Walking epidural, also called “walking spinal block” or “spinal block walk”, is an anesthetization of the lower body achieved while the patient is standing and allows ambulation. This is in contrast to a traditional epidural, which immobilizes the mother. Its purpose is to provide pain relief to the mother without affecting her ability to walk.
The term “walking epidural” is sometimes used interchangeably with “spinal block.” However, spinal block typically refers to a single-shot injection that anesthetizes the entire spinal cord. A walking epidural is a continuous infusion of anesthetic.
A walking epidural is administered by an anesthesiologist, by injection of a local anesthetic into the subarachnoid space in the lumbar region under fluoroscopic guidance. The anesthetic agent diffuses into the cerebrospinal fluid and provides analgesia and anesthesia only to the lower body.
What it does is it blocks the nerve impulses that cause pain. However, because it doesn’t affect all of the nerve fibers, the mother remains mobile, which can be helpful if she wants to walk around or move around during labor despite being numb from the waist down.
This image shows how often the term ‘Walking Epidural’ is used in relation to other, similar birth terms:
Benefits of a Walking Epidural
There are several benefits to a walking epidural. First, it is less likely to cause nausea and vomiting and it also allows the mother to remain more active. Second, it allows the mother to walk around and change positions as she pleases during labor, which can help her feel more comfortable. Third, a walking epidural may be less likely to cause a drop in blood pressure than a traditional epidural. Fourth, it can help the baby move down the birth canal more easily. Finally, it can speed up the delivery process.
Side Effects of a Walking Epidural
There are some potential disadvantages to a walking epidural, however. Its side effects include;
- a drop in blood pressure, because the mother is not lying down;
- longer labor, because the baby may take a little longer to move down the birth canal;
- difficulty urinating, because the epidural may affect the bladder;
- headache, because the epidural may affect the production of spinal fluid;
- backache, because the epidural may affect the muscles;
- effectivity, because the epidural may not block all of the nerve impulses as a traditional epidural does;
- and rare but serious side effects such as seizures and paralysis
Natural Alternatives to an Epidural
The following choices are available to avoid the dangers of a walking epidural:
- natural childbirth, which is the process of giving birth without the use of pain medications or epidurals;
- hypnobirthing, which is a form of natural childbirth that uses relaxation and visualization techniques to help relieve pain;
- laboring in water, which may help to ease pain and discomfort;
- and using a birth ball, which may help to position the baby and relieve pain.
Overall, a walking epidural is an option for women who want to remain active during labor, but it’s important to weigh the pros and cons before making a decision.
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