Epidurals are one of the most frequently used forms of pain control for labor and delivery and they are considered safe for a baby. There are two strengths available:
The traditional (or strong) form of epidural – The lower half of the body is numbed by anesthesia, which is fed into a catheter inserted just outside the canal that houses the spinal cord and nerves that feed the back.
di-font-weight: normal"> Pros – Constant pain relief and a low overall dose of medication.
di-font-weight: normal"> Cons – An epidural weakens the motor coordination in the lower half of the body.
It also can cause a drop in the mother’s blood pressure, a decrease in uterine contractions and a slower second stage of labor.
Epidural-lite – This type of epidural uses a combination of a morphine-like narcotic and an anesthetic that reduces the dosage needed for pain relief. While pain is still numbed, the woman can feel and use the lower half of her body.
di-font-weight: normal"> Pros – It allows muscle control in the lower half of the body.
• Cons – This type of epidural isn’t adequate during a Cesarean-section.
This is used primarily for Cesarean deliveries. Anesthesia is fed directly into the canal that houses the spinal cord, resulting in relief similar to that offered by the traditional epidural.
• Pros – The woman remains awake and aware during delivery.
• Cons – The drugs can wear off before labor is completed so they are less desirable for vaginal deliveries. A spinal can also cause the mother’s blood pressure to drop and may cause headaches.
Narcotics can be given at almost any stage of labor – except shortly before delivery, since the drug can pass into the baby’s blood and decrease respiratory function.
• Pros – Narcotics reduce pain and can make the mother more comfortable.
• Cons – Narcotics don’t completely remove pain and they can make the mother sleepy and mentally “foggy.” In the infant, narcotics may cause short-lived drowsiness and breathing problems.