EPIDURAL ANESTHESIA: A few things to know

What Is Epidural Anesthesia?

For decades medical science has searched for ways to change the painful experience of labor into a more painless one.  Into a more beautiful experience for every mother, so the focus can be solely about the beauty of childbirth and not all that inconvenient pain stuff.  Epidural anesthesia is one such option available to most ‘mums to be’.

This article is about offering some information for those women who have a prenatal preference for epidural anesthesia during labor.  These days epidural anesthesia is one of the most popular methods mothers use to relieve pain during labor.  It is a good idea that all prospective mothers learn about all analgesic options available during labor and not just epidural anesthesia, so they can make an informed decision which they are happy with regarding labor analgesia.  Thus making a knowledgeable choice that they believe is in the best interests of them and their unborn baby.

There are different types of epidural anesthesia, so it is important you understand how they are administered and their benefits.  Every invasive procedure such as an epidural has its risks, keeping this in mind will help in your decide the course of analgesia you wish to take during labor and delivery, be it epidural anesthesia, massage and swearwords, water birth…  Remember certain options may not be available at your particular hospital or with your specific birthing plan.

Before choosing any type of pain relief during labor you should ask your Obstetrician, Doctor or Midwife to advise you, and help you make the decision on what option is best for you and your newborn.  These medical professionals should be suitably qualified to advise you of any risks associated with the specific options that you are considering taking.  Obviously you will need to make anyone involved with your analgesia and labor aware if you are allergic to any medications that could be used during or after your labor.

When Did Epidural Anesthesia Become Popular?

Epidural anesthesia has been very popular since the 70′s, helping many many mums around the world with managing their pain during childbirth.  When epidural anesthesia was first introduced, quickly it became a very popular choice for ‘mums to be’.  Woman were searching for ways to make it through their labor without feeling any pain, and as the management of the side effects of epidural anesthesia have advanced it has become a analgesic option more and more frequently recommended by caregivers.  Due to such effective pain management and the added bonus that epidural anesthesia enables women to be alert through the whole birthing process epidural anesthesia is obviously a popular choice for mums (and dads preferring not to get claw marks all over their arms).


How Is Epidural Anesthesia Administered?

Before active labor begins, intravenous fluids (IV) need to be started.  During labor you will receive around 1-2 liters of IV fluids.  You will then receive a local anesthetic to a small area of your back to numb it, and a needle is then inserted superficial to the spinal cord in the lower back.  After this a catheter is passed through the needle into the epidural space (the space around your spinal cord).  The catheter is the pathway available through which the medication is administered, medication can be given by periodic injections or continuous infusions.

What Types Of Epidurals Are There?

There are different types of epidurals, individual anesthesiologists are likely to have their own preferences on which method they prefer to use.  As well as this different Hospitals may have specific policies on which particular methods they allow the practitioners to use in their hospital.  Also anesthesiologists may differ in their dosages/combination of medications they prefer to use.  So if you are choosing epidural anesthesia as your analgesic option, then you should make sure you inform yourself about the Hospital’s and your specific healthcare providers methods/preferences.

Combined Spinal-Epidural (CSE) is a popular technique used by some anesthesiologists.  Combined epidurals are suitable for times when rapid analgesia is required, the onset of pain relief is more rapid than with regular epidural, but combined epidurals can also be used for planned Cesarean sections too.  The advantage of combined epidurals is that they enable the use of a minimal dose of local anesthetic, and the patient still has the catheter in place available for administering more medications if required.  With combined epidural, the catheter may be able to be left in place following labor or Cesarean section allowing the patient a controlled pain relief option post birth.


*** The information contained here is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment in any manner. Always seek the advice of your doctor with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition.

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