Although there is no “unit of measure” for pain, it is estimated that birth pains are one of the most painful experiences a woman can experience. One of the perceptions regarding the handling of this particular pain focuses on the odyssey associated with the emotional experience of being a “mother” and therefore good to experience, as long as the pregnant woman feels she can handle it.
It is true that some women manage to complete the procedure without being given anesthesia – with only the psychological support of their doctor or partner. However, it should be emphasized that the psychological and physical handling of pain is a personal matter and, therefore, every woman has the right to be informed of the means available and to choose freely among them.
The most effective method available today for the relief of labor pain, and the most widespread, is epidural anesthesia. It is applied to normal childbirth, but also to Caesarean, as it is relatively simple, offers significant advantages, while its side effects are mostly mild and controlled.
How it is done
By applying a catheter in the waist of the pregnant woman, in the intervertebral space (the space between two vertebrae). Through the catheter, analgesic drugs are administered that “target” the peripheral nerve at the bottom of the body. This blocks the transmission of nerve impulses to the centers of pain in the brain. The procedure is simple, it takes 20-30 minutes to complete and pain relief begins 10 to 20 minutes after the analgesics are administered.
Pros and Cons
Epidural is a method that presents significantly lower risks than total narcosis. Its most important advantage, however, is that it offers pain relief while allowing the mother to stay awake, maintain the sense of her pelvic floor muscles, and participate in childbirth.
In many cases the duration of childbirth is accelerated, as the mother is not in pain and is more cooperative. However, its application may increase the likelihood of using a suction cup in the second stage of childbirth.
Side effects of the method that are easily manageable include lowering blood pressure (which works well in cases of hypertension), low fever, headache, muscle aches and, more rarely, difficulty in breathing.
Finally, it is worth noting that although there is a perception that the epidural can very rarely lead to paralysis, in practice there is no safer option for relief of labor pain.