The Pros and Cons of Epidural

Epidural Pros and Cons

Pregnant women would trade anything in the world to skip labour pains. Once contractions pick up, it is more than hard work for the mother to push her baby out. Gruelling long hours of excruciating pain causes the abdomen and pelvic muscles to become sore and tender to touch. Just after the pre-labour when the cervix dilates to 4cms, an epidural is given to the mother’s spine to relieve her from the pain. Though there are a lot of controversies regarding the use of an epidural, it is still widely used across all maternity homes in every country. Without an epidural, it is impossible for a mother to deliver a baby under such stress.

Many gynaecologists argue that an epidural can be dangerous for the baby and the mother in case of larger doses or if the injection isn’t inserted properly into the spine. Only qualified anaesthetists must be employed to do the job of giving an epidural. It is extremely important for the expecting parents to know details about taking an epidural, how it benefits the mother and the baby and also the potential risks associated with it.

An epidural is given during any time of labour when the mother is not dilating and is unable to take the pain anymore. Painkillers are injected into the spine area with the help of a tiny catheter where the medication works on nerves that carry pain signals to the brain. Shortly, the region is numbed and the mother doesn’t feel any pain. The painkilling drug is either injected continuously or given in the form of top-ups every one or two hours depending upon the intensity of the pain. Most of the epidurals that are used do not numb the abdomen and legs completely. Women can feel their feet and legs and can move about helping the baby descend into the birth canal.

Let’s discuss the pros and cons of epidural during delivery:

Benefits of Epidural

  • Relieves the mother from grilling pain in the stomach and pelvic area. If it is given in small doses at regular intervals, labour progresses smoothly and it is manageable for the woman.

  • Epidural doesn’t make you feel dizzy or put you to sleep completely. Pain and contractions are not felt by the mother but she will be conscious all through labour and can respond to the doctor or the midwife.

  • High blood pressure can be lowered by an epidural during pre-labour. Since the mother is under great stress and pressure, her blood pressure either shoots up or falls down drastically. In all such cases, such medication will be of great help.

  • Managing labour with an epidural is easy and it cuts down the chances of having a c-section to bring the baby out.

Epidural Risks

  • Though pain relief is fast with an epidural, the process to inject it into your body is quite challenging. The woman will be asked to sleep in a C position with her spinal cord sticking out. Then the anaesthetist will have to search for spinal holes and insert the catheter or the syringe and slowly pass the medication. Once the epidural is injected, the woman has to get up and come back to her original position to begin pushing her baby again. All this will take time.

  • Epidurals can slow down oxygen supply to the baby during labour. It is extremely important to keep checking the baby’s pulse and stop the medication if the baby doesn’t respond.

  • If the epidural’s injection needles puncture the fluid sacs surrounding the spine, fluid leaks and causes severe headache to the mother. Though such instances are rare, they can still happen. In case of a headache, your doctor will draw a little blood from your arm and inject into the spinal hole to fill up the block. This is called an epidural blood patch.