I don’t know about you, but I know when I was pregnant what scared me the most was not the actual labour or birth, but it was having to get an epidural if I needed one because I didn’t know too much about epidurals, when they might be needed, their risks, benefits, and how they differ from spinal blocks. As it turned out, I had to have a C -section birth and ended up having a spinal block but here are the differences and what you need to know..
When might you need an epidural? Epidurals are a form of pain relief during labour and birth.
They might be considered if:
You’re experiencing intense, prolonged pain during labour and for some women, especially if it’s your first baby, labour can last a while and leave you feeling exhausted. An epidural provides a much-needed opportunity for you to rest, re-set your mindset, refocus, and restore your energy before it’s time to push.
You want pain relief that allows you to stay awake and actively participate in your birth experience.
Your Caregiver deems it medically necessary for your safety or your baby’s, for example when a C -Section might be required.
The Benefits of Epidurals:
Effective Pain Relief: Epidurals can provide significant pain relief during labour and birth, making the process more manageable and comfortable whilst giving women who are experiencing a long labour a break.
Alert and Aware: Unlike general anaesthesia, epidurals allow you to be awake and fully aware and alert during childbirth.
Lower Stress Levels: Reduced pain can lead to lower stress levels, potentially benefiting both you and your baby.
Flexibility: Epidurals can be adjusted to provide the right level of relief for your unique situation.
Risks and Considerations:
Low Blood Pressure: Epidurals can cause a drop in blood pressure, which might require additional medical intervention.
Numbness and Weakness: Some women experience numbness or weakness in their legs because of the epidural.
Headache: Rarely, an epidural can lead to a postpartum headache.
Reduced Mobility: You may be less mobile during labour and may require assistance moving around. You’ll also need to be hooked up to an IV and a foetal monitor once you receive an epidural, further limiting your mobility.
Epidural vs. Spinal Block: Epidurals and spinal blocks are both forms of regional anaesthesia, but they differ in how they’re administered and their effects:
Epidural: Medication is delivered through a catheter into the epidural space in your spine. It provides continuous pain relief but may take some time to set up.
Spinal Block: Medication is injected directly into the spinal fluid. It acts quickly, providing rapid pain relief but is usually used for specific procedures, like C-sections.
Remember, the choice to have an epidural is a personal one, and you should discuss it thoroughly with your partner & Caregiver. Your comfort and safety during labour are of the utmost importance and you need to do what feels right and best for you.
In our Calmbirth courses we discuss pain relief options and epidurals as well as provide you with a range of complementary therapies that you can use for pain relief options as well. Some of these include acupressure points for pregnancy, labour and birth, massage techniques, guided relaxations, visualisation, the use of water, a tens machine & active birth position.
Did you have an Epidural and what was your experience?
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Photo: @W o r t h y W o r d s