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All you need to know about epidurals: The injections that give you painless labour

Epidurals are a popular method of pain relief during labour and are used widely across the globe.

The injections that give you painless labour. [Parents]

Understanding the process, its advantages, and potential side effects can help expectant mothers make informed decisions. Here’s an overview that could serve as a basis for an educative article on epidurals:

An epidural is a regional anesthesia that blocks pain in a particular region of the body. In labour, the goal is to reduce or eliminate pain in the lower body by injecting an anesthetic medication into the epidural space surrounding the spinal nerves in the lower back.

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The process typically involves the following steps:

  • The patient sits or lies on her side with her back curved outward.
  • A small area on the back is cleaned and numbed.
  • A needle is inserted into the epidural space, and a small catheter is threaded through the needle.
  • The needle is then removed, leaving the catheter in place to deliver medication as needed.
  1. Effective pain relief: Epidurals are very effective at reducing pain during labour, which can help some women have a more positive birth experience.
  2. Adjustable dosage: The level of numbness can often be adjusted, allowing some women to move around somewhat and push effectively during labor.
  3. Remains awake and alert: Unlike general anesthesia, women remain fully conscious and alert during the delivery.
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  1. Limited mobility: An epidural usually limits a woman’s ability to walk or change positions during labour.
  2. Potential for side effects: These can include low blood pressure, headache, fever, or itching. Rarely, more severe complications can occur, such as difficulty breathing or nerve damage.
  3. Delayed labour: Some studies suggest that an epidural might prolong the first and second stages of labour.

Common side effects include:

  • Blood pressure drop: This can slow the baby's heart rate.
  • Headaches: Caused by leakage of spinal fluid.
  • Fever: Women with epidurals tend to have a higher risk of developing a fever during labor.
  • Soreness: The injection site can be sore for a few days.

Less common but more serious risks include:

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  • Severe nerve damage: Though extremely rare, improper needle placement can cause permanent damage.
  • Epidural hematoma or abscess: These are also rare but serious conditions that can occur due to infection or bleeding near the spine.

Epidurals offer effective pain relief for many women during labour, though they come with potential side effects and risks.

Expectant mothers should discuss all options with their healthcare provider to make the best choice for their individual needs and circumstances.

This discussion can ensure that they are fully informed about the potential benefits and risks associated with epidural anesthesia.

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