Epidurals: the nuts and bolts

π™΄πš™πš’πšπšžπš›πšŠπš•'𝚜 are a huge topic in the birth world for many reasons. The main reason is, they are considered to be the "golden standard" for pain relief during labour and birth, because compared to other pain medication options, π™΄πš™πš’πšπšžπš›πšŠπš•'𝚜 provide adequate relief the vast majority of the time, and do not effect the birthing persons mental state.



Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash


I am going to talk about the πš‹πšŽπš—πšŽπšπš’πšπšœ and πš›πš’πšœπš”πšœ of π™΄πš™πš’πšπšžπš›πšŠπš•'𝚜, but before diving into those, I want to talk about respecting peoples wishes around them, and this helpful tool, the π™ΏπšŠπš’πš— πš–πšŽπšπš’πšŒπšŠπšπš’πš˜πš— πš™πš›πšŽπšπšŽπš›πšŽπš—πšŒπšŽ πšœπšŒπšŠπš•πšŽ (π™Ώπ™Όπ™Ώπš‚).⭐

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+10 desire to feel nothing, even before labour begins

+9 fear of pain, lack of confidence in coping abilities, relies on staff for pain relief

+7 desire for epidural as soon as possible

+5 desire for epidural in active labour, wants to cope using comfort measures until then

+3 desire to use some medication, but wants to use as little as possible and rely on comfort measures

0 no preference

-3 wants to avoid pain medication, but wants to be given it as soon as they request it

-5 strong desire to avoid medication, mainly for babies benefit. Will accept medication if labour is difficult

-7 strong desire to avoid medication, for personal gratification and babies benefit. Would be disappointed if medication is used

-9 wants staff to deny them pain medication, even if requested

-10 doesn't want medication even for a c-section

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⭐some are not possible (+10, -9, -10) but it is SO IMPORTANT for your care provider(s) to know how you feel about pain medication for birth so they can support you! In nursing, pain is sometimes referred to as a vital sign and giving patients something for pain can be as routine as taking blood pressure. Birth is one of the only things that brings a person to a hospital where their pain often doesn't mean that anything is "wrong" and your wishes should be respected.


β­π™±πšŽπš—πšŽπšπš’πšπšœ/πšπšŽπšŠπšœπš˜πš—πšœ 𝚝𝚘 𝚐𝚎𝚝 πš˜πš—πšŽβ­

1) You want one! Everyone has a unique and personal relationship with pain, and for some people, an π™΄πš™πš’πšπšžπš›πšŠπš• is the difference between a traumatic birth and a positive one. You can let your support people/care providers know your preference, and importantly, you can change your mind. For some, pain can be traumatic and you might want to avoid pain as much as possible, and an π™΄πš™πš’πšπšžπš›πšŠπš• might become your new best friend and allow you to have a positive experience. Compared to other pain medication options during labour, π™΄πš™πš’πšπšžπš›πšŠπš•'s are the most effective and do not alter your mental state. For others, you might go through labour with a plan of not using medications and then decide that your experience would be better if you had one. This decision is yours⭐

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2) In certain cases, such as the urge to push on a swollen cervix, an π™΄πš™πš’πšπšžπš›πšŠπš• can be medically useful and help you to have a physiological birth. As always, making informed decisions that are right for you is key⭐ (because there is hardly ever only one option!)


β­π™²πš˜πš–πš–πš˜πš— πšπš’πšœπš”πšœβ­and reasons to wait (πš—πš˜πš 𝚊 πšŒπš˜πš–πš™πš•πšŽπšπšŽ πš•πš’πšœπš 𝚘𝚏 πšŽπšŸπšŽπš›πš’ πšœπš’πšπšŽ-𝚎𝚏𝚏𝚎𝚌𝚝):

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β­π™»πšŠπšŒπš” 𝚘𝚏 πš–πš˜πš‹πš’πš•πš’πšπš’β­

π™΄πš™πš’πšπšžπš›πšŠπš•'𝚜 usually take away someone's pain and most sensations from under the chest down, and involves staying in bed on a clear-fluid diet with a bladder catheter, EFM and (maybe) IV fluids. If you ask for a lighter dose or a "πš†πšŠπš•πš”πš’πš—πš πšŽπš™πš’πšπšžπš›πšŠπš•", there is not a guarantee that it will be a light dose in your system as every body is different. A "πš†πšŠπš•πš”πš’πš—πš πšŽπš™πš’πšπšžπš›πšŠπš•" is also mostly a misnomer, because many care providers will consider you a fall-risk and advise you to stay in bed. A light dose for you could allow you to have some mobility and be able to change positions in bed with minimal assistance, or you could not be able to feel someone touch your leg or move your lower body without help (heavy motor-blockade). The longer an πšŽπš™πš’πšπšžπš›πšŠπš• is in your system, the more likely it is for other side effects to occur (π™΄πš™πš’πšπšžπš›πšŠπš• πš‘πšŽπšŠπšπšŠπšŒπš‘πšŽ, fever, low BP)

and for your movement to be restricted.

β­π™Έπš—πšŒπš›πšŽπšŠπšœπšŽπš πš›πš’πšœπš” 𝚘𝚏 πšŠπšœπšœπš’πšœπšπšŽπš πšπšŽπš•πš’πšŸπšŽπš›πš’β­

Due to feeling numbness from below your chest down, most people with π™΄πš™πš’πšπšžπš›πšŠπš•'𝚜 dont feel the urge to push which can prolong the pushing stage (*you can ask to have it turned off while pushing*) and increase the risk of an assisted delivery with forceps or a vacuum extractor, which also increases the risk of a perineal tear.

β­π™Έπš—πšŒπš›πšŽπšŠπšœπšŽπš πš›πš’πšœπš” 𝚘𝚏 πš•πš˜πš  πš‹πš•πš˜πš˜πš πš™πš›πšŽπšœπšœπšžπš›πšŽβ­ which can compromise oxygen flow to baby.

β­π™Έπš πš–πšŠπš’ πš—πš˜πš πš–πšŠπš”πšŽ πš’πš˜πšžπš› πš•πšŠπš‹πš˜πšžπš› πšŒπš˜πš–πš™πš•πšŽπšπšŽπš•πš’ πš™πšŠπš’πš—-πšπš›πšŽπšŽβ­

In certain cases, an πšŽπš™πš’πšπšžπš›πšŠπš• might not take labour pain away completely, or you may feel a window of pain somewhere in your body. Also, most care providers do not recommend an epidural until active labour (~5cm), so learning other coping techniques is still recommended (hire a π™³πš˜πšžπš•πšŠ!) But in the end, you need to do whatever it is that feels right for you!

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