One of the most common methods of pain relief for pregnant women in labor is an epidural, which decreases pain in a specific area. Medical professionals may also use an epidural to control pain before, during, or after certain types of surgery. In some cases, epidurals can relieve pain for people with broken bones and cancer. Epidurals require smaller amounts of medication to be effective. For this reason, it is one of the safer methods of pain control.
An epidural is a regional anesthesia. It concentrates pain relief in a specific area of the body and blocks the nerve impulses from lower spinal segments. Unlike general anesthetics, which cause a total lack of feeling, epidurals cause decreased sensation in the lower half of the body. When used to control childbirth pain, for example, the mother remains awake but is largely pain-free during delivery. In some cases, women experience complications while giving birth that require a cesarean delivery or C-section. Physicians consider an epidural a medical necessity for C-sections. In the case of twin or multiple births, doctors may insist upon administration of an epidural, due to the prevalence of C-sections in these types of births.
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