Friday, October 1, 2010

Pain Relief Options for Childbirth

Many women think that epidural anesthesia is the only form of pain relief offered for childbirth. That is not the case, and though you should talk with your obstetrician about what method would be best for you personally, and here I will outline the more popular forms of pain relief during labor.

Epidural Anesthesia
This is the most popular form of pain relief with 50% of women opting for this method of pain relief. This form of anesthesia is administered directly into the epidural space above the spinal cord intravenously through a catheter. It is administered multiple times using a small amount of anesthesia every time this procedure numbs your body from the waist down and is effective within half an hour and lasts a few hours post-birth.

Spinal Anesthesia
This form of anesthesia uses a smaller needle than with an epidural, but it is placed in the same location in the lower back. Instead of being administered into the epidural sack the anesthesia is injected directly into the spinal fluid so that the onset of numbness is immediate. Spinal needles drastically decrease the risk of severe headache follow administration of anesthesia.

Combined Epidural Block/Walking Epidural
This procedure uses both spinal and epidural techniques that provide pain relief during labor almost instantaneously. Medication is administered through an epidural catheter and once the block is in place less numbness occurs than with a regular epidural. Many women are able to still walk around after medication had been administered which is why the procedure is more commonly known as the "walking epidural.

Local Anesthesia
This form of anesthesia is injected into the vaginal and rectal areas at the time of delivery, usually by your obstetrician. Local anesthetics provide a numbness or total loss of sensation to a small area. This technique lessens the pain of delivery, but it does not lessen the pain of your contractions.

Intrathecal Anesthesia
This procedure is administered the same as the spinal and epidural anesthesia, through the epidural sack. The difference is that instead of receiving a continuous flow of medication it is administered in a single dose. The procedure gives less of a numbing sensation so that it allows the women to feel contractions easier to assist in the delivery of the baby easier.

Shot or I.V. 
This is the least natural option for pain relief during labor and childbirth. These drugs are injected into a muscle or vein to dull the pain. These medications affect your baby more than epidural anesthesias do, and have higher risks associated with them. This medication will make both you and your child sleepy through the procedure and are prescribed by your obstetrician. 

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