Painless Delivery With Epidural: Everything You Need To Know

Are you pregnant and anxious about labour? Have you heard about painless normal delivery with epidural? An understanding of this delivery procedure may give you some peace of mind!

By Dr Kavya Krishnakumar  • 9 min read

Painless Delivery With Epidural: Everything You Need To Know
Painless delivery is a reality now

The experience of childbirth is different for all mothers. Some have it easy, some suffer for long. It has been described in various terms ranging from worst possible agony to total ecstasy. Most mothers would, however, agree that delivering a child comes with a lot of pain. In this article know about painless normal delivery and its pros and cons during childbirth.

What is painless delivery?

The process of labour is characterised by regular, painful uterine contractions leading to the expulsion of the foetus, placenta and the membranes. However, this process can be quite painful and stressful for women, especially if it is the first pregnancy.

With advancement in medicine, it is possible to deliver a baby normally without experiencing any pain. For painless normal delivery, an injection is delivered into the spinal space (epidural block) in the lower back or directly into the spinal fluid (spinal block). This numbs the lower half of the body below the waist.

As a result, many expectant mothers opt for these pain relief methods to relieve anxiety and pain associated with labour and focus more on the joy of becoming a mother. 

What are the procedures of painless delivery?

Currently, there are multiple options available for pain relief during labour, but regional anaesthesia is the only method which gives complete pain relief from labour pain. Regional anaesthesia can be given by three techniques:

  • Epidural
  • Spinal
  • Combined spinal-epidural

Advantages of painless delivery with epidural 

Among the three techniques of painless delivery, the most common is the epidural block. In this process, drugs are injected into the different spaces surrounding the spinal cord using a catheter which will block the pain sensation in the nerves temporarily.

  • An epidural is the preferred way of performing painless normal delivery. Following are the advantages of the procedure.
  • As the mother is conscious during the procedure, she can actually watch the baby being born.
  • Epidurals are not associated with increased incidence of caesarean sections, headache or backache.
  • Epidurals do not have any adverse effect on breastfeeding and the mother can feed the child as soon as possible.
  • Epidurals are recommended for those mothers who underwent a previous caesarean surgery and wish to have a normal delivery.
  • It is also recommended for mothers with medical conditions like hypertension and certain types of heart diseases.
  • This procedure is also recommended for those women who are expecting in their late thirties as the ability to bear labour pain lessens with age.

Disadvantages of painless delivery with epidural

The most common disadvantages are:

  • A sudden drop in the blood pressure which is generally treated with intravenous (IV) fluids.
  • In some cases, chances of assisted vaginal delivery such as the use of vacuum or forceps to deliver the baby increases as the pushing sensations of the mother are reduced.
  • Sometimes, the drugs don’t act, and the mother will still feel the labour pain.
  • In such cases, the patient will be confined to the bed and may not be able to walk around.

How to go about painless delivery?

  • Generally, obstetricians will consider epidural or painless delivery option only if the expecting mother asks for it.
  • Epidural is given only in active labour, i.e., once your cervix is dilated.
  • Epidural anaesthesia can be given by an anaesthetist.
  • Consent will be taken from the mother after which IV fluids will be given. Then the medication will be administered in your lower back.
  • You will be asked to arch your back while sitting and stay still for a while. This is done to increase the effectiveness of the epidural.
  • It takes a minimum of 20 minutes for the drug to start acting.
  • Maternal pulse, blood pressure and foetal heart rate will be continuously monitored.

Is painless delivery safe for the baby?

You might have concerns about the safety of the unborn baby in the process. Yes, epidurals are safe for the baby and it gives complete pain relief which reduces the stress levels of the mother. It helps the mother relax, rest and gives her the strength to take the birth experience forward. When the mother is relaxed, it also helps the obstetrician to take a calmer decision even when the labour is prolonged.

Also read: 10 Myths And Facts About Pregnancy

Pain relief can be continued post-delivery for medical procedures like episiotomy, suturing and in case of an emergency. If needed, the same anaesthesia can be continued. After the baby is born, the catheter is removed, the effects of anaesthesia usually disappear within one to two hours.

Who cannot have epidural?

You are not allowed to have epidurals:

  • If you have a blood clotting disorder
  • If you have any infection at the site of insertion
  • If you are on a blood-thinning drug
  • If there are any allergies to these anaesthetic drugs.

Is epidural delivery method really painless?

Even after epidural in your lower part of the body, you may still feel the contractions, however, the severity of the pain will not be there.

Where is epidural delivery method available?

Painless labour option is available in most of the hospitals nowadays and there has been a rise in the number of women opting for a painless delivery. Those mothers who dread labour pain should definitely try this option.

Giving birth to your baby is a joyous moment. If you are expecting, discuss the methods of pain relief and the pros and cons of these methods with your obstetrician during your antenatal check-ups. Do not let pain diminish your joyous moment of motherhood.

Also read:Healthy Food Choices for Pregnant Women

About the expert: 

Written by Dr Kavya Krishnakumar on 31 March 2019; updated on 23 March 2020

Dr Kavya Krishnakumar is a leading gynaecologist based in Chennai.

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