When you’re in labor, the last thing you want to worry about is whether the pain relief that’s offered is dangerous. Well, now we have more reassurance. A study from England found that epidurals given in labor are about 10 times safer than we previously thought. The risk was estimated to be about 1 in 23,000 women will have a serious complication.
Epidurals have become more popular and many of the myths surrounding them have been cleared up. I joke to my patients that almost every single one of my patients who finally gets some relief from the pain of labor, looks longingly at the person who magically made the pain disappear and many have proposed marriage! And, it doesn’t matter if their partner and father of the baby is standing right there.
Take away the pain, and I’m yours.
Here’s an illustration of an epidural by Andrea Kelly, who has drawn all the illustrations for my Personal Guide to Pregnancy.
Not too Early & Not too Late
The Key to Epidurals is not to wait too long to use them, and not to get them too early. If it’s too early, then, labor can slow down. If it’s too late, it may be harder to push.
How they work:
Epidurals help decrease pain for sure, but we also think that when moms aren’t tensing up with pain, when they can begin to relax, their stress hormones also decrease, which helps one key part of their body relax: The cervix.
There’s good evidence that epidurals help the cervix dilate a bit faster.
Now, there’s one catch, In Most cases labor has to be progressing and the cervix has to be at least 3 centimeters dilated before the epidural is given or the cervix becomes more stubborn and doesn’t dilate. Kind of like Goldilocks.
It has to be Just Right.