Many women out there love their epidural! Epidural anesthesia uses an injection of drugs into the epidural space in your lower spine. An epidural works by blocking the transmission of nervous system signals to your brain, thereby limiting or suppressing your feelings of pain.
Epidural anesthesia has become the most common form of pain medication for labor and birth, but it’s not for everyone. Here are some common reasons an epidural might not be right for you:
- Your Body Type: Sometimes, the doctor has no easy access to the epidural space. Factors that might make it difficult to find the right spot include obesity, scoliosis, scar tissue, unusual spinal archtecture or previous surgeries.
- Drug interactions: Some medications, such as blood thinners, can make an epidural risky or ineffective.
- Existing health issues: If you have a low platelet count, or other blood disorders, there is an increased risk of internal bleeding in the spine.
- Timing: In some hospitals, anesthesiologists are available only at certain hours of the day, or certain days of the week. They may simply be busy and unavailable. Also, if you come into the hospital in advanced labor, or with a very quick labor, there might not be time to get an epidural in place.
- Infection: If you have an infection on your back, you definitely don’t want your anesthesiologist putting a needle through that area. It might cause the infection to spread to the spine and other areas of your body, which could lead to major problems.
- Heavy bleeding or shock: Often, having an epidural lowers blood pressure. Therefor, if you are bleeding heavily or are suffering from shock, your already lowered blood pressure can make the situation even more dangerous.
- Hospital restrictions: Some hospitals have policies about when you can have an epidural. Some stipulate that you must be at a certain point in labor (for example, four centimeters dilated) before an epidural can be given. Others may decide that epidural should not be given after a certain point of labor (for example when you’ve reached full dilation).