Whether or not you’ve had an epidural, chances are you know someone who has. Hailed by many new mothers as a miracle worker for labor and delivery, the epidural can provide a pain-free and physically present birthing experience when administered effectively.
Although choosing to have an epidural for labor and delivery is a popular choice among women, it can also be an intimidating one. Just the idea of a needle can make the bravest of hearts weak in the knees. Gaining a better understanding of the process and the intense relief it can provide for labor pains makes the procedure well worth it for many women.
How an Epidural Works
The epidural is a regional anesthetic that’s injected into the epidural space located in the lower back. Before the procedure, an anesthesiologist carefully determines which medications for the epidural will work best for the patient. This often includes a blend of a numbing agent, like lidocaine, and an opioid, which in combination provides instant and long-lasting pain control.
The mother-to-be is asked to relax during the brief injection procedure, which numbs a pinpoint region of the spinal cord. Pain instantly subsides in the lower half of the body to keep the mother’s contractions and delivery more comfortable and, ultimately, pain-free. After the baby is born, the medication slowly wears off and the mother regains feeling and control of her lower body.
Standard vs. Walking Epidurals
There are two types of epidurals that are used: one that allows the patient to better control pain medication and the other that allows some movement.
For the standard epidural, an anesthesiologist threads a catheter—a thin, hollow tube—through the needle before removing it from the lower back. Medication is delivered through the catheter, as needed or continuously via pump.
With a walking epidural, the anesthesiologist inserts the needle into the intrathecal area, and delivers a dose of medication for a determined timeline. These drugs cannot be administered continuously with a pump as in the standard epidural; however, the patient is able to continue some movement.
Reasons for Choosing an Epidural
The process of labor can last for hours and hours, making you seriously tired. An epidural gives your body time to rest for the heavy pushing when it’s time to deliver.
Need for Peace
Delivery day is an intense experience filled with phone calls, contractions, relatives, and more contractions. Choosing an epidural can help you focus on the positives, so you can enjoy the experience instead.
A C-section is considered major surgery, but you don’t have to miss out on your baby’s arrival when you have one. Choosing to have an epidural allows you to be alert and comfortable for the entire experience.