Epidural anesthesia: option for painless child birth
Epidural anesthesia is the most common method applied for combating pain
during delivery. The
pregnant lady remain conscious and aware of the activities going on, but there
is a numbness at the pelvic region.
Epidural is a combination of
pain killing medications. It is injected at the small of the back to numb
the lower part of the spine when
labor is well
established and the cervix is at least 3 to 4 cm wide. The medication prevents
transmission of pain signals from the womb and cervix to the brain. Although,
epidural could be administered any time during labor, it is preferably injected
when the contraction becomes strong. Despite the numbness, a woman could sense
the contraction during delivery.
How does epidural anesthesia work?
An epidural anesthetic blocks the nerve roots that lead to the uterus and
lower part of the body.
These roots are located in a space near the spinal cord called the epidural
space. This lies within the spine just outside the outer covering of the spinal
According to the American Pregnancy
Association Epidural is usually administered by : "Intravenous (IV)
fluids will be started before active labor begins and prior to the procedure
of placing the epidural. You can expect to receive 1-2 liters of IV fluids
throughout labor and delivery. An anesthesiologist, a physician who
specializes in anesthesia, an obstetrician, or nurse-anesthetist will
administer your epidural".
Advantages of Epidural Anesthesia
Almost complete relief from pain with the patient being mobile.
No postpartum headache as in spinal anaesthesia.
Mother is conscious and alert throughout the labor.
It reduces anxiety and irritability caused due to labor pains.
An Australian study, reported in the journal BJOG, that epidurals could
pelvic muscle damage during delivery. Pelvic muscle damage leads to
organ prolapse in later life, when the weak elevator muscles could no longer
hold the bladder and uterus in their respective places. Nearly 10 per cent
women suffer from organ
prolapse due to vaginal delivery.
Another advantage of
epidural anaesthesia is that it makes easy for instrumental delivery if any
forceps are required and even is sufficient anaesthesia if an urgent
Disadvantages of Epidural Anesthesia
The biggest disadvantage is that in some case there is sudden drop in
Epidurals can cause nausea, dizziness,
backache, shivering and
Because of pelvic floor relaxation, baby's head may not rotate and
forceps application may be required.
Complications such as meningitis can occur, but are extremely rare if
adequate sterile precautions are used.
Some health experts claim that babies born to mothers on epidurals are
sluggish. They might require resuscitation. The babies might appear
disoriented. They might have problems latching to their mothers’ nipples,
which prevent them from receiving their first milk.
However, the best option is still the natural way of giving birth.