Each woman will have a different and unique childbirth experience, and it is the patient’s choice if they would like to receive an epidural or not. But sometimes, labor does not go as planned, so it is important to be aware of the options.

What is an epidural?

An epidural is a regional anesthetic given to a mother prior to childbirth. It is the most common type of pain relief during childbirth. An epidural is given through a tube placed in the lower back by an anesthesiologist.

Does an epidural take away all sensation?

An epidural will cause loss of feeling and pain in the areas of the lower body. Women are still aware of their contractions and can often feel vaginal exams as labor progresses. With an epidural, women will still remain awake and able to move but may not be able to walk.

What are the side effects?

The main side effects include a reduction in the mother’s blood pressure, which can be corrected with medication. Other side effects include nausea, itching, and headaches. Women may temporarily lose the sensation of needing to empty their bladder, so a catheter may be used during labor. Normal bladder function should return 4-6 hours afterward. Women may experience low back pain after the epidural, but this should resolve after a few weeks.

Overall, epidurals are safe and effective for both the mother and the baby. The medication does not cross the placenta, so does not pose any direct threat to the baby.

Who can receive an epidural?

Not all women are able to have an epidural due to past medical history and current medications. It is important to discuss this decision with a provider prior to delivery.

Is it possible to give birth without an epidural?

Yes! It is possible to deliver and push through the pain without an epidural. The decision to receive an epidural is completely up to the patient, and it is okay for a woman to change her decision once labor begins.

All information is provided by:

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Texas Children’s Hospital Pavillion for Women