Is epidural given during normal delivery?

          Love can be shown in many ways. Some may consider that giving gifts are more than enough to show their gratitude and care towards their partner and some partners may look forward to having their own child to build their own small family with love and care. One thing for sure, pregnancy can be scary for some women especially those for the first time experiencing this. The peak of pregnancy is the delivery process where it can be easy or difficult and no one’s experience is the same. The pain during delivering a baby is unimaginable but with modern medicine, the pain can be reduced to a certain degree to make delivery easier and safer. In this DoctorOnCall’s article, you will know and understand about “is epidural given during normal delivery?”.

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          What is epidural? An epidural or other term usually used in medicine, epidural block, is a procedure involving medication given through a tube that is placed in the lower back. In other words, an epidural is injecting anaesthesia into the space around the spinal nerves in the lower back. Epidural block, as the name implies, temporarily blocks the nerve responsible for pain sensibility to reduce the pain.  An epidural is different from general anaesthesia as it is considered as a local anaesthesia. This is because an epidural only gives a numbness effect around the belly button to the upper legs. In the case of delivery, a woman under an epidural block is usually awake and alert while feeling some kind of pressure from the labour process itself. The existence of the pressure sensation is important for the mother as it aids the mother to have the urge to push during the delivery process. Epidural may be given at the beginning, in the middle or even before the end of a labour process.

          The process of giving epidural starts with insertion of needle and a tiny tube named as catheter to the lower back area. You are probably thinking, “is it not going to hurt when inserting a needle especially to the spine areas?”. Think of it as how your vein is receiving intravenous drip. The needle is only used as a guide to guide the catheter to be placed into the spaces around the spinal nerve. Then, the needle is removed as the catheter is left in place. The medication will flow through the catheter. This is how epidural is given. Do you know that epidural is not only used for delivery? It is also used for certain surgical procedures around the lower body such as leg surgery.

          Without a doubt, epidural is given during normal delivery. In fact, it is the most common type of anaesthesia used for pain relief during delivery. Furthermore, it is so unlikely that a mother going through delivery will feel disappointed or regret taking an epidural when it is offered by their doctor. This shows that receiving epidural during normal delivery is completely fine and does not mean a mother’s value is less than the other mothers who decide not to take it.

          An epidural does provide many benefits for the mother without having bad effects on the baby. Epidural works as fast as 15 minutes after the epidural is administered to the mother. This explains how versatile epidural is since it is given at different phases during the labour. Apart from epidural being a pain relief, it can be considered as mind relief as mothers who are feeling less pain are more relaxed and can rest well. Such an event can have a huge impact on the wellbeing of the mother and the baby by providing safe birth. Another benefit is to help prevent postpartum depression (PPD). Study shows an epidural help to lower risk for PPD which is common after a delivery and may last for months. PPD can have a monstrous adverse effect for the mother and the baby.

 Just as with any other procedure, there is always a pro and cons. In this case, epidural does bring benefits and potential side effects. Fortunately, side effects usually are minimal. Common side effects are low blood pressure that could lead to headaches or light-headedness, temporary leg weakness and temporary loss of bladder control. Sudden drop of blood pressure could be dangerous for the baby due to compromised blood flow but this is often minimised by close observation by the healthcare providers. Other side effects such as shivering, feeling sick, soreness of the injected area and back pain may occur. In some cases, it may slow down the labour process or difficulties to push the baby and less contractions or a bit slowed down for a while. This may increase risk for assisted delivery such as usage of vacuum cups or forceps.

          It can be concluded that epidural is the most common kind of pain relief used in normal delivery and it is given during normal delivery. It is estimated that 70% of women do use epidural during labour. Although in general all women in labour can take epidural, this might not be the case with people with other medical conditions. The decision to use epidural during delivery does depend on many considerations that will be discussed by doctors or anaesthetists. If a mother is not suitable for epidural, they will be offered with other pain management options.

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