Parents-to-be brace for epidural shortage in Saskatchewan

Pregnancy can be a stressful time for families, not to mention potentially painful times, especially during childbirth. And a recent announcement from the Saskatchewan Health Authority gave expectant parents a bit more to worry about.

SHA said a shortage of epidural catheter kits is expected, thanks to a North America-wide supply chain issue. This medication is considered the “gold standard” for controlling labor pain.

“It’s a very unfortunate situation and you know, the people giving birth and the mothers are going to pay the price,” says Sara Beckel, coordinator of Regina Perinatal Health Services (RPHS).

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Morgan Taylor’s second child is due in three weeks. She was initially scared when the announcement was made.

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« As the days went on, I got used to the idea that it’s nothing in my control and that I just have to deal with it as I go. »

« The hospital will give me some kind of painkiller, whatever it is, I guess at this point, as long as I get something. »

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The SHA says this shortage is different from what it has seen in the past.

« What’s rather unique about this situation…is the short-term uncertainty and unpredictability, » says Dr Mateen Raazi, head of the provincial department of anaesthesiology.

“In the past we have had disruptions which have affected anesthetic drugs and anesthetic supplies, but generally the advice is quite advanced. I am talking about the pre-pandemic period, and we are able to put in place mitigation strategies and have a lot more time to react to them.

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The head of the provincial department of obstetrics and gynecology, Joanne Sivertson, says the multiple supply chain issues have left uncertainty over the drug.

“How much we currently have and how much we expect to get in the near future actually remains uncertain.”

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Although this creates a troubling situation for expectant parents, there are other alternatives.

“Before the era of epidurals and other medications, we had many effective ways to help women deal with their pain,” says Sivertson. “So we refresh the comfort of our nursing staff with the use of non-pharmacological methods, but we also have other drugs and routes of administration to use.”

« Movement and physical touch, water, and of course the support of the doula, » says Beckel.

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From Seed to Sprout is a perinatal organization and says it hopes to educate expectant parents about some misperceptions about childbirth.

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“If we just know what to expect and remove that part of fear, because we know that fear increases tension, then tension increases pain,” says Loreli Palandri, co-owner of From Seed to Sprout. « Then when we have more pain, we have more fear and then more tension and it’s kind of a vicious circle. »

Its co-owner, Sara Forster, says these fears usually stem from what people see on TV and hear negative stories about someone else’s experience.

« It’s very important for them to talk about it with people, but sometimes they do it in a way that might not be so helpful for other pregnant women. »

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Support for those going through this process is especially important.

« Just having ongoing support helps build the pregnant woman’s own natural hormones that help advance labor on their own, » Forster explains, « and helps them tap into their strength an experience to make smoother childbirth. »

Raazi says their patients are at the center of everything they do and they do their best to provide the highest quality care.

« We are here, we are trained and we will take care of you no matter what it takes. »

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Taylor says she hopes parents expecting their first child can reassure themselves.

« The hospital is not going to let you hang under any circumstances. They will find something and the shortage will not last forever.

« It will be fine, go ahead with a positive thought. »

For those expecting a little bundle of joy in the coming weeks, SHA encourages them to discuss pain management options with their healthcare provider.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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