We all know that epidurals miraculously make childbirth a whole lot more bearable since they’ve been introduced. They became very common during the 1980’s and 90’s, and now they’re extremely common to the point where everyone has heard of it. But do you know how exactly an epidural works? Many soon-to-be parents admit that they’re not sure what the process actually involves, and we think it’s important for everyone to understand how it all happens.
A lot of people are under the impression that an epidural is a shot that is administered once until the labor is done. However, the truth is that it’s actually a catheter tube that is inserted into the spine through a needle, which remains there until labor is finished, so that it can continually administer painkillers, resulting in the lower half of the body, usually from the bellybutton to upper legs, being numbed.
Typically, an anesthesiologist will numb the area where the epidural will be administered, which can cause a burning or stinging feeling, but should only be momentary thanks to the numbing. There is not a significant amount of pain associated with the administration of the epidural, and most patients will describe the insertion as more of a pressure than pain.
It can take about 15 minutes for the medication to start kicking in, but it then allows for labor to be a whole lot less excruciating but also allows the mother to be awake and alert throughout. The epidural lasts as long as it is needed, and the amount of medication administered can be adjusted to more or less as is needed.
Usually, the epidural is given during the first stage of labor, but it can be administered pretty much at any stage of the labor. It is safe for most people, but it is of course important to discuss with your doctor before any medication is taken. This is why it’s best to discuss options before the labor is actually taking place.
While the process sounds really scary to some, the truth is that having an epidural can help make the whole labor process a lot more manageable for a lot of women. Epidurals are very effective and generally quite safe, and post epidural, you’ll still be able to move around in the bed and push when needed. If your labor ends up being extremely long, you will be able to sleep and recover strength.