Pain and labour: What is an epidural and should I opt for it?

An epidural is a commonly opted for pain-relief method opted by women in labour. An epidural anaesthesia is a regional one that blocks the pain in a particular region of the body. They block the nerve impulses from the lower spinal portion, thus reducing sensation in the lower part of the body. So it actually provides just pain relief and not cause complete lack of feeling.

There are two types of epidurals

  • Regular epidurals: a mixture of narcotics and anaesthesia administered via a pump or through periodic injections after the catheter is in place.
  • Combined Spinal-Epidural (CSE): a first dose of narcotics and anaesthesia is given beneath the outermost membrane covering the spinal cord and inward to the epidural space. The needle is then pulled back to the epidural space threading a catheter. The needle is then removed leaving the catheter in place.

The CSE allows more freedom for movement and changing positions with help.

An epidural increases the risk of your blood pressure dropping which might affect oxygen supply to your baby. Otherwise the dose is such that it should not make her drowsy.

The benefits of taking an epidural are:

  • It is the most-effective pain-relief method during labour.
  • Gives you scope to rest. It helps you deal with exhaustion, irritability and fatigue. It helps you relax, rest and get focussed and strength to participate in the birthing.
  • Lets you remain alert and also reduce discomfort letting you have a better experience.
  • In case of a C-Sec, it allows you to remain awake while providing pain-relief post surgery.