What Are the Benefits of a Walking Epidural?
It’s natural to want pain relief when you go into childbirth. Yet, you also like to be aware of what’s going on and be as lucid as possible with a minimum of discomfort. With traditional epidurals, you’re lucid but have little ability to move your lower body due to the impact of the numbing medication.
However, these days you have another option called a walking epidural. This type of epidural differs from the standard epidural block in several ways. First, let’s look at more traditional forms of pain control during childbirth, epidurals and spinal blocks, and then discuss walking epidurals and how they’re different.
Epidural and Spinal Blocks
Some women opt for the standard epidural, the injection of pain-relieving medication into the space that surrounds the spine. They might also choose a spinal block. In the case of a spinal block, numbing medication is injected directly into the spinal fluid. The medication is designed to block the transmission of pain signals. With both of these forms of pain control, you get immediate relief of the discomfort, yet you’re still awake and aware of what’s going on. The disadvantage is you can’t easily move your body and, due to loss of sensation, you may not be able to help push the baby out.
Is a Walking Epidural Better?
A walking epidural combines epidural and spinal pain relief using a group of medications that block the perception of pain. The medications are placed with a needle into the region just inside the epidural space, called the intrathecal area. Unlike a standard epidural, a small catheter is left in once the medicine is injected.
Another difference between a standard epidural or a walking epidural is the walking epidural uses a lower dose of medications than an epidural or spinal block. Because you’re getting a lower quantity of numbing and pain relief medication, a walking epidural doesn’t completely eliminate pain. Instead, it makes the discomfort more manageable. You feel more comfortable but are still able to participate in childbirth by pushing the baby out. You’ll also feel more in control since you can move your lower limbs.
Despite inclusion of the word “walking” in the name, you won’t get up and walk around after a walking epidural. For one, you probably won’t feel like it as a walking epidural can drop your blood pressure and make you feel lightheaded or dizzy. Secondly, your legs will still be somewhat functional but they’ll feel weak and “different.”. You probably won’t feel strong or steady enough on your feet to do any actual walking or standing. Plus, the staff at the hospital won’t let you walk for fear that you’ll fall. Your balance is not up to par after a walking epidural.
Which is Option is Best for You?
Naturally, you don’t want to experience severe pain when you give birth, even if the outcome is ultimately worth it. Fortunately, you have options, including a walking epidural. The disadvantage of traditional epidurals and spinal blocks is they can slow labor since you can’t help out. You’ll have more ability to participate in delivery if you opt for a walking epidural. Just don’t take the name literally and assume you’re going to be walking. You won’t feel like it.
American Pregnancy Association. “Epidural Anesthesia”
WebMD. “Childbirth: Epidurals – Topic Overview”