An epidural will give you strong labour pain relief, but could mean that you won’t feel anything at all.
Around 30 per cent of women in the UK choose to have an epidural during labour. Known as the big mama of pain relief, it has pros – and cons.
Here's everything you need to know about having an epidural...
What is an epidural?
During an epidural, strong painkillers are injected into your back via a fine tube. It’s a regional anaesthetic, so the drug is injected around the nerves that carry signals from the part of your body that feels pain during labour. It will numb your tummy completely, and although it provides you with strong pain relief the drugs will have no effect on your baby.
When would you use it?
A low-dose epidural will probably mean that you will have some sensation in your legs and feet, but generally, it acts as a way of completely numbing from the waist down. If you want to move about, you will need a mobile epidural, which requires extra staff to monitor you.
If you are planning a C-section, or end up needing one, you will probably be given an epidural. The other options are a spinal block or general anaesthetic in some cases.
The pros of an epidural:
- Provides you with very strong pain relief, and will numb your tummy
- After the pain of contractions, an epidural can help you to feel more clear-headed
- Allows you to rest
- The strong pain relief will help you to feel calmer
- If you are given an epidural early on in labour, it can be topped up to maintain the pain relief later on
The cons of an epidural
- The numbing effect will mean you won’t be able to feel anything so your midwife will have to tell you when to push
- An epidural can cause you to have severe headaches
- Increases the risk of your baby being delivered by forceps or ventouse
- Can cause a drop in your blood sugar
- You’ll need to be put on a drip and have your baby’s heart rate continually monitored during labour
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