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Epidural Pros and Cons List

An epidural anesthesia is a procedure done to relieve pain during birth. Should you have an epidural? Despite being one of the most popular methods of pain relief during labor, there are some pros and cons expectant mothers should consider. The procedure involves the insertion of needle with a small catheter threaded through it between two vertebrae in the lower back. The needle is removed and a mixture of morphine-like medicine and a local freezing agent is sent down the tube, which numbs the waist and prevents pain.

List of Pros of Epidural

1. Effective for Pain
Obviously, the epidural is a very effective way to relieve pain and often relieves anxiety and stress in mothers who may be going through a difficult labor. If a woman is having a long labor, this procedure may help by allowing the mother to sleep and gain strength for the rest of the labor. It may also be useful if there are difficulties in having the baby come out due to the baby facing the belly button instead of the backbone. In this case, the epidural helps relax the vagina muscles and perineum, which allows the baby enough room to turn around and leave the body.

3. Helps With Other Conditions
An epidural may also help with hypertension. It is common for blood pressure to dramatically increase during labor, which can increase the risk of stroke; an epidural can assist in lowering this risk. This procedure also eliminates the necessity of using a vacuum or forceps as it helps to prevent discomfort if there are difficulties in the baby coming out.

List of Cons of Epidural

1. Side Effects and Pain
However, there are also disadvantages to having an epidural. Although many women experience pain relief due to the numbing of the lower body, five to 10 percent of woman experience only partial relief; sometimes only half the lower body is affected or only patches of the area are numbed.

2. Limited Mobility
Often women’s mobility is limited during this procedure and will not be able to move the legs. Also, most patients are hooked up to a fetal monitor and IV, which means during a long labor, they will not be able to be out of bed or walk around.

3. Stalled Labor
The numbing of the lower body results in women being less able to push, which can make the labor longer. They may also need to be administered a hormone called oxytocin (which also carries risks) in order to help with contractions that have slowed down or temporarily stopped.) to strengthen slowed or stalled contractions.

4. Spinal Headaches and Side Effects
The epidural may cause the woman to develop a spinal headache; only about one percent of women experience this, but it can cause severe pain, which can last for days or even weeks if another procedure similar to an epidural is not done.

Women using an epidural may also be more likely to develop a fever, which may often signal infection; in this case, the mother and infant should are usually both treated, sometimes unnecessarily, with antibiotics. The baby may also have be under observation longer in the hospital.