The Pros and Cons of an Epidural

The Pros and Cons of an Epidural
Epidurals are a popular form of pain relief used during labor. Whether you are looking forward to an unmedicated birth or determined to remain as comfortable as possible, here are the things you need to know:

An epidural is a regional anesthesia, which is designed to provide pain relief, not a total lack of feeling, during labor.

To administer an epidural, an anesthesiologist will have you curve your back into a “C” shape, so that your spine is exposed. Your back will be cleaned with an antiseptic and numbed with a local anesthetic.

Using a hollow needle as a guide, a tiny, flexible catheter is placed into your lower back directly into the epidural space. The catheter, which is taped in place, allows the epidural to be administered continuously or on-demand.

If you elect to have this kind of pain relief you will need intravenous fluids and a urinary bladder catheter.

Epidurals generally begin working within a few minutes, however, it may take 10-20 minutes to reach maximum effect.

Pros of Epidurals:
•With diminished pain, many women report a better birth experience.

•An epidural allows a mother to rest so she has more energy for birth.

•An epidural allows you to be alert for the birth of your baby.

•If a C-section becomes necessary, anesthesia can be administered using the epidural already in place.

•Pain relief from an epidural may allow a mother to relax but may also slow labour down.

Potential Risks of an Epidural:
•A sudden drop in blood pressure.

•You may be at an increased risk of forceps delivery or caesarean section.

•Shivering, back soreness, ringing in the ears, and difficulty breathing

•Restricted movement during labor.

•Pushing may be difficult, increasing the chances of additional interventions.

•Unexplained low-grade fever.

•A severe headache, in less than 1% of cases

•Inconsistent pain relief.

You may not be able to use an Epidural if:
•You take blood thinners

•You have a blood disorder/ infection or back infection

•You are bleeding heavily or are in shock

•The anesthesiologist cannot locate the proper placement for the epidural

•Your labor is moving too quickly to allow time to administer the epidural

•The hospital has restrictions on when an epidural can be administered.

Walking Epidural:

I wanted to touch on a walking epidural which is largely experimental at this point.

This type of epidural is just meant to dull the pain allowing you to walk around, but getting the dose right can be difficult and could affect your balance.

Whether you choose an epidural or not the most important thing is a safe and healthy birth for both mother and baby.

If you have any questions please contact us by phone or email, we are always happy to help!


All of the content and articles on our blog and website are intended for informational purposes only. Please do not consider any of the information provided here as a substitute for medical advice. At all times seek medical advice directly with your own doctor and medical team.