Busting The Myths About Epidural During Childbirth

Epidural is a popular pain reliever that almost all preggers have some knowledge about. You can think of it as a medication injected into your lower back to relieve you from the pain during labor.

However, very few have a clearer picture of epidural, its associated benefits and side-effects. While some confuse between an epidural and a spinal, others think that its risks outweigh the benefits and have long-term negative effects on the mother like back pain.

Let us clear the misconceptions associated with epidurals that have developed over time.


Epidural and Spinal can have serious side-effects on the mother.


As compared to the general anesthesia, where you fall asleep, epidural and spinal have lesser side effects. The recovery from epidural and spinal is comparatively faster.

The risk of serious complications is very rare. The most common risk is a drop in blood pressure, which can affect the mother and the baby if the dosage is high. The duo is monitored closely during and after the drug is administered. However, hypotension or drop in blood pressure can be treated immediately to prevent any risks to the

Extreme occurrences like infection or nerve damage at the site of injection, seizures, and spinal headache are possible—however, such complications are extremely rare.


There is no difference between an Epidural and a Spinal anesthesia.


Spinal and epidural are two types of regional anesthesia. Both the pain relieving drugs are effective, but they differ in their method of administration and duration of the effect.

Epidural Anesthesia

In the case of an epidural, the medication is inserted in the middle or lower back into the region between the spinal cord and spinal fluid via a hollow needle. A catheter is left behind to provide more dosage if needed.
It takes about 15-20 minutes to take effect. The medication and its quantity vary depending upon the hospital and the anesthesiologist.

Spinal Anesthesia

Spinal involves administering the medicine directly into the spinal fluid using a thin needle. This doesn’t require the use of catheter as a spinal is given only once, which is enough for relieving the pain for the required period.
Before providing a spinal, the area where the injection is to be given is numbed using a local anesthesia.

Spinal anesthesia acts quickly on the body and relieves the pain immediately. However, it wears off quickly as compared to an epidural. The effect stays only for 1-2 hours, hence it is used for procedures that require less time.


The medication received by the mother through the anesthesia can affect the baby’s health.


Any medication that the mother takes is sure to reach the baby via the bloodstream. However, since epidural and spinal are administered around the vertebral column, therefore, only a small amount of it reaches the baby—the quantity is insufficient to cause any harm to the fetus.


Women can conveniently move around after receiving a ‘walking’ epidural.


Most women are under the misconception that a walking epidural, as the name hints, will allow them to roam around during labor sans the pain.
Walking epidurals are basically epidural in low dosage. In any case, you won’t be able to get out of the bed on receiving the anesthesia. The effect of the epidural will numb the lower body.


Epidurals complicate the process of labor and make pushing tougher.


Epidurals certainly provide complete relief from pain.

Though they can sometimes slow down the labor, they don’t make the pushing harder. In fact, the mother doesn’t feel whether she is pushing or not—the nurse or the doctor might guide her, encouraging her to push.

If you still feel the contractions to some extent after receiving the epidural, the transition from labor to birth becomes easier. To do so, some hospitals might combine a spinal with an epidural, which ensures 3 important things for an easier labor.

1. The patient receives less medication.
2. The labor pain is relieved.
3. The lower body is numb, but you can still feel the contractions and push actively during the labor.


Epidurals often fail and provide little or no relief.


There have been very few cases, wherein the mother didn’t get any relief from the pain even after receiving an epidural. It could happen if the catheter is displaced from the position or the mother has stayed in the same position for too long—the medicine could subside the pain only on one side of the body.

This can be immediately corrected, however, there is another alternative

to the problem. Today, the hospitals provide the mother a control over the quantity of the epidural she receives while in labor. This is done using a method called patient-controlled epidural analgesia (PCEA).

Epidural anesthesia is an effective way to cope with labor pain. The primary risks aren’t as serious, however, you may feel sleepy and unable to walk for quite some time until the effect wears down.