Epidural anesthesia is the most popular means for pain relief during labor. In fact, more women ask for an epidural by name than any other method of pain relief: Over 50% of women giving birth at hospitals use epidural anesthesia.
As you prepare yourself for “labor day”, learn as much as possible about pain relief options so you will be equipped and ready to make decisions throughout your birth experience.
Understanding the different types of epidurals, how an epidural is administered, and the benefits and potential risks of an epidural will prepare you to make an informed decision for you and your baby as your birth unfolds.
What is epidural anesthesia?
Epidural anesthesia is regional anesthesia that blocks pain in a particular region of the body. The goal of an epidural is to provide analgesia, or pain relief, rather than complete anesthesia, which is total lack of feeling. Epidurals block the nerve impulses from the lower spinal segments resulting in decreased sensation in the lower half of the body.
Epidural medications fall into a class of drugs called local anesthetics, such as bupivacaine, chloroprocaine, or lidocaine. They are often delivered in combination with opioids or narcotics, such as fentanyl and sufentanil, to decrease the required dose of local anesthetic. This way pain relief is achieved with minimal effects. These medications may be used in combination with epinephrine, fentanyl, morphine, or clonidine to prolong the epidural’s effect or stabilize the mother’s blood pressure.