Facts About Epidurals

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An epidural is a painkilling drug injected into the back through a fine tube. Considered a regional anaesthetic, the drug is injected around the nerves that relay pain signals from the source of the pain where it will be numbed providing pain relief.

Fact 1. In the U.K., there were about 30 percent of the women have an epidural during labor or after birth.

Fact 2.  The epidural will deaden the nerves that carry pain signals from the uterus and cervix to the brain.

Fact 3. Epidural solutions contain opioid fentanyl which can cross across the placenta. Higher dosages than 100 micrograms can affect the baby’s breathing or make him drowsy.

Fact 4.  For one out of eight women, the epidural does not work as expected. Extra pain relief might be needed.

Fact 5.  Epidural steroid injections, or ESIs, are a treatment for low back pain and leg pain used since 1952.  ESIs are still being used for the management of sciatica and low back pain.

Fact 6. ESIs are also used to ease pain in the neck or cervical region in the mid-spine or thoracic region.

Fact 7.  Patients who have experienced the following: the long-term use of aspirin, problems with blood clotting, infection near the insertion site, a history of headaches, chronic, neurologic disorders should be cautious when getting epidurals.

Fact 8.  Infection from an epidural can occur when the needle is inserted into the wrong space or there is a loss of tone in the bladder. A total spinal block can happen if the anesthetic is injected into the cerebrospinal space.

Fact 9. In the event the epidural space cannot be located, pain relief might not be possible.  There are occasions when, due to a patchy anesthesia, some parts of the abdomen will be numb and others will be normal.

Fact 10. During an epidural, the second stage of labor will limit the mother’s movement. She will be advised to stay in bed with her head at the same level throughout labor. The downside of epidurals is the mother will have no control over her body which could impact the maternal bonding instincts. Epidurals do contain risks, and the mother should be made aware of it.


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