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Epidural During Labor

When it comes to labor, one of the most common questions women will ask is, “should I get an epidural?” It is a very popular form of pain relief used during labor, but whether or not you get one can be a personal decision. Be sure to talk to your doctor about whether or not an epidural is right for you during your pregnancy. 

What Is an Epidural?

Epidural anesthesia is a type of regional anesthesia that blocks the sensation of pain in the lower half of your body.

What Are the Benefits of an Epidural?

The main benefit of an epidural is pain relief. It can help many women have a more positive birthing experience. Other benefits are:

  • It can help you rest if your labor takes a long time
  • It allows you to stay awake and alert
  • It can be used whether you deliver vaginally or by c-section

How Does an Epidural Work?

Epidurals are typically given during the first stage of labor but it can be given later if needed. 

To begin, you will be given an IV. You will then be asked to bend forward or lie on your side and stay still. Anesthesia will be injected into your lower back, around your spinal nerves. A small catheter will then be inserted. This is how the medication is administered. You should start to experience pain relief in less than 30 minutes. 

Types of Epidural

There are two basic types of epidurals. Talk to your doctor about the different options.

  • Standard Epidural – With this type of epidural you can still shift from side to side, but other movements may be more restricted.
  • Combined Spinal-Epidural (CSE) or “Walking Epidural” – This type of epidural allows for some sensation in your lower body. Even though it is called “walking” and you will have more mobility than with a standard epidural, you probably still won’t be out of bed that much.

Epidural Side Effects and Risks

While epidurals are generally safe, not everyone is a candidate for an epidural based on your unique medical needs. Some common side effects are:

  • Weakness in the legs
  • Feeling cold or itchy
  • Headache
  • Increased chance of needing to use forceps to aid in delivery
  • Losing feeling in your bladder and needing to use a catheter
  • Pain at the injection site
  • Slowing down the second stage of labor
  • Little to no pain relief

If you have any questions about the different types of epidurals for pregnancy, talk to the experts at Banner Health. We are here to help you have a safe and comfortable delivery.