When you’re in labor, you really don’t think about anything else but to breathe and try not to freak out.
And so, you might find yourself sucking on Entonox (if you’ve requested it) when you realize in horror that this thing is not even soothing your pain, at all.
AT THIS POINT HAVING AN EPIDURAL IN LABOR BECOMES A REALITY!
In almost a state of panic, you will ask for whatever they’ve can give you ASAP.
Believe me, as that’s is exactly what I did.
I had gas and air on all 5 of my children as soon as I got to the hospital and the whole way through.
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I Had No Clue
While the pain was intensifying, I even began to struggle to breathe as the contractions were becoming more and more intense.
On my first child’s birth, I told my midwife it was hurting too much so she asked me what pain relief I wanted.
I was stumped. I hadn’t even thought about it.
To this day I remember thinking paracetamol straight away and I’m still surprised my midwife didn’t hysterically laugh in my face when I said it aloud to her.
I requested for anything stronger, anything at all.
They offered the epidural on only 1 of my children and I didn’t think twice.
Next, I was induced and went from 0cm to 10cm in the space of 10 minutes.
To say the pain was intense is not enough.
During this experience, I realized I should have taken the epidural before the IV went in.
I usually research everything and anything before I agree to it, but I wasn’t exactly in the right frame of mind to want to get my laptop out for a bit of birth-based information.
Then, the procedure took place and within 30 minutes, I’d given birth.
I definitely felt it.
Unfortunately, my procedure was in the small percentage of patients where epidural didn’t work for.
I believe that had I opted to take the Epidural before the drip started then It would have worked. I just didn’t know.
Once the baby was all wrapped up and my husband held her, I jumped out of bed and went in the shower. I know some people aren’t as lucky as I was.
What is an epidural?
Epidural anesthesia is an option of pain relief during childbirth. It is put into the epidural space by a needle. This is where the area of the membrane around your spinal cord is.
No pain signals will be sent to your brain once the anaesthetic kicks in. It is also referred to as a spinal block or epidural block.
What happens when you have an epidural?
The procedure is undertaken by an anesthesiologist who will ask you to either sit up comfortably on the edge of the bed or on your side.
The injection region will be cleaned and a local anaesthetic will be applied to numb the area.
The needle will be injected into your lower back which a catheter will then pass through. The catheter will be left in place as the needle is removed.
The Dose Is Increased Gradually
To ensure there’re no problems, you will be given a small dose before the full dose is administered.
It can take about 15 minutes for the pain to numb and for the duration of your labor, you will be given more medication through the catheter.
Both your blood pressure and baby will be monitored through your labor to prevent any complications the medication might cause.
The catheter will be removed after the baby is born. Generally, the whole procedure is painless, although you will still be able to feel about 80% during birth.
RELATED: Tips on how Recover From a C-Section
Benefits of an epidural
- You can stay awake during a c-section if you have an epidural.
- They are usually very safe.
- You can still move around and know when it’s time to push.
- They’re an effective form of pain management.
- Like other forms of pain relief, you won’t feel any drowsiness. You will be completely alert during labor.
Risks of an epidural
- You may lose feeling in your legs for a short period, and you may not be able to feel the pushing stage which means you might need delivery interventions such as forceps.
- You might experience a slower labor.
- It sometimes doesn’t work which means having it replaced.
- You may need to be given fluids through an arm drip.
Epidural side effects
- It’s nothing serious but your blood pressure might drop.
- It might make you feel nauseous or vomit.
- You may experience itching after the procedure, although you will be able to get something from the doctor to relieve it.
- An increased risk of tears in the vagina during birth.
- Your back might feel sore after the baby is born. You will be able to get pain relief from the doctor and it will usually clear up within a couple of days.
- It’s nothing to worry about but it is known to give you a fever.
Relieving back pain after the epidural
I had back pain for over 6 months when I had my third child. The worst thing is, the epidural didn’t even work for me.
