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How does an epidural work?

I’m trying to decide whether or not to get an epidural. Can you give me the basics on how it works?

Re:

I’m trying to decide whether or not to get an epidural. Can you give me the basics on how it works?

The Bump Expert

Epidural medication is used to block the transmission of pain impulses so you can have a more comfortable labor. Here’s how an epidural works:

Epidural medication is delivered through a tiny, flexible tube that’s inserted into your lower back. The tube (called a “catheter”) goes into the epidural space, which is outside of the spinal cord. That space contains all of the nerves that go to the lower part of the body, so doctors can administer special medication (often a local anesthetic, or numbing medicine, combined with a narcotic, or pain-relieving medicine) through the tube near those nerves, so pain impulses don’t reach your brain. “The medication basically dazes the nerves, so you don’t feel the pain impulses coming in,” says William Camann, MD, an anesthesiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and coauthor of Easy Labor: Every Woman’s Guide to Choosing Less Pain and More Joy During Childbirth.

The epidural stays in your back so you can continue to receive the medicine throughout labor. Many hospitals now have patient-controlled epidurals, which allow moms-to-be to control the flow of pain-relieving epidural medication. Moms push a button when their pain increases; the machine is set so that it will not deliver too much medication. Patient-controlled epidurals let women tailor their pain relief to their unique birth experiences.

Plus, more from The Bump:

Delivery Room Tools Decoded

Shocking Confessions from the Delivery Room

Do Many People Have Complications from Epidurals?

William Camann, MD, anesthesiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and coauthor of Easy Labor: Every Woman’s Guide to Choosing Less Pain and More Joy During Childbirth

How does an epidural work?

Most definitely! Some people say that they don't want their child's first moments to be groggy, but #1) they're going to go to sleep anyway, #2) The pain is sooooo bad, that it is definitely worth it, #3) it doesn't hurt the baby. I say get it. The pain IS unbearable at times, and you'll wish you did.

pamela0522 |

How does an epidural work?

I think it is also important to note here that having an epidural is not without risk. It is a surgical procedure. They are inserting something into your spine and they do make you sign a form stating that you cannot sue them if they paralyze you. (Which BTW, has happened to people.) I'm not saying don't get one but let's not act like this is just a given for women to get and that it comes completely without risk.

angela171717 |

How does an epidural work?

Personally, I wouldn't find it to be worth the risk. I know too many people who have permanent damage from an epidural to say that it is worth saving yourself labor pain. It's not just nerve damage (though, I do know a girl with that as well), but it can also cause of chronic migraines for the rest of your life. I would look into an IV medication, or other forms of pain relief.

dreadiemama |

How does an epidural work?

alot of women can labor and give birth perfectly fine without an epidural. Hell, without any pain meds. I know someone who had permanent back pain after having an epidural. I also know women who regret getting it because it can also block your natural occuring hormones that come because of feeling your labor. It also has risks of leading to a csection cause it can slow labor down. Do research and learn both sides to it.

JRod21 |

How does an epidural work?

Can only speak for myself on this issue, because no two women are the same, and no two pregnancies are the same. I agree do the research and see what options are best for you. I must say with my first I was very grateful for the epidural. I didn't have any negative side effects, my labor didn't slow down and they made sure they turned it off early enough so that i would gain some feeling back to feel the urge to push. It was great to have because where I delievered they dont give the option to get one until you've reached 3cm or more so I felt the pain and got to relax to build up the energy to push my baby girl out. She came out very alert not groggy at all. Good Luck with what ever decision you do make.

MuthaLuv |

How does an epidural work?

With my first child I had an epidural. I signed the consent form thinking that it would all be fine and the stuff they warn you about wouldn't happen to me. I ended up with many complications and permanent damage. First it was inserted in the wrong spot and caused my blood pressure to drop so low I went unconscious. It took nearly an hour and many medications to get it high enough for me to wake up. Then the medication wasn't working and they wouldn't give me more for obvious reasons so I felt all of my labor except when I was unconscious. After I ended up with severe spinal headaches that kept me literally flat on my back for the first 12 days after my son was born because the hole didn't close right and I was leaking spinal fluid. They tried to fix this with a few blood patches and they didn't take. My son is 2.5 years old now and I am still suffering from pain and headaches. I am pregnant again and will not be getting another one since it is not worth everything I had to go through for just hours of pain relief.

mrsdan2009 |

How does an epidural work?

