epidural is a
local anesthetic that provides
pain relief from contractions, and during the last stages of delivery.
Epidurals can be a very effective method of
pain relief, and they are usually so accurate that they do not affect your ability to feel the pushing sensations during the final stage of active labor.
What happens during an epidural?
If you have
anesthetic, you will be asked to lie on your side with your knees drawn up and chin tucked in, or to sit on a bed, or chair, and lean forward.
Local anesthetic will be injected into the space around your
spinal cord, using a fine, hollow tube (
catheter) inserted into your lower back. The
anesthetic should start working within 5-10 minutes.
epidural numbs the nerves and the
pain of contractions, although you should still be able to feel a touch on your skin. An
epidural will last for about 2-4 hours, but it can be 'topped up' through the
catheter, usually via a small pump that delivers the
anesthetic at regular intervals.
If you have an
epidural during labor, it will be carried out by an experienced anesthetist. An anesthetist is a healthcare professional who has been trained to give
anesthetic. They are able to control how much feeling is lost through the dosage of
Occasionally, some women experience a drop in
blood pressure with an
epidural. This is corrected by giving plenty of fluids directly into a
A headache may develop after an
epidural has been given. It is caused when the needle accidentally pierces the dura, the membrane that holds the fluid surrounding your
spinal cord (cerebro-spinal fluid or CSF).
If too much fluid leaks through the hole, the pressure in the rest of the fluid is reduced. When you sit up, the pressure around your
brain is reduced further, producing headache symptoms that typically occur between one day and one week afterwards.
The hole in the dura will usually mend itself over a number of days, or weeks. Severe headaches may be treated using an
blood patch', which is a similar procedure to the
epidural itself, but the anesthetist injects some of your
blood to form a clot to block the hole in the dura.
blood patch is normally effective within 24 hours, during which time it is recommended that you lie down for as long as possible and avoid any heavy lifting.