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Epidurals for Pain Relief in Childbirth

When you have a baby one of the first questions you are asked is what pain relief did you or will you choose? As a mother of 2, I had one epidural birth and one natural birth with no pain relief, I will now try and give you an honest opinion.

Lots of people are put off having an epidural because they have heard that the needle is very big or that it is very painful. Yes the needle is big but you don’t have to see it as it goes into your back. As for it being painful, they apply a local anaesthetic to the lower part of your back first. The only awkward thing is having to sit forward and stay still while having painful contractions.

The main thing I was worried about when having an epidural was not feeling the urge to push when the time came. This is very common but most people if left for a bit will in the end feel the urge to push, however if you don’t normally a midwife will let you know that on the next contraction you need to push.

The epidural injection can cause both the loss of sensation and a loss of pain, by blocking the transmission of signals through nerves in or near the spinal cord. That being said the epidural works differently for every person, some people will be completely numbed by it and will feel nothing a all. 15% of people experience partial pain relief where they will be slightly numbed but will still feel some pain, and 5% of people feel no pain relief from an epidural.

The down sides of having an epidural are they can slow down labor, the two main reason’s for this are:

1) The release of oxytocin is decreased with epidurals

2) Lack of gravity : woman is laying down instead of stranding up.

You may also need a catheter to empty you bladder as you are not able to get out of bed. Also there is more chance of your baby needing to be born with the aid of forceps or ventouse, this may be because epidurals can make it difficult for your baby to move into the best position to be born.

There is also a very small risk of nerve damage, leaving you with a numb patch on your leg or foot. The risk is about 1 in 1,000 for temporary nerve damage and 1 in 13,000 for permanent damage.

All this considered, the epidural is a drug, and like all drugs of its kind it does carry risks, but does the pain relief out weigh the risks? I’ll leave that for you to decided.