Taking a Look at Epidural Analgesia

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Epidural analgesia is considered the most effective pain relief method during labour (Tamagawa & Weaver, 2012). It consists of the introduction of a local anaesthetic into the epidural space using a needle through the lumbar intervertebral space, usually between lumbar vertebrae 3 and 4 or 2 and 3 (Peate & Hamilton, 2014). The anaesthetic inhibits nerve conduction by blocking sodium channels in nerve membranes, which in turn prevents the transmission of nerve impulses along these fibres. Therefore, the painful stimuli transmitted from the contracting uterus and birth canal is inhibited without consciousness impairment (Anim-Somuah, Smyth and Jones, 2011). Firstly introduced in 1898, epidural analgesic was used for operative deliveries. The introduction of lignocaine in 1948 increased its popularity due to its faster onset and longer duration of action in contrast to its predecessor, cocaine (Moir, 1986). Epidurals became more widely available in the 1970s when a decline in home births occurred and active management of labour was introduced (Odibo, 2007). Currently, the rapid increase of epidural procedure rates were highlighted by the NHS Information Centre (NHSIC) (2011) where 25% of women in England who had spontaneous and induced onset of labour received epidural analgesia during labour between 2010 and 2011. There are substantial benefits to both mother and baby in the provision of epidural analgesia for labour including pain relief, during prolonged labour,

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