How does an epidural work?
How is an epidural performed?
Once you are actively in labor and have reached four to five centimeters in dilation, an epidural can be administered. The procedure is performed in your labor room by an anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist. You will be asked to either lay on your side or assume a sitting position with your chin tucked into your chest and your knees close to your abdomen. This position enables your back to form a “C” position, which assists in the placement of the needle. For some women this is an uncomfortable position, but if you can relax and breathe slowly, the time in this position will be brief.
The area of your lower mid-back is washed with an antiseptic solution (Betadine) to clean the skin. A half-dollar size area of your mid-back is numbed with an injection of local anesthetic. The pain from this injection is a mild pin stick and is no stronger than the pain of a contraction. The epidural needle is placed between two vertebra (in the numbed area) and into the epidural space. Then a small hollow plastic tube (the size of a pen tip) is threaded into the needle until the tip reaches the epidural space. Occasionally, the catheter will brush by a nerve and cause a brief twitch or tingling sensation down one leg. The needle will then be carefully removed and the catheter taped securely to your back. The catheter will not restrict your movement.
A small test dose of medication will be given and you will be asked to report any feelings of dizziness, unusual taste in your mouth, rapid heart rate or sudden feelings of numbness. You will be able to sit up at a 30 degree angle or lie from side to side in the labor bed. After three to seven minutes, you will begin to feel some relief from the contraction. Within 10-20 minutes the full effect should be obtained. A continuous infusion may or may not be started through the epidural catheter to maintain your comfort level.
Are epidurals safe?
What are the side effects of epidurals?
Does it always work?
Can anyone receive an epidural?
Will I remain in bed after receiving the epidural?
What else does an epidural require?
Will I be able to push with an epidural?
What are the advantages of epidural anesthesia?
An epidural can give you relief from the pain during your labor. Unlike some other drugs, an epidural does not make you drowsy before or after birth and very little medication ever reaches the baby. Some women have found that the close monitoring that comes along with having an epidural creates a sense of confidence.
Soon after the baby is delivered, your catheter will be removed. The effects of the medications usually wear off completely within an hour or two. At this time you may experience an uncomfortable burning sensation around the birth canal and perineal area.
There are many decisions to make during your pregnancy, labor and delivery. Epidural anesthesia is just one option for pain relief during labor. There is risk involved. You will have to give up some control during delivery to the hospital staff. Understanding the epidural procedure can help you decide what the best choice is for you and your needs. Remember, the health care staff at the Centegra Family Birth Center is here to help you make the right choices for you. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask us or your provider.