Whether mothers plan to have natural childbirth or want to utilize all of the medical pain relief options available, they have several things in common when it comes to the issue of pain relief. Since no one enjoys pain, finding relief is high on their priority list. Another is having many options available to choose from. The last thing that all mothers in labor have in common is a desire to have some level of control.
For all of these reasons, women who desire to use pain medication are finding that patient-controlled epidurals are an effective option for pain relief. Patient-controlled epidurals were introduced in 1988; however they have been slow to catch on across the board in every hospital. If you are interested in using this option, be sure to find out if patient-controlled epidurals are offered where you choose to give birth.
There are many aspects of this method of epidural that make them uniquely different from a standard continuous epidural. Here are some of the pros and cons of patient-controlled epidural anesthesia (PCEA) to help you decide if it right for you.
Pros of Using Patient-Controlled Epidurals:
- Because the dosages are limited, it may be less likely for mothers to end up with too much medication with a PCEA.
- Mothers enjoy being able to manage their own levels of pain relief and the use of PCEA’s have a higher satisfaction than the standard continuous epidural.
- Some additional options included within the method of a patient-controlled epidural is that the mother may be more mobile, otherwise known as a walking epidural. Walking epidurals typically allow mothers some level of pain relief but enough mobility to walk from the bed to the bathroom.
- Research indicates that the use of other medical interventions were reduced in PCEA versus traditional continuous epidurals.
- With a PCEA, mothers can have access to better pain relief when they need it by dosing themselves and do not have to wait for the nurse or anesthesiologist for additional dosages.
Cons of Using Patient-Controlled Epidurals:
- Not every facility has PCEA’s available to mothers in labor. (For example, only 25% of hospitals in California currently offer PCEA’s to mothers during labor).
- Patient-controlled epidural pumps are expensive and can malfunction.
- If the mother falls asleep and is not re-dosing herself, she can wake up in pain.
Newest PCEA Options
If you are interested in finding out even more information about the latest in PCEA’s, there is a newer system that uses a computer generated dosage that adjusts the level of pain medication based on the progress of labor. This new system is called “computer-integrated patient-controlled epidural analgesia” or CIPCEA and could be the epidural of the future.