7 things about an epidural that all to-be mums should read NOW!
To take an epidural or not to take one is perhaps the biggest question a to-be mum faces. This is why we talk to Dr Ragini Agrawal and discuss the most common questions about it
Talk of labour and the thought alone itself sends chills down your spine. Every mum whose gone through it would agree that labour pain was the worst pain of her life, but one which gave their life a new beginning.
This is why more and more to-be mums are opting for epidural anaesthesia these days as they don’t want to go through the horrific ordeal of labour pain. However, there are many myths and misconceptions that surround the usage of epidurals, which is why we thought of setting the record straight once and for all.
theindusparent caught up with Dr Ragini Agrawal, leading gynaecologist and Clinical Director of W-Hospital in Pratiksha, Gurgaon, to understand how an epidural works and answer the most commonly asked questions surrounding the usage of an epidural.
“The delivery of the infant into the arms of a conscious and pain-free mother is one of the most exciting and rewarding moments in medicine. The labour pain is said to be one of the most severe pains experienced by humans. At our hospital we have the policy of low dose (mobile) epidurals to ease labour pain for mothers,” she says.
#1 How does an Epidural work?
You must have heard that an epidural is the most effective way to have a smooth labour, but it would be better to know everything about it before opting for it.
Gone are the days “when a huge needle was injected into your spine”. These days a small catheter is inserted into your lower back and through it pain-relieving medicine is passed on to your lower body, which is the main area that is affected during the time of delivery.
“The anaesthetist passes a fine catheter into epidural space (space around the spinal cord) through which continuous infusion of measured doses of drugs are administered. It is removed after the episiotomy has been sutured or can be continued for pain relief for 24-78 hrs if cesarean is done,” says Dr Agrawal.
The drug contains a combination of a local anaesthetic and a narcotic. The anaesthetic blocks the pain, while the narcotic stop the transmission of pain to your brain through your nerves.
#2 How is an epidural administered?
The hospital staff would brief you about the position you need to be sitting in before you get your epidural shot. Mostly, you’ll be asked to sit up and lay on your side so that the spine is more visible. A small prick would then be made at the lower back where the catheter goes in and you would feel that the pain would start easing off in sometime.
The medications would be administered into your bloodstream either at brief intervals or continuously. It would be wise to consult your gynaecologist much before your delivery if you plan to opt for an epidural.
#3 Does epidural affect the baby?
“The effect of low dose epidurals on maternal and foetal respiration and well being are negligible,” says Dr Agrawal.
It must be noted here that there are other medicines as well that are used during labour and delivery and most of them are safe and have no effect, whatsoever, on the baby. However, it can cause a drop in the blood pressure levels of the mother for the first few minutes. But the doctor and the anaesthesiologist would be there to monitor you, so there’s nothing to worry about!
Read more epidural facts on the next page
#4 Does epidural increase the chance of a C-section?
There are no studies that say that epidurals increase the chance of a C-section or other complications during delivery. However, if a C-section does happen, it would be mostly due to delivery complications and not due to the epidural as such.
“The Cochrane Database Systemic trials have clearly emphasized that epidural analgesia had no statistically significant impact on the risk of caesarean section. Besides, this, large randomized trial involving 1,054 patients (COMET study) has shown that low dose of epidural infusion was associated with a 25% decrease in the instrumental vaginal delivery, ” says Dr Agrawal.
#5 Does Epidural hamper breastfeeding?
This is another myth associated with the usage of epidurals and one that has no studies to validate it. “No, several studies and trials failed to demonstrate a significant association between epidural and lactation failure or less-successful breastfeeding attempts,” says Dr Agrawal.
# 6 Does epidural prolong the labour?
“Yes, they do. On an average, epidurals increase labour by an hour,” adds Dr Agrawal.
#7. Does epidural increases the incidence of chronic backache?
Back pain affects around ninety percent women during and after pregnancy and it is not necessary that those who take an epidural experience back pain.
“No, it doesn’t. That’s another common misconception about epidurals,” adds Dr Agrawal.