Epidural Anesthesia in Childbirth
(Peridural Anesthesia; Regional Anesthesia; Epidural)
Epidural anesthesia is a medicine placed into the space around the spinal cord. It will block feeling in the belly and legs.
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Reasons for Procedure
An epidural is used to ease pain from labor and any procedures done during labor, such as an Episiotomy. It does not put a person to sleep. A person can still interact with the care team.
Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:
- Problems from anesthesia, such as wheezing or sore throat
- Problems feeling contractions or the urge to push, which may lead to a longer labor
- Low blood pressure in the mother
Bleeding problems or infection can raise the risk of complications.
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
The care team may meet with you to talk about:
- Anesthesia options
- Any allergies you may have
- Current medicines, herbs, and supplements that you take and whether you need to stop taking them before the procedure
- Fasting before the procedure, such as avoiding food or drink after midnight the night before
Description of the Procedure
The mother and baby will be monitored during the procedure.
You will be asked to lay on your side or sit. You will be asked to arch your back and remain very still. The area around your waistline on your middle back will be cleaned to lower the risk of infection. An anesthesia medicine will be injected into the area. It will make it numb. The needle will be removed.
A needle will then be inserted into your lower back. A small tube will be threaded through the needle. It will be passed into the space around your spinal cord. The needle will be removed and the tube will be taped to your back. The medicine will be given through the tube. More medicine may be given through the tube so that the numbness lasts until the baby is born.
How Long Will It Take?
It will only take a few minutes to place the tube. Pain relief will happen within a few minutes. The full effect should happen within 20 minutes.
Will It Hurt?
You will not feel pain after the procedure.
At the Care Center
You and the baby will be closely watched for changes. Other care for delivery will continue.
A tingling feeling may be felt as the anesthesia wears off. You may need help to walk until the anesthesia fully wears off.
The epidural will have worn off before going home.
Call Your Doctor
Call the doctor if you are not getting better or you have:
- Signs of infection, such as fever and chills
- Redness or swelling at the injection site
- Back pain
- Severe headache
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
Women's Health Matters
Comfort measures (pharmacologic) during labor. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/comfort-measures-pharmacologic-during-labor. Accessed August 25, 2021.
Last reviewed July 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review BoardBeverly Siegal, MD, FACOG Last Updated: 8/25/2021