10 Things You May Not Have Known about having an Epidural
According to the medical journal Anesthesiology, approximately 71% of women receive an epidural when giving birth. While not a large increase from previous years, this number is increasing. An epidural is often prescribed to decrease the pain of labor. Since it is often done spontaneously, many women do not know much about epidurals and whether they truly wish to receive one. Here is a shortlist of 10 facts of epidurals to help inform you on your special day.
Epidurals are generally safe! They are, however, not without side effects and risks, many which will be discussed in this blog post.
You may not get it right away. You need to be between 4 and 7 cm and there may only be one anesthesiologist for Labor & Delivery so you have to wait your turn. You will also be required to have IV fluids prior to receiving the epidural.
3. Catheters Required:
You will require a urinary catheter, inserted after receiving an epidural. The reasons: 1) The medication will numb you to the sensation of needing to urinate. 2) You will be unable to walk, making a trip to the bathroom extremely difficult!
Catheters greatly increase your risk of a UTI (urinary tract infection). Please note that having a cesarian section will also expose you to receiving a urinary catheter.
4. Inability to Walk, Possibly Unable to Move Legs:
An epidural blocks the nerve sensations in the lower half of your body. It specifically targets your pain nerves, so it is possible you may have sensation to your legs. Depending on the amount of medication used, you may have no sensation in your legs or complete numbness. While some women are able to move their legs, others will not. As mentioned above, you will not be able to get out of your bed.
There are different types of epidurals based off of amount of anesthesia given. If you opt for a “walking epidural”, please note that it is a misnomer as you will still not be able to walk. You may be able to move your legs but you will still be required to stay in the bed for your own safety.
5. Reduction in Blood Pressure:
It’s normal for blood pressure to fall a little when you have an epidural. For this reason, it will require the blood pressure cuff to tighten on your arm every 15 minutes or less.
6. Interruption of Your Hormones:
An epidural will deprive you of the natural production of endorphins. This in turn, may reduce your endorphin response associated with natural pain relief and the altered state of consciousness that is normal in labor.
7. Interruption of Your Baby’s Hormones:
If your endorphin production is affected, the epidural will more importantly deprive your baby of your natural production of endorphins. The result may inhibit your baby’s ability to cope with the discomforts of contractions. In some cases, this could halt your baby’s ability to navigate the pelvic outlet which could lead to a cesarian section.
8. Immediate Side Effects:
Nausea, vomiting, and shivering are the most common immediate side effects.
A very SMALL number (less than 1%) of women have a post-dural puncture headache which will often need to be treated by an ‘epidural blood patch’. These headaches can occur one to seven days post epidural procedure.
10. Cesarean Sections:
An epidural doesn’t increase the risk of having a Cesarean section by itself. Since your body will be reacting differently due to hormone disruption and your inability to feel and move, an epidural can lead to additional interventions in childbirth. These increased interventions do add an increased risk of an assisted birth such as the use of a vacuum, forceps. and or cesarean section.
Assisted or not, the birth and health of your child is my first priority! Please join our email list for more information on evidence-based childbirth. I’m also available to talk with you personally on my own online or in-person doula services.
Hi, I'm Susan Finazzo! I'm a certified Birth Doula, Birth coach, and Childbirth Educator from Port St Lucie, Florida. In addition to that, I am also a Faith-Based Counselor. I have over 10 years experience helping women having a positive birthing experience and would love to make a difference on yours too!
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