Delivery - epidural; Labor - epidural
An epidural block is a numbing medicine given by injection (shot) in the back. It numbs or causes a loss of feeling in the lower half your body. This lessens the pain of contractions during childbirth. An epidural block may also be used to reduce pain during surgery on the lower extremities. This article focuses on epidural blocks during childbirth.
How is the Epidural Given?
The block or shot is given into an area over your lower back or spine.
Your health care provider will wash the area of your back and inject a little medicine to numb the spot where the epidural needle is placed:
The numbing medicine is given through the tube for as long as it is needed.
In most cases, you will receive a low dose because it is safer for you and baby. Once the medicine takes effect (10 to 20 minutes), you should feel better. You may still feel some back or rectal pressure during contractions.
You may shiver after an epidural, but this is common. Many women shiver during labor even without an epidural.
Is an Epidural Safe?
Many studies have shown that an epidural is a safe way to manage pain during childbirth. While rare, there are some risks.
Your blood pressure may drop for a short while. This might cause the baby's heart rate to slow down.
An epidural block may change or alter labor and delivery.
Other rare side effects are:
What Types of Epidurals are There?
There are 2 types:
Flood P, Rollins MD. Anesthesia for obstetrics. In: Miller RD, ed. Miller's Anesthesia. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 77.
Hawkins JL, Bucklin BA. Obstetric anesthesia. In: Gabbe SG, Niebyl JR, Simpson JL, et al, eds. Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2017:chap 16.
Nathan N, Wong CA. Spinal, epidural, and caudal anesthesia: Anatomy, Physiology, and Technique. In: Chestnut DH, Wong CA, Tsen LC, et al, eds. Chestnut's Obstetric Anesthesia: Principles and Practice. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 12.
Review Date: 4/19/2018
Reviewed By: John D. Jacobson, MD, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Loma Linda University School of Medicine, Loma Linda Center for Fertility, Loma Linda, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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