Risks And Benefits Of Using Epidural For Delivery

Risks And Benefits Of Using Epidural For Delivery

Before we find out the risks and benefits of epidural for delivery, let us ask you a few questions:

Is your due date approaching?

Are you nervous and anxious about labor?

It is common for mums-to-be to feel worried about the pain of normal delivery. Many often panic and opt for a C-section even if there is no complication requiring a cesarean. Some go in for an epidural to be able to bear the pain.

However, if you are hoping for a normal delivery, it is important that you learn about epidurals and understand the pros and cons of this option before you opt for it. It is important for you to understand how epidurals work and how it may affect you and your baby. It is also important to know about the risks and benefits of epidurals.

Also read: Does a C-Section affect breastfeeding?

Read on to find out all about epidurals.

What Are Epidurals?

Studies show that 60-80% of first time mothers in the US opt for epidural drugs to avoid labor pain. The trend is catching up in India as well. Epidurals are drugs that are administered in order to numb the lower body of the woman who is about to deliver a baby.

It is similar to local anesthesia. However, the difference is that epidurals are aimed at providing pain relief and reducing sensation in the area while local anesthesia is aimed at totally removing any sensation in the area.

These drugs are injected through the tissues in your back. It is injected into your lower back and reduces sensation around the uterus and the birth canal. They are provided along with other medicines that induce sleep and drowsiness to help you feel more relief from pain.

What are the benefits?

Besides providing pain relief, other benefits have made women opt for epidurals more often nowadays. These are:

  • Epidurals allow the mother to stay active and participate in the whole birthing process.
  • Sometimes epidurals are given to mothers who have had a C-section delivery as they help manage post-delivery pain.
  • They give women a positive experience of delivering the baby.
  • In case the labor pains get prolonged, giving the epidural allows the mother to rest. Epidurals prevent fatigue and exhaustion caused by long hours of labor and some women may feel more focused when the pain gets diminished.

Also read: Is it possible to have a painless natural delivery?

Concerns For The Mother

Along with the risks and benefits of epidural for delivery, there are some concerns that mothers should keep in mind. Research shows that the method of administration and the time of administration of epidurals are still very different from one hospital to another. This is also a type of medication that is still undergoing research and development, making it risky to use, to some extent.

Here are some concerns for the mother with respect to epidurals:

  • They can cause a sudden drop in blood pressure, which may reduce the blood supply to the baby.
  • Leakage of fluids from the spine can cause severe headache.
  • The second stage of labor is often slowed down with epidurals, which may require the use of forceps to bring the baby out.
  • The body temperature begins to rise in case the epidural has been administered for more than 5 hours. This leads to an increase in the heart rate of the mother and the baby.
  • In extreme cases, permanent nerve damage, heart issues, convulsions and breathing difficulties can also be seen after administering an epidural.
  • Some women have reportedly experienced patches of numbness in the area that the medicine had been administered in. This numbness has even lasted for up to three months in some cases.
  • Other side effects of epidurals include nausea, fatigue, uneasiness, and weakness.
  • Studies have also revealed that women who opt for epidurals are more likely to have a C-section because of sudden drop in blood pressure.

Also read: Can Women Choose A Vaginal Delivery After C-Section?

Concerns For The Baby

The research available to understand the effects of epidurals on babies is very little.

However, the most commonly reported effects of epidural on the baby are as follows:

  • The baby may feel drowsy for several hours or even days after birth, making it harder for you to breastfeed.
  • When epidurals are injected, the baby’s body also absorbs them. Since the liver is still underdeveloped, these drugs are not flushed out of the baby’s body fast. As a result, the baby’s reflexes are slowed down and she finds it difficult to latch onto the breast for feeding.
  • Abnormal Fetal Heart Rate (FHR) has been observed in babies who have been delivered with the use of epidurals. In some cases, these abnormalities last for as long as six weeks.
  • Breathing difficulties are seen in babies when epidurals are used. Epidurals often affect the oxygen supply to the baby within the first 20 minutes of being administered, often leading to an emergency C-section delivery.

Along with these physiological risks, there are several psychological after-effects of epidurals as well.

For instance, the production of a hormone called oxytocin is reduced when epidurals are given. This affects the mood and emotional well being of the mother, further contributing to the problem called the ‘let down effect’. This means that the mother wants to spend less time with the baby and may even have difficulties breastfeeding.

While this theory has not been proven to satisfaction, many women who use an epidural have revealed that they did struggle with bonding issues and severe postpartum depression.

While epidurals have helped many women sail through the tough hours of labor and they definitely are an option to consider. Do try other methods of coping with the pain as well, before you opt for it. Yoga postures, breathing techniques; water birthing, massaging etc. are some great options to bear labour pain. It is true that labor is one of the most painful experiences. However, it is also true that the moment you hold your baby in your arms, it will only be a distant memory. After reading this article regarding the risks and benefits of epidural for delivery, we hope we have helped you make an informed decision.

Also read: 11 Important Factors to Consider Before Choosing the Best Hospital for Delivery

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