ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

What is an Epidural?

Updated on August 17, 2015

An Epidural is a form of pain relief that is used in labour. It involves numbing the nerves that lead to your tummy and pelvic area as well as your womb.

It is the most complicated form of pain relief and is set up by an anaesthetist who carefully places a fine tube into the epidural space. The anaesthetic is pumped through which numbs the nerves leading to your abdomen. As you are numb around your abdomen then you will not feel any pain. Not all women need this level of analgesia and it will not harm your baby.

The Epidural Space is where the Epidural Catheter is placed which will pump analgesia through it to numb the nerves of the Uterus and Pelvis. The Red line is representative of the Spinal Cord.
The Epidural Space is where the Epidural Catheter is placed which will pump analgesia through it to numb the nerves of the Uterus and Pelvis. The Red line is representative of the Spinal Cord.

Who can have an Epidural?

Most women can have an Epidural, but there are certain complications of pregnancy and bleeding disorders that may make it unsuitable. If you have a complicated or long labour your midwife or obstetrician may recommend that you have one. In such circumstances it will benefit you and your baby.

What does having an Epidural Involve?

Before an epidural can be inserted a drip needs to be put up initially so that your blood pressure is maintained. Epidurals can lower blood pressure as the drug used opens up all the blood vessels in the body causing it to drop suddenly. Iv fluids will keep your blood pressure up so that your body will cope with the drop caused by the epidural.

  1. The anaesthetist will ask you to sit on the side of the bed or they may ask you to lie down on your side curled around. The reason why they ask you to do this is to open up your spine so that the anaesthetist can get into the epidural spaces.
  2. Your back will be cleaned with an antiseptic and the area made sterile around you.
  3. The anaesthetist will then feel around your back area for the spaces between the spines and a local anaesthetic is given by a small needle to the skin around that area.
  4. The epidural needle is then inserted, this is actually a hollow needle and once the needle is in the correct place then a very fine tube is passed down the needle. Once the tube is in the correct space then the needle is removed and what is left is the tube.
  5. This process needs absolute precision and it is very important to listen to what the anaesthetist is telling you and to keep as still as you can. If you are having an epidural through your labour the midwife and anaesthetist will be able to guide you through your contractions and you can still use the gas and air. The epidural can be sited in between your contractions.
  6. Once the epidural is in place the anaesthetist will set it up on a PCA (Patient Controlled Analgesia) pump and give you a button to press so that you can control the amount of epidural that goes in. The pain relieving drug numb the nerves in your back that supply the pelvic area and the uterus and you will be numb from the waist to the top of your legs.
  7. The midwife will also take your blood pressure regularly to monitor any drops in BP, you will also be monitored continuously to assess your baby.
  8. The epidural can take around 20-30 minutes to work and you will find that whilst it is starting to work that your contractions will become less painful. You will be aware that your tummy is still tightening, however there should be no pain at all.
  9. There are some occasions where the epidural will not work and it may need re-siting, or some adjustments may be needed.
  10. An epidural should not make you drowsy and you are less likely to be sick, itching rarely occurs.
  11. If you have high blood pressure then an epidural is particularly good in bringing your BP down. Some doctors recommend this in labour for women who are very ill with Pre-Eclampsia.
  12. If you end up going for a cesarean section then the epidural can usually be topped up if it was working effectively in the first place.

Epidural Side effects and risks

  • You are at a higher risk of having an instrumental delivery or cesarean section due to having no feeling to push, an epidural can delay your labour for a further 1-2 hours.
  • There is a small risk of a headache (1 in 100) associated with an epidural and you could end up with a dural tap. This is where the needle has gone a little further into the epidural space and caused a leak of fluid that bathes the brain and the spinal cord.You need to inform the anaesthetist if this occurs as this is treatable.
  • Very rarely some women report patches of numbness which persist.
  • About 1:2000 women get tingling sensation down their legs after having a baby, however this is more likely to be the baby's head pressing on the nerves when it comes through the birth canal.
  • There is a risk of infection or bleeding into the epidural space but these are extremely rare.
  • Backache is common after you have had your baby after an epidural however it is usually localised tenderness that will only last a day or two.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • breathe2travel profile image


      6 years ago from Gulf Coast, USA

      Extremely informative. Thank you. Voted up, useful, and interesting.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)