In the last few months TikTok has been a hub of information – for better or for worse. It was only a few weeks ago that users (*cough* men) found out the difference between an innie and outie vagina, and that when you give a blow job your dentist might actually be able to tell by looking in your mouth. And now, with the help of St. George’s University medical student Hansel Viera and Dr. Carlos De La Hoz, users are coming to terms with what child-bearing people go through when they get an epidural.
While it’s understandable that most people wouldn’t have had a reason to search for what an epidural needle looks like, other than child-bearing women, you’d think a procedure as common as this (30 percent of Australian women in labour request the procedure) would be general knowledge.
To put it as simply as possible, an epidural is a type of anaesthesia that is injected into the epidural space, which is located around the spinal cord. With the help of an epidural, a person giving birth experiences numbness between their belly button and upper legs, which helps relieve pain associated with childbirth. The needle, which needs to be quite long to gain better access to the epidural space, administers the medication that begins the numb the area.
But why listen to us when you can watch this mega-viral video (that now has over 13.7 million views) which shows the doctors going through three different types of needles, with one being the epidural.
“Epidural needles are long so that we get better access to the epidural space,” Hansel told BuzzFeed. “The length of such needles can vary depending on the patient’s BMI. The more fat stored around the area, the longer the needle will need to be to obtain better access and administer the medication. The most common question is, ‘Does it go all the way in?’ And the answer [in] most cases is no, but again, it varies from patient to patient.”
“It may cause some discomfort, but in itself, it is not particularly painful since we employ different steps before the insertion of the long needle. [Before the epidural,] we inject a local anaesthetic to the skin where most of the nerve endings are located. With this, the patient will feel minimal or none of the epidural needle as it penetrates the skin,” Hansel explained. “Some patients may ask to see what you are doing, [and] some will opt to not see anything. ‘Out of sight, out of mind,’ they say.”
“One of the best ways to improve the patient’s experience while going through this procedure is by showing empathy and building a good patient-physician interaction,” Hansel continued. “Listening to the patient’s concern, making sure the patient understands what the physician will be doing, [and] allowing time so the patient can process the information. Overall, allowing the encounter to be patient-centred [and] making the patient [feel] in charge of the situation.”
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