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Child Birth: Putting In An Epidural
With the advent of medical technology and a breakthrough achieved in medicine, women no longer have to be subjected to the untold agony of labour pains. More and more women are opting for pain-free labour. Which woman would want to go in for a long, painful and tedious labour when she has the option of pain relief?
Several procedures for administering pain relief have come into vogue. Of these the epidural is the most popular. It is safe and a very small amount of the epidural anaesthetic is needed to obtain the desired results. It is relatively easy to administer requiring only a mild injection and is also patient friendly. Women feel no pain from their waist down and can stay awake while birthing their children. It has so side effects on the safety and health of the baby as the anaesthetic is directly injected into the spine and does not enter the mother’s blood stream at all.
Hospitals have made the epidural elective which means you can get one as soon as you ask for one. Research has shown that it really does not slow down labour as was earlier purported. In rare cases where labour is seemingly slow, the doctor can consider giving you a mild dose of oxytocin to get the contractions going again. There are some very simple steps to administer an epidural.
Before the epidural is given, an IV is started and the woman is given fluids to prevent a sudden drop in blood pressure. This is one of the side effects of an epidural. The fluids help maintain the electrolyte balance and prevent your blood pressure from becoming considerably low.
Inserting The Catheter
A urinary catheter is inserted into the woman’s bladder to drain out the urine while the epidural is in effect. This is followed as a norm in most hospitals. This is because the epidural relaxes the bladder muscles and suppresses the urge to urinate. Hence the urine is drained out with the catheter.
You are asked to sit up straight or lie on your side as deemed fit by the doctor. Your lower back is wiped clean with a mild antiseptic. A small area of the back where the epidural will be administered is further numbed by a local block. If the anaesthetist is good, you may not even feel the prick. A larger needle carrying the anaesthetic is then inserted into the epidural space of the spine. Some women complain of pressure and a tingling sensation while others feel a momentary prick. The pain is minimal.
Effect Of The Anaesthetic
The needle is now removed and an adjustable catheter is left in place in case of a repeat dose. The anaesthetic starts to take effect in 3-5 minutes, numbing the uterine nerves. A full effect is reached in about ten minutes. The medication numbs the entire nerves of your lower extremities which means zero pain.
Checking Of Blood Pressure
Your blood pressure will be intermittently checked to see if it is not dropping too low. More IV fluids may be given. Fetal heart beat is also regularly monitored. The epidural has no side effects though some women complain of numbness on one side. There may also a possibility of experiencing some pain if you are experiencing back labour.