Friday, October 1, 2010

Frequently Asked Questions about Epidural Anesthesia

Epidural anesthesia is the single most popular form of pain relief used during labor and is utilized by more than 50% of woman. The procedure uses multiple doses of local anesthetic administered directly into the epidural space that surrounds the spinal cord to relieve the pain of child birth. There are benefits and disadvantages to this form of pain relief. So, here is a list of frequently asked questions about epidural anesthesia:

 What should an epidural NOT be used?

An epidural should not be administered if you have a low platelet count, use blood thinners, have a blood infection, or are hemorrhaging. An epidural won't be administered before you are 4cm dilated, or if the labor is moving too fast.

 Does an epidural hurt?

The position you have to be in may be uncomfortable, although you don't have to be in it for long. Some women experience some discomfort during the administration of the anesthesia, usually there's a feeling pressure as the catheter is being placed.

 What are the side effect of epidural anesthesia?

The most common side effects observed are  nausea, shivering, ringing in the ears, backache or soreness at injection site, or difficulty urinating.

 How does an epidural affect my labor?

An epidural can cause your labor to slow down, or stop altogether, and may make contractions weaker. If this happens Pitocin may be administered to help speed your labor back up.

 What are the advantages of an epidural?
  • in cesarean sections the use of an epidural is safer than that of general anesthesia.
  • provides great pain relief while the mother remains alert.
  • very little of the medication reaches your baby.
  • allows rest during prolonged labor.
 What are some disadvantages of an epidural? 
  • decreased ability and urge to push.
  • makes you unable to walk or stand while drug is in effect.
  • may cause your blood pressure to drop suddenly.
  • frequently requires the use of a urinary catheter.
 What are the risks to the baby?

Very little of this anesthesia reaches the baby, but some risks-though rare-develop. Including, respiratory depression, short-term irritability, and increased chances of fetal distress.

 What are the risks to me?

The risks associated to the mother include fever and a drop in blood pressure. Also, some women experience a severe headache postbirth or long term backaches.

 Are there other forms of pain relief offered for labor?

Yes, some pain relief options include analgesia, spinal anesthesia, IV or shot, etc. All forms of pain relief during labor offer advantages and risks to both mother and child, so check with your doctor to see what method is best for you.

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