Becoming a mother is the start of a wonderful journey. The amazing bond that you have shared with your unborn child during the nine months culminates with the arrival of your bundle of joy. However, the crossing over often involves an excruciatingly painful birthing process. First-time mothers-to-be often fear natural birth. While earlier an elective C-section was the only alternative available, modern medicine has brought about some revolutionary advancements that can help bring the pain during childbirth down to an acceptable level.

How can delivery be painless?

Painless delivery can be achieved using a form of regional anaesthesia that provides pain relief during natural labour. An epidural anaesthesia is administered through an injection on the lower back of the mother. The drug takes about 10-15 minutes to take effect. This is a good option for women with a lower pain bearing capacity, who would otherwise opt for a C-section.

How is the epidural anaesthesia administered?

You may be required to sit still with your back arched while you are given the epidural . The doctor will catheterize your lower back by inserting a thin tube into the lower part of your spinal cord. The needle is removed, and the catheter is taped into place so that the epidural anaesthesia can be administered during labour. The epidural is administered once you are in active labour and works by numbing your pelvic region and everything below it while you remain conscious. However, you should be aware that it does not offer 100% pain relief.

The advantages of epidural

  • Painless delivery gives women a chance at experiencing natural childbirth, with very little intervention. It has helped in bringing down the number of elective C-sections in India.
  • Women are given an option to take an epidural during labour if they feel they are not able to bear the pain, are exhausted from pushing or in case of any emergencies that may require an urgent C-section.
  • By alleviating pain, it allows the mother to focus on the delivery. It is an aid for relaxation and can prevent exhaustion and irritation experienced by most women during childbirth, thereby reducing the risk of developing post-partum complications.
  • It helps the baby descend easily by relaxing the pelvic and vaginal muscles.
  • It also helps in lowering the blood pressure of the mother, which otherwise can shoot up to dangerous levels during labour.

The risks or side effects of epidural

  • While the epidural is completely safe for the mother and the baby, it may leave you with side effects such as fever, breathing problems, nausea, dizziness, back pain and shivering.
  • The new mother may experience severe migraine-like headaches due to some epidural leakage into the spine.
  • The labour may take longer than otherwise when an epidural is used.
  • The mother may have trouble passing urine after childbirth. In that case, a catheter may be used.
  • It causes numbness of the entire lower body, and it may be a while before you can walk.
  • In stray cases, if the mother’s blood pressure goes down, it may cause a lowering of heart rate in the baby as well. In extreme cases, an emergency C-section may be performed.

Conclusion: A couple of other forms of painless deliveries that you can opt for include the use of Entonox- a combination of nitrous oxide and oxygen through a breathing mask, and water birth. Painless delivery using an epidural has helped many women experience a positive natural birth. You should opt for it only after discussing the process with your gynaecologist and weighing the pros and cons thoroughly.