What is an Epidural?

Dr. Heather Jenkins, MD, discusses What is an Epidural?

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Dr. Heather Jenkins, MD, discusses What is an Epidural?
Video transcript

Featuring Dr. Heather Jenkins, MD, CCFP
What is an Epidural? Video Title: What is an Epidural?
Duration: 2 minutes, 6 seconds

An epidural is a type of anesthetic that's used during labor, usually in the intense part of labor, by women, usually by then they're in the hospital.

This is done by an anesthesiologist who's trained at doing it, and what they do is they thread a very fine plastic tube between the spaces in your back that basically gives basically complete pain relief from about this part of your belly down to your legs.

This is something that's only used in the last part of your labor because one of the disadvantages of using an epidural is sometimes it can slow your labor down, so nobody will recommend a woman to have an epidural early in their labor.

Most people proceed along normally with their labor pains, and then if they feel like they need some extra help later in their labor they can ask for an epidural.

An epidural requires a couple of things in labor. For one thing, you need an IV, which sometimes can limit your mobility, and a lot of people don't like IVs. The second things is once you have an epidural, your'e attached to a fine tubing that goes into your back that continuously feeds the medication into your back and this also limits your mobility, you're essentially attached to a couple of devices now.

Finally, if you have an epidural for a long time, your legs will lose their strength. So eventually you will be confined to the labor bed itself and your ability to move around and even push during the final parts of the birth can be affected.

Many women find that their ability to sense when it's time to push is also impaired and this sometimes involves some help with nurses or doctors to help you in the last part of the pushing part of your labor.

An epidural is a tool that is very useful in labor but not everyone chooses to use it. Remember if you ever have any questions about an epidural, or whether it's appropriate for you, you can always ask your care provider, whether that's a midwife or a physician.

Presenter: Dr. Heather Jenkins, Family Doctor, Vancouver, BC

Local Practitioners: Family Doctor

This content is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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