If you’re having any reservations or anxiety about the idea of getting an epidural that’s perfectly normal.
You may be wondering about how it would go and when you would get one or if you should get one at all.
It’s not a decision to take lightly, but if you think it will help you get through the experience, then go for it.
Many women make the decision to have one and it can create an easier, more pleasant birthing experience.
I had one for all three and I actually enjoyed the birth of my babes! I could even say it was fun.
In this post I want to help prepare you, alleviate some of the worries, and shed some light on what it’s really like to have an epidural.
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What It’s Like to Get an Epidural During Childbirth | Things You Need To Know
It won’t happen right away
You should know upfront that you’re not going to get your epidural as soon as you ask for it.
It can take a few minutes or a couple of hours or more. How long it takes will depend on how many people are ahead of you for the procedure and when they can get the medicine in the room and the availability of the anesthesiologist.
Because it does take some time, don’t wait until the pain is excruciating to ask for it. There’s no prize for suffering through it.
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The anesthesiologist will numb the area first
Before the epidural is administered, a local anesthetic will be used to numb the area a bit.
It’ll take effect within minutes and will make the procedure more comfortable.
Initially, you might feel the tube threading down your back and minor pressure and prodding but it shouldn’t be too painful.
So it doesn’t really hurt to get an Epidural unless they hit a nerve. If that is the case, you’ll feel quick, dull shooting pain, but it passes quickly.
For most women, it’ll be a breeze once numb.
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You’ll get immediate relief
Once the epidural is complete, you’ll feel relief right away. And because contractions and labor can be tiring, the epidural will help relax you enough so you can rest or get some sleep.
Resting is important because it will prepare you for pushing and the task of delivery.
An epidural can help you be more focused and present during delivery because you won’t be distracted by the pain.
You May Be Wondering If it Will Hurt When You Push With An Epidural
You might have heard that you’ll be completely numb after an epidural but that’s not always true; you’ll still feel sensation and the urge to push so you can deliver your baby.
You will also still be able to feel the baby come out with an Epidural but it will feel mostly like intense pressure rather than a burning pain.
It can make the experience much easier for you if this is the route you choose.
The epidural may not work
Although disappointing, it’s important you know that your epidural may not work.
It could fail entirely or only work a little bit. Depending on your unique situation you might have to go through the process more than once.
If your epidural fails it’s possible your doctor will adjust your position and try again, maybe even more than once.
If your epidural doesn’t take, don’t worry. There are other pain management options available for you.
Ask your doctor about your alternatives ahead of time so you know exactly what to expect if the epidural fails.
You might need a urinary catheter
Since the epidural numbs the lower part of your body, you may need a urinary catheter put in place if your labor lasts more than a few hours.
It’ll be removed once the epidural wears off, but you might feel some discomfort for a while after the catheter comes out.
Because the catheter wouldn’t be placed until after you are numb you shouldn’t feel any pain from the catheter being inserted.
Alternatively, they may do an ‘ in and out ‘ catheter several times during your labor.
When they do this they simply put a quick catheter in and let your bladder relieve itself, then remove it and get it out of the way.
Shaking or shivers is completely normal
After the epidural medication is administered some people experience shaking or what they describe as the shivers.
This is a physical reaction to the medication and although it feels strange and uncomfortable it is completely harmless.
This is not a health concern for you or the baby and should settle down after a while.
You should also be aware that shaking during childbirth happens too, with or without an epidural.
It’s a natural part of your body’s recovery process and it’s extremely important that you have a comforting and supportive environment to heal in.
An epidural can mean a severe headache for some
Although uncommon, epidurals do come with a risk of severe headaches.
This type of headache is referred to as a spinal headache because it can only happen after a spinal injection or epidural.
It can be dull and mild, or it can be severe and incapacitating. It occurs in the very front or back of the head and usually gets worse with sitting or standing up, while lying down flat may make it better.
These headaches are a rare side effect, but they do happen and can be debilitating.
Treatment is usually hydration, caffeine, and taking it easy for a couple of days. Your doctor may opt to prescribe an oral pain reliever.
It’s important to communicate any pain or concerns with your doctor.
They are here to help you deliver your baby safely but also to make you more comfortable and eliminate pain where they can.
Your epidural could last too long.
There is a chance that the epidural can last longer than expected and beyond when you want it to.
Once the medication is stopped and the catheter is removed you should expect to get back full feeling, but that doesn’t always happen.
Numbness from an epidural can linger. It can last for minutes, hours and in rare cases, days.
When this happens, there isn’t much you can do to speed up the process but it’s still important that you share any concerns about numbness or tingling with your doctor.
Epidurals Can Wear Off During Labor Too
Sometimes the epidural will wear off before you’ve even begun to push.
In this case, they can either give you another or give you another method of pain management.
Or you can rough it.
This leads to the next question..
When Is the best time to get an epidural during labor?
Experts have always said that it’s best to wait until active labor before getting your epidural.
They want you to wait because some believe if you get one too early it can slow your labor or even stop it.
This does seem to be true for many. It can also increase your chances of needing a C-section according to some doctors.
But you can have an epidural whenever you ask at most facilities. I do believe it’s best to wait until your labor progresses a bit though.
In The End….
Epidurals can be a wonderful option for many women but do come with a risk of side effects, most of which are rare.
An epidural offers pain relief, rest, and improved focus and concentration during labor and delivery.
You should keep in mind that anesthesiologists perform epidurals every day, and although it’s new for you it certainly isn’t for them.
If you’re considering an epidural talk to your doctor ahead of time.
They can answer any questions you have and prepare you for what to expect. Even if you decide now you don’t want an epidural, you can change your mind once you’re in labor.
Pain relief is available, don’t be afraid to ask for it.
We wish you luck!
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