Epidural Anesthesia: an Evaluation of Risks and Benefits

The process of giving birth is a beautiful and wonderful experience. When an expecting mother comes into labor, she has different options to relieve pain. One of those options available is epidural anesthesia. The use of epidural anesthesia may be considered the most effective method of pain relief during labor. However, identifying its overall risks and benefits may be beneficial to alleviate pain when giving birth.
Epidural anesthesia blocks pain in a particular part of the body. “It is achieved by injecting pain medication directly into the epidural space of the lower back via a small plastic tube.” (Pillitteri, 1985) This technology becomes extremely useful when a cesarean section must be performed in order to save a baby’s or it’s mother’s life. There are also times where a mother who has had a prolonged labor and is too exhausted for the labor to progress may benefit from using an epidural to help in relaxing and refocusing.
Most women are unaware of the side effects of an epidural and therefore use them when they are not needed. The most common side effect is called hypotension which is a drop in blood pressure. This is a problem because it decreases the level of oxygen the baby is receiving and can distress the respiratory system of both mother and baby. Postpartum back pain is another symptom associated with an epidural anesthesia. (Norman, 2003)
These side effects are a direct result of an epidural but it is also important to view the facts regarding the effects epidurals have on labor itself. An epidural eliminates the normal mechanisms for the progress of labor. A woman who does not receive an epidural is free to move around during and immediately after childbirth. The labor process is shorter when the baby is delivered naturally compared to when the mother has used an epidural block. (Khafagy, 2010) Although, with an epidural the mother is able to rest if the labor is prolonged. As well as, most of the time an epidural will allow the woman to...