An epidural is a form of medication used to help aid women in labor. Medication is injected directly into the spinal canal. Women who are labor for a prolonged period may find this form of medication relief enormously helpful. A long labor can tax the mother and make it difficult to her to effectively respond to necessary tasks during labor. An epidural can help her relax enough to get rest and conserve her strength.
Epidurals are a very useful medical intervention. Unfortunately an epidural can also have side effects to both the laboring woman and her newborn baby. Women who considering the use of an epidural should consider all options carefully. Informed consent is vital to help women make the choice that best suits them needs and wants. Investigate all pain relief choices in advance if possible.
Consenting to the use of an epidural during labor also increases the potential necessity of other interventions as well. Such interventions include restricted mobility as a result of the epidural medication and increased likelihood of operative interventions during delivery such as forceps usage and episiotomies. A woman with decreased mobility caused by an epidural may find it harder to bear down during labor. The woman may also find herself in a lying down position that can make it harder to use gravity to give birth.
Short Term Complications
Women who use epidurals during labor also face other short term consequences. Such potential complications include longer labor then would otherwise be necessary, drug reactions, temporary paralysis, nausea, vomiting and shivering as well as uneven pain relief that only affects one part of the body.
Long Term Complications
Women who use an epidural during labor are also at risk of long term consequences as a result. Such complications include backache, loss of feeling in a leg or both legs and urinary incontinence. Complications may or may not be amenable to medical remedies.
Risks for the Baby
Babies who come through the birth canal while the mother has an epidural also have increased risks of complications compared to a natural birth. Such complications include fetal distress that can necessitate a caesarian section, poor muscle tone during the first few hours of life, decreased sucking reflex that can make breastfeeding difficult and neonatal jaundice.
Women should think carefully about the kind of birth they wish to have well in advance. An epidural can help women get through labor and delivery successfully and have a healthy baby in the process. An epidural also carries risks as well. Pregnant women who understand all possible risks and benefits increase the possibility that they will have the kind of birthing experience that will be long remembered in a positive light.