With the pain relief options available, childbirth doesn’t have to be as painful as it usually is. Here’s what you need to know about this rather popular option.
WORDS STEPHANIE CLARISSA
Childbirth may not be as complicated as you think it is. First-time mothers-to-be fret not as there are many solutions for your labour pains now. You can also rely on your doctor to provide you with the best pain relief solutions. One of the most popular options up till date? An epidural.
How does it work? It involves placement of a thin tube (catheter) into the space around the spinal cord. This allows the anaesthesiologist to administer drugs to alleviate the pain sensation from labour contractions.
Here are six things you need to know about epidurals.
Safe and Effective
Epidurals are safe and effective, commonly used by labouring mothers to alleviate most of the pain mothers get from labour contractions. It can only be administered by a trained anaesthesiologist and is made available in all labour wards, especially here in Singapore. All mothers-to-be can trust in their doctors to provide them with the assurance that they are either suitable or unsuitable for the epidural anaesthesia. Usually, it is meant for a vast majority of women.
The Precision of the Epidural Catheter
Dr Steven Teo an obstetrician from STO+G Practice informs us that during the placement of an epidural catheter, precision is required and significant.
The anaesthesiologist would need the full cooperation of the patient
to keep very still during the procedure. This is best done in early labour,
before the onset of overpowering contraction pain.
Complications and Potential Future Side Effects
A common misconception among mothers is that epidurals can lead to a long-term backache. This is not yet proven. Furthermore, complications from epidural anaesthesia rarely occur.
Duration of an Actual Epidural
Epidurals, when safely in place, should be functional for many hours or even days. The use of an epidural is usually limited to the duration of active labour, which is usually for 12 hours or less.
Emergency Caesarean Sections
Epidurals may be used for emergency caesarean sections without the need for additional anaesthesia. If there’s a need to have an emergency caesarean, a working epidural with an effective anaesthesia during labour will help to alleviate additional pain. This saves precious minutes for the distressed baby.
When to Use an Epidural
An epidural is usually used when a pregnant woman requests for it, and she enters the active phase of labour. This can be defined by her cervical dilatation being 2-3 cm or more, with regular painful contractions.
Dr Teo conveys to mothers-to-be that they can request for an epidural at any time during her labour.
He also asserts that administering one too late during the situation where the cervix is more than 8-9 cm
or when delivery is imminent, will unlikely lead to a non-effective pain relief for any significant duration.
Having an effective epidural in place allows mothers to be in control of their own delivery, igniting a positive memory one of bearable pain. Dr Teo also adds that mothers-to-be should feel empowered after acquiring the knowledge of the pros and cons of having an epidural labour, ultimately making the right choice for a healthy delivery and baby!
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