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An injection of anaesthetic into the base of your spine, which the anaesthetist gives through a thin tube. This numbs the area from the waist down and can be topped up by the midwife as it wears off, or is given continually through an infusion pump.

• Excellent form of pain relief, particularly with long labours.

• Can lower blood pressure if it's very high.

• Won't affect the baby unless blood pressure drops.

• Contractions can slow down - you might then need a drip to speed things up.

• Anaesthetist needs to be available to administer it.

• You need to keep still while it's administered.

• Increased risk of instrumental delivery.

• Increased risk of episiotomy.

• Will also have a drip set up in case blood pressure falls.

• Baby must be closely monitored.

• Restricted movement.

• May need to be catheterised.

• Risk of severe headache if the sheath around the spinal cord is pierced by accident.

• Shouldn't be used on women who have low blood pressure or blood-clotting problems.

The most effective form of pain relief, which will work in 90% of cases. Unfortunately, some women get effects of epidural down one side only. A spinal block is similar to an epidural but is given as a one-off dose - often for a

Hospital only.

Should only be given when in established labour.

'it was such a relief when, caesarean I after 19 hours of labour, the midwife section. I suggested i have an epidural. The baby was in an awkward position, which was slowing the progress. it was still another five hours before Joe was born, but at least i was able to get some rest and wasn't in pain!'

Perfect for you.

Perfect for your baby.

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Talk about a long labour!

It's bonus month, with a twin birth and more delivery-room drama g ave birth five weeks after my first labour pains!'

At 25 weeks' pregnant with twins conceived after an ectopic pregnancy and the removal of a fallopian tube, Debbie, 30, had strange tightenings and was 2cm dilated when examined...

I was immediately taken by ambulance to a hospital

50 miles away, which looks after babies in the area who are borr under 26 weeks. Once there, I was given steroids to strengthen the girls' lungs and drugs to stop the labour. A week later I was transferred to my local hospital for another two weeks' monitoring.

I was exactly 30 weeks when things started to move again.

My husband, Jason, had gone to a concert and I was with my friend, Carolyn. I felt a tummy ache come and go, then pains lower down. They were two minutes apart, so Carolyn drove me to hospital.

'Leave the gig and get a taxi!'

Carolyn shouted down the phone to Jason. I hadn't been to antenatal classes, as I'd spent nearly 5 weeks

Proud Debbie hugs her twi gorgeous gii

in hospital, so I didn't know any breathing techniques. Carolyn and the midwife coached me as we went along. When Jason arrived at the hospital at 9pm, I was 6cm dilated and the doctor ordered a scan.

He said that if the twins were breech I'd need an emergency caesarean. They were. I wasn't that surprised and had already prepared myself emotionally. The staff were so calm, it didn't feel like an emergency. My daughters, identical twins, arrived at 11:57pm and 11:58pm. Jamie Louise was 3lbs 1 oz and Jessica Mae weighed 3lbs.

They took Jamie away straight away - she'd stopped breathing.

But I saw Jessica come out and they rested her by my head before she, too, was whisked off. I didn't see them again until I was taken up to the neonatal unit the next day.

They were in incubators, so I couldn't hold them.

But the brilliant staff explained how they'd look after the girls, who needed special care. The five-week trauma behind us, we were very lucky to have two healthy babies who just needed to feed and grow!

Six weeks down the track.

Jamie and Jessica were in the neonatal unit for six weeks. It scares me now to look at pictures of them so vulnerable. It was odd to get them home at first - we'd spent so much time with them in hospital. The girls are thriving now, and melt our hearts with every smile!

Length, of labour

6 hours

Pain relief Nothing until an epidural when I had the caesarean Funniest moment Rather surreally, talking to the theatre staff about Big Brother while having the c-section! Scariest moment When I thought that I might give birth at 35 weeks Advice for mums-to-be Prepare yourself emotionally for any outcome!

Practical Parenting 43

Practical Parenting 43

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Confident Kids

Confident Kids

Although nobody gets a parenting manual or bible in the delivery room, it is our duty as parents to try to make our kids as well rounded, happy and confident as possible. It is a lot easier to bring up great kids than it is to try and fix problems caused by bad parenting, when our kids have become adults. Our children are all individuals - they are not our property but people in their own right.

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