What exactly is an epidural?
Anesthesia administered via an epidural is administered into a space around your spinal nerves, known as the epidural space. When using an epidural for anesthesia in labor and delivery, this will create numbness from your bellybutton down through the tops of your legs. When thinking about childbirth, you can see how this could be beneficial! Epidurals help women tolerate the pains of labor, including contractions and the process of delivering an infant.
As stated, anesthesia administered via an epidural works by injecting medication into the space around your spinal nerves. By doing this, pain signals will be blocked from traveling from your spine up to your brain. So your brain cannot interpret the pain, because it can’t tell that it is happening. Your spinal cord connects all of the nerves in your body, so if there is a roadblock there, those pain signals can’t get through. The level at which the pain is blocked, depends on where the epidural is placed.
A trained anesthesiologist or a registered nurse anesthetists will place the epidural in your labor and delivery room if you choose to have one.
The best time to have an epidural placed is up to you. You might choose to never have one. I always suggest being open to the idea of having one going into the delivery. If you start feeling contractions and are uncomfortable, and still have a long way to go in the labor process, you might benefit from an epidural. Or, if you know you have a low pain tolerance, it might be a good idea to think about having an epidural for pain control. Ultimately, it is completely up to you.
The great thing about epidurals are that they are generally very safe. You can still move around in your bed and you will still be able to push during delivery. Epidurals help relieve pain, so during labor, you might be very tired, and due to the pain control, you might even be able to take a nap!
Please let us know if you have any additional questions about epidural anesthesia! Whether you choose to have anesthesia via an epidural during your delivery or not, you will always be a rockstar momma!