Intolerable pain inhibits uterine contractions and the opening of the mouth of the uterus. This impedes labour progress. Prolonged labour exhausts the mother and the baby could show signs of distress. Pain is often a crucial factor in determining whether a Caesarian Section is performed. An epidural could eliminate the need for a C-Section.
An epidural offers superior pain relief and aids the birth process. It brings relief to both mother and baby, and prevents maternal exhaustion and foetal distress.
An epidural is a special form of local anaesthesia in which a dilute solution of local anaesthetic is injected into a small space around the spinal cord in the lower back. Pain relief is immediate and allows the mother to proceed with natural childbirth.
An epidural benefits mothers who are at risk for difficult labour. This includes women who are highly sensitive and anxious; are prone to heart and respiratory conditions; hypertensive; obese; progress towards labour very slowly; have had a previous painful experience with childbirth; and who are pregnant with twins or have a very large baby.
An epidural may also be extended to allow surgery and post-operative pain relief.
Conventional methods of pain relief – drugs, anaesthetic gases and intravenous infusions – are slow and do not last long. They induce drowsiness in the mother and tend to lower oxygen supply to the baby. This, in turn, could weaken the suckling response in the newborn and delay breastfeeding, which could result in the failure to induce breast secretions.
By aiding the natural birth process, an epidural eliminates these risks and improves the baby’s Apgar Score. This is a simple technique to evaluate the health of a newborn immediately after childbirth. It was developed to especially assess the effects of obstetric anesthesia on babies. The Apgar Score rates the newborn on five parameters –Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity and Respiration – on a scale of zero to two.