Epidural: Pros and Cons

A pregnant woman who is in labor is getting an epidural at the hospital. There was a time when women couldn’t dull the pain from childbirth. Today, some pain management options include spinal block, narcotics, nitrous oxide with tranquilizers and an epidural block. An epidural block is used to manage pain in a specific area of the body. 

According to Self magazine, 61 percent of women in the U.S. have an epidural during childbirth. An epidural blocks the nerve signals from the lower part of the spine, decreasing the pain in the lower half of the body.  

What to expect 

If you choose to have an epidural, you will first be given an I.V. to help prevent a dangerous drop in blood pressure. Your doctor will have you sit or lie on your side. You’ll bring your knees to your chest so that your lower back becomes rounded. 

Next, you will be injected with a local anesthetic to numb the area. 

A needle with a test dose will then be injected into the epidural space. The epidural space is the area surrounding the spinal cord. This test can help determine if you are susceptible to an allergy. 

Finally, a plastic catheter or tube will be threaded into the space, and the needle will be removed. The pain medication is administered through the catheter.  

Epidural Pros

  • Alleviates pain in the lower body without slowing down labor
  • Allows you to remain alert and awake
  • May allow you to walk around
  • May provide anesthesia for a non-emergent C-section 

Epidural Cons 

  • Might affect one side of the body more than the other
  • May require a catheter or tube in your bladder to allow you to urinate
  • May cause your blood pressure to fall
  • May lead to fever or itching
  • May rarely cause a headache after delivery