Come on, Bump! You could at least have presented both sides of the story. I don't think an article this biased is beneficial to anyone.

jelero |

epidural

True there are risks and each person should weigh those options at the time. I was 100% against the epidural but after over 20 hours of labor and only progressing 1/2cm, it was suggested by my Dr that I get one. Turns out my body was tensing up during contractions and as soon as I got the epidural things went quickly. It was turned down for pushing too. I would gladly do it again...despite the fact that I had wanted a completely med free birth. And at least it doesn't go into the baby's blood like IV meds do.

RedLady79 |

How does an epidural work?

An epidural is more dangerous than doctors like to lead on. Women are made for child birth. I am the biggest whinny person ever and I went through labor without an epidural. I did it, for not only the health of my child, but for my health as well. I know multiple people whom still have lasting side effects from their epidural. Do as much research as you can about the different birthing options before you decide. Being informed about your birthing process will make you feel better about it.

Justiisvelk |

How does an epidural work?

Women should also be aware that, depending on the type and strength of an epidural, it will restrict your ability to move around, which can lead to an increase in tearing and heightens the risk of a C-section for "failure to progress" or the baby being "malpositioned." This was a pretty irresponsible article on the part of the Bump. Some women may want an epidural, but everyone should be informed as to both the risks and the benefits of it.

gulickr |

How does an epidural work?

I don't think the article is irresponsible - the procedure SOUNDS scary, and the point of this article was to de-mystify the procedure. The reader's question was how it works - answered. The risks are certainly present, but it's pretty hard to go into a hospital and do anything without risk. I've had simple blood draws land me on a gurney. For women who go in terrified of an epidural and end up needing one for various reasons, it's not a bad idea to show to simplicity of the thing.

emsorsher |

How does an epidural work?

Yes this does answer the question of "How does an epidural work," but the title on the home page that I clicked on to access the article was "Should you get an epidural." In terms of that title, I think that article was sorely lacking. Nobody should make a decision without weighing both the benefits and the risks, only one of which is presented here.

jelero |

How does an epidural work?

Thank you so much for all of the comments ladies! We are shooting for a natural in the hospital water birth and your comments solidified my decision. Women have been giving birth for thousands of years without intervention. It's time to get back to trusting our bodies and the amazing things they can do!

caseyspeaker |

How does an epidural work?

My Dad is a retired anesthesiologist and has explained the epidural procedure to me, and my husband. I am his only daughter and this will be his first grandchild, so you can image he has both our best interest in mind. Although every medical procedure has it's risks (including having a baby naturally), I feel that it is important to research the procedure in order to make the best decision for you. For me the epidural is the way to go. I trust modern medicine, my OB/GYN, and the doctor who will be performing the procedure (of course I will be asking him/her many questions prior to signing the consent form, and will have my Dad in the room as my medical adviser). If I don't feel comfortable with the anesthesiologist I might weigh the other pain relief options.

gauri33 |

How does an epidural work?

I received an epidural when I was at 5 cm. I had read at length about all of the awful things about having an epidural (it might drug your baby, you can't move once it's in, you will have a harder time pushing during delivery, etc.) The decision to have an epidural was very difficult, I cried for a half hour before agreeing to do it. Let me tell you, all of the things I was afraid were going to happen DID NOT HAPPEN. I could feel my toes and roll over independently the entire time, I was only numb from my belly to my knees. I pushed perfectly fine during delivery, and trust me when I say that my daughter was not dazed in the least. While it is easy to feel pressured to get an epidural, remember that there are just as many people who will you pressure you NOT to get an epidural. DO what you feel is right, and never second guess it. You are no less a mother for getting an epidural. As my wise labor and delivery nurse said, "The only way this baby will be born un naturally is if she comes out your nose."

MotherNovember |

How does an epidural work?

I was going to, I even signed the paper during my 5th month to give permission for it to be done. After thinking over things and asking more and more questions I decided i am not going to. There are alot of risks, you can get an infection such as menegitis, or worse become paralized and i don't think it's worth that. Not to mention I wasnt to be able to tell my son how much pain i went through to get him here, especially when he gets to the age where he wants to act like an adult.

EverBell42 |

How does an epidural work?

I have severe scoliosis that I never ended up doing surgery for. I was very nervous about the impact an epidural would have on me with my spinal issues. When I got to the point that I wasn't able to breathe and stay calm through my contractions I asked (demanded) the epidural and I tell you what, what a difference! You still feel some pain but it's managed and I was able to bump up my intake as we got closer to delivery. my LO came out after 4 contraction pushes and was bright eyed. And though i was extremely shaky from the trauma that is delivery (and a nice big tear down there), I was able to walk to and from the bathroom with no after effects within a few hours. Just make sure you get an experienced anesthesiologist if you aren't sure how your body is going to handle it. They know what they are doing and you will LOVE them for it!

keiramt |