Epidural for Labour

What is an Epidural for Labour?

- An Epidural is a safe and effective technique to provide pain relief during labour.  It can also be used to provide anesthesia for a cesarian section.

- It significantly reduces pain and discomfort during contractions and delivery.  You can expect to feel numb or "frozen" up to the level of your chest.

- With an Epidural you can often still move your legs but they may feel heavy.

- The Epidural does not make your baby feel sleepy.

- The Epidural is kept in as long as you need it and will provide relief throughout your labour.

- After the medication wears off, you will have return of feeling and movement to your legs.

What should I expect?

- Your Anesthesiologist will first explain the procedure to you.

- Your lower back will be cleansed with a special cleaning solution, which will feel cold.

- The Anesthesiologist will ask you to be in a position that facilitates placement of the Epidural. This involves leaning forward while sitting on the edge of the bed.

- A tiny area of your skin will be frozen with local anesthetic.  After that you should only feel the pressure of the epidural needle.  If you feel pain or discomfort, tell your Anesthesiologist.

- A small, thin plastic tube is placed through the needle and into your back and the needle is removed leaving the plastic tube in place.

- Local anesthetic is injected through the tube to help you with the pain.

How quickly does it work?

- The epidural usually takes about 5 minutes to start to work and after about 10 minutes you should notice a considerable amount of relief.

- You may feel warmth, tingling or weakness in your legs as the freezing begins to work.

What are the benefits of Epidural Anesthesia for Labour?

- Epidural will provide continuous pain relief during your labour.

- It can be used to give a different medication to freeze you for a cesarian section should you require one.

What are the side effects?

Although Epidural anesthetics are common practice and very safe, there are some potential risks.

- Your blood pressure may decrease temporarily.  This will be closely monitored along with your heart rate and other vital signs.

- Bleeding and other complications are extremely rare.

- Back pain is extremely rare following an Epidural.  Longer term back pain is most often caused by the strain put on your lower back from carrying the weight of the baby during pregnancy

- Temporary back pain can occur due to local bruising.

- 1 to 2 patients out of 200 may get a severe headache that most often goes away within 2 to 3 days.

- You may have trouble emptying your bladder with an epidural in which case the nurse will help you drain your bladder with a tube or catheter.

- Severe and life threatening complications are very rare.

Can anyone have an Epidural for labour?

- Generally speaking yes.

- If you have a bleeding disorder, previous lower back surgery or have an infection in the area we may not be able to provide an Epidural.  It may be a good idea to be referred to the Anesthesia Clinic to discuss this further and to see if you can, in fact, have an epidural and also talk about the other options for pain relief during labour.


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