Epidural Pain Relief
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Guide To Childbirth
|What Is An Epidural?
An epidural is a type of local anesthesia which is most commonly used for pain relief (analgesia) during delivery. The goal is local numbness, and not complete anesthesia. Statistics show that nearly 75 percent of women choose to have an epidural during birth in America, the remaining choosing a natural birth. The decision to have an epidural is best taken before severe pain begins. This allows preparation time so that drug can take effect in time for when contractions are at their strongest. Read about the pros/cons and possible side effects and consider your choices before labor. There are many videos and online forum discussions on the subject. An epidural is administered by an anesthesiologist directly into the lower spine. The process takes about 15-25 minutes. Epidurals provide some pain relief within 10 minutes but full effect can take up to 45 minutes. Pain relief however should last for the remainder of the stages of labor. The rise in popularity in recent years in epidural procedures is linked to its relative safety record and successful results. By relieving severe pain epidurals can help mothers have a more positive experience from childbirth and if labor is prolonged, the absence or reduction of pain makes it easier to rest for the duration. For those planning home births or waterbirths, an epidural is not usually an option.
As soon as you indicate you are ready for an epidural the nurse calls an anesthesiologist. Depending on how busy the anesthesiologist is, it could take 15 minutes before they arrive. Also, the preparation steps can take an additional 25 minutes. This time lag is one of the reasons why some doctors suggest requesting the epidural before contractions become too severe. You can request an epidural at any point in labor, but most women request it by the time their cervix has dilated by 5cm or 6cm. On the other hand, many of the problems associated with epidurals are also associated with early labor. One study showed that Cesarean section rates were 11 percent in cases where an epidural was given at 5cm or more dilation. The rates were 16 percent at 4cm dilation and 28 percent at 3cm. Consequently, the longer a woman can labor naturally without medical intervention, the better off she usually is. You may even surprise yourself and complete labor without the planned epidural.
Does It Hurt?
Prenatal Care Costs: The average cost of an epidural is about $1200. If you are planning a hospital or birthing center birth, you will need to make this payment separately. If you change your mind during labor and decide not to have the epidural, the money is then refunded. Interestingly, studies show that private hospitals have a higher epidural rate than public hospitals. A study showed that when one hospital in New South Wales switched from public to private, their epidural rate doubled. In fact American epidural rates have increased in line with the move of more hospitals to the private sector.
Prolonged labor is very common as a result of the medication used in an epidural. This can result in interventions becoming necessary such as the use of the drug pitocin to speed up contractions, the use of a forceps for delivery and the necessity of a cesarean section delivery being performed. Common complications or side effects include:
• Pushing: You cannot feel the urge to push, so your midwife will need to tell you when a contraction comes so that you can push.
• If your cervix is less than 4cm dilated.
|Related Articles on EPIDURAL PAIN RELIEF
For more on childbirth, see the following:
• C-Section Recovery: Recovery tips and advice for new moms.
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