Epidural Anesthesia – Procedure, Benefits and Risks

Adequate research to write down your birth plan is an important task you and your support system need to educate yourself on. Consult your doctor or midwife to find out what pain relieving options are available to you as labor can be painful and it’s not something every woman can deal with unmedicated.


Epidural Anesthesia is one of the most complicated yet popular methods used by 50 per cent of women giving birth at hospitals. This pain relief method is requested by name as it is famous for blocking sensation and pain around the abdomen and makes the labor/delivery process easier for the mother. Epidural medications fall into a class of drugs called local anesthetics, they are often delivered in a combination with narcotics in order to decrease the required dose of local anesthetic in order to produce pain relief with minimal effects.

How Is Epidural Anesthesia Administered?

1. Intravenous fluids (IV) will be given prior

to an Epidural and during delivery to maintain blood pressure as the drug used in the Epidural procedure opens up blood vessels in the body causing the patients BP to drop suddenly.

2. The anesthesiologist or obstetrician will ask you to sit at the edge of your bed or ask you lay on your side while arching your back in a curved position. This will help open up the spine so as to find the Epidural space. Listen to the doctor and remain still to increase the effects of the procedure and prevent problems.

3. After cleansing the back with an antiseptic to make the area sterile, the obstetrician or anesthesiologist will feel around the back for the spaces between the spine, through a small needle a local anesthetic is given to numb skin in the area.

4. A hollow Epidural needle is inserted and when it’s in the right place, a thin tube it threaded through the needle. The needle is removed once the tube is in the right space and the catheter (tube) is left

behind. The process requires absolute precision so follow the instructions given by the anesthetist or midwife. They will guide you through your contractions and you still have the option to use Entonax (gas or air) to edge of excess pain.

5. The catheter is taped to the back to prevent it from slipping out, through the tube periodic injections or continuous infusion of medication is administered.

Things You Need To Know:
1. Once the Epidural is in place, the anesthetist will set up a Patient Controlled Analgesia (PCA) pump and hand you a button so you can control the amount of Epidural that goes in. The drug will numb the nerves in your back resulting in numbness between your waist and upper legs.

2. Along with assessing the progress of delivery, your blood pressure will be monitored regularly to check for drops in BP. The drugs can take 20-30 minutes to work and then there will be no pain at all. When you notice decrease in pain during contractions, this is a sign that

the epidural has started to work. In the off-set that the epidural doesn’t work, the catheter may need re-setting or adjustments.

3. Itching may rarely occur but drowsiness and nausea are not normal.

4. If the mother has high BP, this procedure is particularly beneficial to bring BP down and might be suggested to women suffering from Pre-Eclampsia.

5. In the case of cesarean sections, the epidural may be topped up if it was already working well.

3 Pros and Cons of Epidural Anesthesia:
1. The Epidural should normally allow you to stay alert and remain an active participant in the birth of your child. If there is a sudden drop of BP, you will given oxygen, medication and IV fluids.

2. The Epidural helps reduce discomfort and gives some women a more positive birthing experience. Less than 1 per cent of women experience a severe headache caused by the leakage of spinal fluid. If the problem persists, you will be provided with a procedure called “blood patch” in which your blood

will be injected into the Epidural space to relieve the headache.

3. The procedure allows you to rest in the case of a prolonged labor. The lower half of your body will remain numb even after a few hours of delivery but walking with assistance can help normalize things.