It is thought that the epidural doesn’t have much to do with the back pain you might experience, but because of the strain of holding a new baby and due to your body being so relaxed during the birth, it’s easier to cause damage to the body without realizing.
If you suffer from back pain, there are a few remedies to help ease it:
- Heat – you can provide short term relief by applying heat to the affected area.
- Sit with your legs crossed – it will provide you with relief if you bend forward slightly too.
- Remember to use both sides of your body – we all tend to use one side more than the other and without even realizing it, this can cause a strain on our back. Try taking it in turns on which side you carry things.
- Wall squats – using the wall for back support, lean against it and slowly do a squat. Repeat this several times a day and you’ll begin to notice a difference.
- Ankle pumps – Stretch your legs out straight while laying down, flatten your feet and then relax them.
- Physiotherapy, chiropractic or massage – If you find the right practitioner, you can often get up to long-term relief.
- You could try vaginal steaming if you’re experiencing more severe backache.
- Magnesium has a variety of benefits, but one of them is back and muscle pain. If you purchase magnesium spray, you can spray it directly on the affected area.
- Cod liver oil or coconut oil – add these to your diet or as a tablet supplement and it can decrease the frequency of pain in your back.
- Tumeric – many long-term backache sufferers have found relief when using this. It’s also simple, common and cheap!
- Acupuncture – this has many health benefits as a whole, but some women have found that it can completely remove epidural-induced back pain.
I didn’t do much other than applying heat when I suffered from back pain. In addition, a lot of paracetamol and ibuprofen (obviously no more than the daily recommended dose!).
Do Your Research
I wish I knew more about what I could have done to relieve the back pain at that time because I believe that’s why it took so long for my back to heal.
Often, people tend to forget that by the time you’re requesting for an epidural, the hospital staff has to order it, go through the paperwork and you’ll have to wait your turn. It isn’t as simple as snapping your fingers as movies show you.
Without doubt, this is something very important every mom-to-be should consider when planning the delivery.
It can also take a while for it to kick in, so also take that into consideration.
Sweet, Sweet Relief
But, once the pain-relief kicks in, it’ll be so sweet!
You can sit back and enjoy the experience as much as possible.
After having 5 children I would always advocate taking the Epidural if you are going to be induced. Induction is completely different from having a labor that builds up slowly.
Let’s just say it’s super intense and quick.
What is the most common side effect of an epidural?
Of course, the most common side effect is back pain.
It almost feels like there’s a bruise and it can sting when the shower water hits you from above.
It only lasts for about 2 weeks but that is more than enough when you’re suffering from exhaustion and body-aches from the new baby.
What other medications are available during labor?
It’s quite ironic because some of the hardest pain medications can’t be given to anyone in labor. After all, it’s a huge risk to mum and baby as it makes you sleepy and crosses the placenta which will make your baby sleep.
None of this is good for anyone!
Fentanyl and Stadol are the two drugs that can be given – also through IV.
Although, you do become tolerant to the medicine after three doses have been given.
Stadol can’t be given so close to the end of your labor as it also can make your baby sleepy, and when they come out, they won’t feel like crying, which is crucial.
You’ll be able to sleep between contractions as they take the edge off for just 1-2 hours.
Some of the myths regarding Epidurals can be read in this post
Liesel Teen a labor and delivery nurse has made a course specifically for those who are thinking about having an epidural during labor. Her birth it up course is amazing and I would recommend that everyone take it.
Read my Honest Review of Birth it up here
You can also read more about BIRTH IT UP the epidural series here
Final thoughts about the epidural
- It is preferred that only one other person is present in the room while the epidural is taking place. The practitioner will more than likely want to sit in front of the mom.
- Speak to the anesthesiologist if you don’t think it’s working. They are the only ones that can fix it. Be mindful that the only way to fix it is by putting it back in again.
- Be thoughtful about dragging your back along the bed because the epidural is only secured by a large amount of tape. This enables you to still move in bed, but not too much so it drags it out.
- If you don’t already have one in place, if you’re having a c- section, you are able to have an epidural as well as the spinal that is already given.