What Is Epidural & What Are Its Side Effects During Labor?


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Pregnancy is an overwhelming experience. There’s so much new to learn and experience every day. Each day throws up a new exciting situation, a new joy, a new moment! But it also brings nervous anticipation for the final day. It is quite normal to feel scared about the whole experience as many may have recounted tales of going through painful and long labor to you.

Did you come across the term epidural and are wondering what is it about? Read on to know more about what is epidural in pregnancy, how it works and its side effects.

Epidural During Pregnancy:

Epidural is the most common and effective way to experience relief from pain during labor and childbirth. The practice is usually common in the hospitals of the US. Normally, a local anaesthetic is used for this procedure. It is injected into the epidural space, the space around the tough coverings that protect the spinal cord, to block pain signals.

Is it Really Needed?

There is no standard answer to this question. Every individual has a different capacity to handle pain. If you feel, at any point of time during your labor that your contractions are getting too painful to handle, you can opt for an epidural technique.

[ Read: Enema During Labour ]

Epidural During Labor – How Does it Work?

The epidural process works in the same way as a local anaesthetic – it temporarily blocks the nerves that send pain signals from your cervix and uterus to your brain. You are injected on your lower back, which numbs any sensation from the lower part of your body. Even as the drug begins to show its impact in your body, you remain fully conscious.

Labor Epidural Side Effects:

While epidurals do have their own set of benefits, they may also impact labor and delivery negatively. It is believed that epidural may be linked to the following:

1. It may decrease the chances of a spontaneous vaginal birth by raising the chances of the baby being face up to 4 times.

2. It may triple the risk of you needing synthetic oxytocin.

3. It may raise the risk of you having to undergo a C-section up to 2.5 times.

[ Read: How To Speed Up Labour ]

4. It may raise the risk of a severe perineal tear up to 3 times.

5. It may increase the length of labor.

6. It may raise the risk of several complications and may require you to undergo an instrumental delivery such as forceps. This may increase the risk of bruising, episiotomy, vaginal tears, facial injuries to the baby, displacement of the bones of the skull and also blood clot formation in the scalp.

7. It may also increase the risk of pelvic floor problems following birth.

[ Read: Pain Management Techniques During Labor ]

8. A decrease in fetal heart rate is noted after the birth following an epidural. It is because babies need a longer time to get the drugs out of their system than adults.

9. It may also increase the risk of maternal fever, which may impact the baby too.

10. Mothers who are given epidurals are also found to spend less time with their babies. It is said the higher the dose of the drug given, the lesser the time the mother spends time in bonding with her baby.

11. Women who have used epidurals during labor are 2 times more likely to stop breastfeeding than those who didn’t.

[ Read: Best Position To Induce Labor ]

If you are a first time mother and are confused about whether to get an epidural or not, visit your healthcare provider or gynecologist. Your doctor is the right person to assess the risks of epidural during labor.

We hope this article helps you understand what an epidural is and the risks it poses. If you need some more information on the related topic, do write in to us in the comment box below.

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