Your assigned nurse or nurses should come in at least every hour to check your cervix and see how far you have dilated. Once you reach 4 centimeters the nurse will call for the anesthesiologist to come in and give you the epidural. It may take 5-15 minutes before the anesthesiologist will be there depending on how busy he/she is with other patients in labor. When the epidural is ready to be administered you will be asked to lay on your side bunched into a ball with your knees pulled close to your chest so your back is curved. The anesthesiologist will spray your lower and middle back with a local anesthetic spray to numb part of your back so you won't feel any pain when the epidural tube is placed. If you were not required to attend a anesthesia class during your last trimester were they showed the epidural tube. The epidural tube from what I remember is an extremely thin tube with a needle at the end. When the anesthesia spray is sprayed on your lower back it will feel very cold and tingly. The anesthesiologist will ask you to let him/her know when your next contraction starts so they can put in the tube. The reason the tube goes in during a contraction is mainly because your mind will be concentrating on how intense the contraction is instead of what is going on behind you. Once a contraction starts you will be asked to place your knees as close to your upper chest as possible. The needle is quickly placed in your back next to your spine where a nerve area for the lower body is so the medication administered through the tube can numb the nerves of the lower body.
I know that all I explained above may sound very scary but I assure you its perfectly safe. When the whole process was explained in the anesthesia class I took my first pregnancy in my last trimester I was terrified of the while thing especially when the tube was passed around. I was assured that the procedure was completely safe with little to no risks and the anesthesiologist are all qualified enough to were there will be no damaged to the nerves or the spine. Even after that class I had serious misgivings about getting a epidural and thought about going naturally but I realized later on that when my contractions were becoming painful and uncomfortable I didn't care what they did as long as the pain stopped and sure enough after it was all done with and I was given the epidural I was so glad that I had it done a realized it wasn't bad at all.
When the needle and tube are put in you only feel a little pinching in your back and a little discomfort but after its in, you don't feel it and can't tell its there. What happens when the needle goes in is it goes into a area next to your spine were the nerve for your lower body is. The tube is connected to a I.V. that administers the anesthesia which will numb the lower part of your body. After the tube is in the extension part of the tube will be taped to your shoulder so the tube doesn't accidentally fall out. Depending on how the nurse you have does things you may be asked to lay on your side, switching sides each hour so you are comfortable and the tube isn't disturbed or you may allowed to lay on your back. One unfortunate but short side effect that occurs usually 5-15 minutes after the epidural is given is as the area below your waist becomes numb from the medication some women experience muscles spasms in the legs as through you are freezing cold and the lower part of your body is shivering uncontrollably. This is a common and normal side effect that lasts about 15 minutes to half a hour and what I have found is if you become stressed about it and tense is when it lasts longer than 15 minutes. If you find the sensation last more than 15 minutes let your nurse know. Relaxation medication can be given to help the tremors go away but the problem with the relaxation medication is its side effects in some women are dizziness and nausea. One other minor side effect from the epidural is as your lower body starts to numb you may feel chilly for 15 minutes. Just request another blanket to keep warn and that will help keep you warn until the side effect wears off. About 5-15 minutes after you are given the epidural you should start to notice your lower body feel numb and almost impossible to move your legs. Your contractions will start to feel more like your stomach muscles are just tensing with no pain.
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