Understanding Your Epidural
Many women count on epidurals to control their pain during labor, but unfortunately, choosing an epidural cannot guarantee a pain-free labor and delivery.
The effectiveness of an epidural will depend on two primary factors. One, how well the epidural is placed by the anesthesiologist—if the needle catheter is placed incorrectly, or in a less-than-optimal location in the epidural space, the medicine may not be as effective. Secondly, your body is a factor. Every woman will respond differently to the epidural. Some find that the epidural completely alleviates their pain — I have literally seen a woman push out her baby while laughing. Others, like myself, found the epidural helpful, but still found the actual act of pushing a baby out pretty darn painful. (I may or may not have yelled once or twice, even with the epidural.)
Because you may not know how your body will respond to the epidural or how your well your epidural will be placed, here are some tips to remember if you choose an epidural for your labor and find it to be less-than-effective:
- Changing positions may help
If you have been in the same position for a prolonged period of time, the epidural medicine may not be distributing properly in your body. Changing positions or rotating sides may help get the medicine distributed evenly.
- An epidural primarily helps with the pain, not the pressure. As your baby descends down the birth canal, you will feel increased pressure in your rectum and vagina — this is normal and is caused by the baby descending. It’s usually that extreme pressure that causes the urge to push, so in many cases, an epidural does not affect you feeling the pressure. And that’s usually a good thing, because you need to feel that pressure to push! So, just remember if you are feeling pressure, but not your contraction pain, the epidural is probably doing its job.
- Speak up!
This is the most important thing I can tell you about epidurals — they don’t work the same way for everyone. Your nurse and your doctor will work with you to adjust the epidural medication levels as necessary and can even give you extra medicine if needed. Be sure to tell your nurse if the epidural is alleviating your pain and don’t be afraid to tell her if it’s not.
Did your epidural relieve your pain during labor and delivery?
Photo via Flickr/harinaivoteza