Epidural anesthesia is regional anesthesia
that blocks pain in a particular region of the body. Epidurals block the nerve impulses from the lower spinal segments resulting in decreased sensation in the lower half of the body.
The benefits of epidural anesthesia is it allows you to rest if your labor is prolonged, relieves the discomfort of childbirth and helps you to have a more positive birth experience, will allow you to remain alert and be an active participant in your birth if you deliver by cesarean and also provide effective pain relief during recovery. When other types of coping mechanisms are not helping any longer, an epidural may be what you need to move through exhaustion, irritability, and fatigue. An epidural may allow you to rest, relax, get focused and give you the strength to move forward as an active participant in your birth experience. The use of epidural anesthesia during childbirth is continually being perfected and much of its success depends on the care in which it is administered.
The Disadvantages of epidural anesthesia are they may cause your blood pressure to suddenly drop, severe headache
, you need to alternate from lying on one side to the other in bed and have continuous monitoring for changes in fetal heart rate and lying in one position can sometimes cause labor to slow down or stop and you might experience shivering, ringing of the ears, backache
, soreness where the needle is inserted, nausea, or difficulty urinating. You may find that epidural makes pushing more difficult and additional interventions such as Pitocin, forceps, vacuum extraction or cesarean may become necessary, for a few hours after birth the lower half of your body may feel numb which will require you to walk with assistance. In rare instances, permanent nerve damage
may result in the area where the catheter was inserted. Most studies suggest some babies will have trouble "latching on" which can lead to breastfeeding
difficulties. Other studies suggest that the baby may experience respiratory depression
, fetal malpositioning; and an increase in fetal heart rate variability
, which may increase the need for forceps, vacuum, cesarean deliveries and episiotomies.