The epidural is a medical means of reducing the pains linked to childbirth, particularly contractions, before and during labour. Sure, that’s not telling you anything you don’t know already. But do you know what this anaesthetic really contains? And if there are health consequences for you or your newborn? We’re going to tell you everything you need to know about the epidural, without sugar coating it.
The epidural: a local anaesthetic that contains a derivative of morphine
The epidural is a local anaesthetic which consists of injecting an anaesthesising product via a type of small probe into the epidural area (hence its name), an area located roughly in the spinal cord, in the lumbar region. The solution is usually made with bupivacaine, ropivacaine and several adjuvants (morphine, adrenaline, phenylephrine or ephedrine).
What are the contra-indications?
An epidural can be contra-indicated for certain women: notably in the cases of problems with blood coagulation, fever, infection or if you have a tattoo around the area for injection.
An epidural prolongs labour
If the epidural is administered in the second part of labour, after dilation, the contractions of the uterus will be less effective, which can lead to the need for certain instruments to aid the delivery (forceps, ventouse, etc.), which are not without risks for the baby.
There is a higher risk that the baby will not present in the right position
Under the effects of the epidural, the pelvic muscles are considerably less engaged, and these are very useful for guiding the baby towards the correct position. There is therefore a higher risk that the baby will present in a poor position (in breech, for example).
The epidural and its side effects
The side effects of an epidural in the right dosage are often temporary and not serious. That said, even if it is only in rare cases, certain women suffer more severe complications following an epidural that was poorly administered, or from a related pathology. The most common side effects, which dissipate rapidly (within a few hours or days) are:
- Heavy legs
- Lowered blood pressure
What are the effects on the baby?
Obviously, your baby will be exposed to a small dose of the product, which does not seem to carry any risks for their health. However, the epidural can lead to the need for the doctors to resort to using more implements to aid the delivery, due to reduced sensation and reduced urge to push.