At the time of childbirth, not all women feel the same degree of pain. Indeed, it differs according to the physical and psychological state of the future mothers. In order to prevent possible suffering before this happy event, scientists have developed epidural anesthesia.
The majority of maternity hospitals suggest this technique before birth, but it is optional. In this article, we will provide you with details about this method to help you decide whether or not it is right for you.
What exactly is an epidural?
Analgesia or epidural anesthesia is a medicinal technique that aims to reduce the pain felt by pregnant women due to contractions. The obstetrician inserts a small, extremely thin tube called a catheter into the epidural space in the lumbar spine.
With the help of plaster, they will then fix it along the back with its end placed on the shoulder. Local anesthetics are transported to the nerves through the catheter, temporarily suspending the sensation of pain during delivery.
Generally, the catheter is inserted when the cervix is 3 to 8 cm dilated. However, the placement can be anticipated if the woman experiences unbearable pain or if pathologies occur. In addition, it also happens that the obstetrician decides to carry out the epidural if the baby is not yet engaged in the basin. In contrast, the dilation of the cervix already exceeds 8 cm.
How is the epidural administered?
In order to undergo epidural anesthesia, you must first consult a specialist (a few minutes before the delivery). The goal is to prevent last-minute contraindications. You should be in a sitting position or on your side while the catheter is being inserted to facilitate the anesthesiologist’s work. This will also avoid possible complications.
After locating the epidural space, the obstetrician will disinfect your back and apply local anesthesia with a very fine needle. Then he will insert the catheter all the way down your back. You will probably feel a kind of electric shock, which is normal.
The anesthetics will take effect for 45 to 70 minutes. To maintain this effect until the baby is born, the doctor will need to administer additional doses of anesthetic using one of the following methods:
- Either by injection using an automatic syringe pump.
- Or by injection via a secure pump system: here, the woman herself controls the injection according to the intensity of her pain.
When a cesarean section becomes necessary, the doses administered and the duration of the operation will be increased. Depending on the dose injected, the effects of the epidural disappear after 1 to 3 hours. You will then be able to get up and return to your room.
To carry out an epidural: which are the contra-indications?
The epidural cannot be carried out in a woman who suffers from a strong fever, a local infection at the level of the lower back, or disorders of blood coagulation. The same applies to a person with a neurological or spinal disease, who is bleeding, or in case of an emergency. On the other hand, scoliosis, sciatica, and herniated discs do not necessarily constitute obstacles to the realization of an epidural.
The epidural: what are the side effects on the mother and her child?
Although your doctor has taken all the necessary precautions in carrying out the operation, you may still experience undesirable effects. We will quote, for example:
- Temporary discomfort due to a drop in blood pressure
- Tremors caused by the sensation of electric shocks
- Tingling and heaviness in the legs
- Temporary difficulty in urinating will lead to the use of a catheter.
There are special treatments that will make these inconveniences disappear in all cases. As for the baby, the epidural does not present any health risk. However, your blood pressure must be constantly monitored during the injection and regulated by medication if necessary.
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