Sunday, October 14, 2012

How epidural analgesia works during labor and delivery

Epidural analgesia for labor and delivery: An epidural is a special type of local anesthetic. It numbs the nerves which carry pain from the birth canal to the brain. For most women, an epidural gives complete pain relief. It can be very helpful for women who are having a long or particularly painful labor, or who are becoming very distressed.
An anesthetist is the only person who can give an epidural. If you think you are going to want one, check whether anesthetists are always available at your hospital.
How epidural works    
A drip will run fluid into a vein in your arm.
While you lie on your side or sit up in a curled position, an anesthetist will clean your back with antiseptic and numb a small area with some local anesthetic.
A very small tube will be placed into your back near the nerves that carry pain from the uterus. Drugs (usually a mixture of local anesthetic and opioid) are then administered through this tube. It takes about 20 minutes to get the epidural set up and then another 10–15 minutes for it to work. Occasionally it doesn’t work perfectly at first, and needs to be adjusted.
After it has been set up, the epidural can be ‘topped up’ by an anesthetist or midwife, or you may be given a machine which will let you top up the epidural yourself.
Your contractions and the baby’s heart will need to be continuously monitored by a machine. This means having a belt round your abdomen and possibly a clip attached to your baby’s head.

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