Pain is a subjective feeling and is defined as an unpleasant sensory or emotional experience, which may or may not be associated with tissue damage. Hence, pain and the tolerance to pain vary greatly from person to person. Labour pain is rated as severe by most women who do not receive pain relief. With advent of modern medicine and availability of techniques with skilled practioners, it is now considered ‘inhuman’ not to relieve the pain of labour. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists says “Labour results in severe pain for many women. There is no other circumstance where it is considered acceptable for a person to experience untreated severe pain, amenable to safe intervention, while under a physician’s care".
Just like surgery is never done without anaesthesia, so also techniques are available to ensure painless delivery. Receiving pain relief in labour is not a pre-requisite for delivery! It is dependent on your tolerance level and the choice you want to make.
Epidural for painless labour and delivery - 'What, when, why, how?'
Epidural is a small injection placed in your lower back, through which a fine tube (epidural catheter), the size of a thread, is passed into your back. Drugs can be injected through this tube to facilitate painless normal delivery. These drugs are local anaesthetics which cause numbing of the nerves and pain sensation without affecting the ability to move. These drugs are also safe for the baby. With an epidural in place, you may feel the contractions, but they will not be painful.
Why have an Epidural?
• Epidural is the best method of pain relief in labour, among all the options available.
• Epidural can allow you to rest, relax, get focused and give you the strength to move forward as an active participant in birthing. By reducing the discomfort of childbirth, most women have a more positive birth experience.
• If you deliver by caesarean section, the same epidural can be used to provide anaesthesia during the operation and effective pain relief during recovery.
• When other types of coping mechanisms are no longer helping, an epidural can help you deal with exhaustion, irritability and fatigue. And, it ensures that you have painless labour and delivery.
How Is Epidural given?
You will first need a drip, which is fluid running into a vein in your arm. You will be asked to curl up on your side or sit bending forwards. Your back will be cleaned and a little injection of local anaesthetic given into the skin, so putting in the epidural should hardly hurt. A small tube (the size of a twine) is put into your back near the nerves carrying pain from the uterus. It is important to keep still while the anaesthesiologist is putting in the epidural, but after the tube is in place you will be free to move. Through the tube pain relieving drugs can be given continuously by a pump. The anaesthesiologist and your nurse will check that the epidural is working well so that you have a painless normal delivery
Do Epidural cause backache?
Backache is common during pregnancy and often continues afterwards when you are looking after your baby. There is now good evidence that epidurals do not cause long-term backache, though you may feel soreness at the site of the injection for a few days.