anything, your doctors can give you additional medication via the catheter. During your actual labor, you may not feel anything at all, or you may feel severe pressure. You should not feel any pain. Epidurals can help to reduce high blood pressure, and can allow you to rest if you are having a painful and prolonged labor. Epidurals are also effective during C-sections, and can allow the mother to be awake and see her baby. An epidural can also help you to be more alert and “present” during the birth experience. Epidural effects wear off within one to two hours after giving birth, in most cases.
Epidurals, obviously, keep you from getting up and walking around. This can be a problem if you don’t want to be confined to bed for a long time. It can also cause your blood pressure to suddenly drop. Also, there is a potentially dangerous side effect that happens to less than 1% of women. Some women experience a severe headache that is caused by leaking spinal fluid. This can be a very painful side effect, and luckily is very rare. Many women believe that epidurals can cause permanent nerve damage and paralysis, but the truth is that this complication is very rare, even more so than the headache complication. Really, there aren’t too many side effects of epidurals, which is fortunate. They have become a great pain relief option for many women!
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Alyssia is mom to 2 giggley twin girls, Sophia and Emma, and son Hunter. She's a Southern girl, passionate about photography, travel and her husband Josh.