The Best Time For An Epidural

Pregnancy is such a special time and if you’ve ever been pregnant or are currently pregnant you have probably put some thought into how childbirth will go for you. There are so many things to think about when it comes to childbirth especially when considering pain control. One option to consider is an epidural.

What is an Epidural?

The Canadian Anaesthesiologist Society describes an epidural as

“a type of regional anesthetic in which a needle is positioned between the bones of the spine to allow the anesthesiologist to insert a small plastic tube (or catheter) into the epidural space. The needle is then removed and local anesthetic is injected through the catheter.”

This means that the Anesthesiologist will insert a needle into your lower back, allowing the anesthetic to be injected into your body. Once this happens you will feel very little, if any, sensation from your hips down. It works by temporarily blocking spinal nerves from working therefore inhibiting pain.

Why an Epidural?

Whatever your reason is for considering an epidural, it’s a personal choice and an epidural is one of the most common and most effective ways to manage pain during childbirth.

Benefits of an Epidural

  • An epidural is an effective way to relieve pain during labour
  • It is usually fast-acting, taking approximately 20 minutes to insert and 20 minutes to start working
  • It allows you to be more aware with no “brain-fog” during the birth process

Risks of an Epidural

  • It can cause low blood-pressure
  • It can make you feel shaky or shivery
  • You will require more monitoring- fetal heart rate monitoring, blood pressure checks, etc.
  • You will be unable to walk
  • You may require a catheter to empty your bladder
  • The “pushing” stage of labour may take longer due to lack of sensation
  • Risk of head-ache
  • Very small risk of nerve damage

The Best Time for an Epidural

In the past some research suggested that giving an epidural too early or too late (before or after 4-5cm dilated) could prolong labour and or increase C-Section rates but according to a meta-analysis published in The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews this is not the case. The review showed that the best time to receive an epidural is when the mother requests it. It concluded that the timing of an epidural had no impact of the duration of labour or the likelihood of a C-Section. The fact that a mother may request an epidural whenever she feels the need is great news for the expecting mother but, receiving an epidural is still dependant on when the anesthetist is available to administer it. Hopefully, for those of you who are considering an epidural as an option, your anesthetist is close by.

As a Mama Coach, I am passionate about providing education to expecting parents about all of their options. If you are looking to prepare yourself reach out to a Mama Coach in your area and ask about our prenatal classes.

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