Ask Our Experts

Got Questions? We've got answers from experts and parents who've been there.

What is an epidural?

All my friends had epidurals. Why wouldn't everyone get one?
Submitted by Parents.com Team

An epidural is a type of anesthesia delivered through a catheter placed just outside your spinal cord. When placed properly, it eliminates most of the pain of childbirth. While many women swear by epidurals (about 60 percent choose to get them these days) there are also plenty of reasons why many women opt not to. First, there are risks involved (which usually stem from placing the anesthesia into the spine instead of just outside it). Although most physicians are good at spotting problems before they becomes serious, side effects can include a sudden drop in your blood pressure, changes in the fetal heartbeat, increased risk of c-section delivery (although in some cases an epidural can facilitate a vaginal birth by keeping Mom from becoming too tired to push), and, in very rare cases, nerve injury and paralysis.
Some moms-to-be forgo epidurals because they prefer to have a drug-free birth experience -- they may feel that breathing or relaxation techniques are enough to get them through labor. Also, having an epidural may make it more difficult to be mobile during labor, and some pregnant women prefer the option of being able to move around or try out different birthing positions. And sometimes, epidurals aren't an option. Since an anesthesiologist needs to be available, women who choose to give birth outside major medical centers where these doctors aren't on call may not be able to get them. There are also medical conditions that can prevent you from having an epidural. For example, one possible side effect of epidurals is difficulty breathing, so women with chronic respiratory conditions may not be good candidates. In addition, spinal abnormalities like scoliosis (an irregular curvature of the spine) can also make placing the epidural needle difficult. But just because you have one of these conditions doesn't mean you have to grin and bear it -- talk to your obstetrician (before going into labor) about other pain-relief choices that might be better for you.

Copyright 2009

The answers from our experts are for educational purposes only. Please always refer to your child's pediatrician and mental health expert for more in-depth advice.

Community Answers11

Answer this Question
X
Enter an Answer to this Question

Tips
500 characters left


Hi! Great post. As a practicing anesthesiologist, I would like to add that you should talk to the anesthesiologist about pain relief options during labor. We want you to have a safe and comfortable delivery, regardless of whether or not you want an epidural. We are here to help! http://www.anesthesiamyths.com
Submitted by joehjackson
Hi! Great post. As a practicing anesthesiologist, I would like to add that you should talk to the anesthesiologist about pain relief options during labor. We want you to have a safe and comfortable delivery, regardless of whether or not you want an epidural. We are here to help! http://www.anesthesiamyths.com
Submitted by joehjackson
I'm thinking about getting hypnotized a few months before the delivery so I won't feel as much pain.I really don't want an epidural.Any suggestions? You can email me at msd52010@hotmail.com Thanks.
Submitted by msd52010
I had a had to have an epidural with my c-section with my first child. I also had an epidural with second child which was vaginal birth. I am pregnant now and I am choosing trial by labor (VBAC) for my third child. I am not going to have an epidural with this one. I want to really experience what childbirth feels like since this will be my last delivery.
Submitted by serita131
I did not feel any pain but had to alternate resting on different sides because my legs would start tingling if left still too long. Pushing was relatively easy and the doctor told me to push when i was having contractions according to the monitor. Was able to get out of bed with help of nurse to use restroom after baby was all cleaned up and everyone cleared out. I plan to have an epidural again since it was a positive experience for me.
Submitted by LBanks
I did not feel any pain but had to alternate resting on different sides because my legs would start tingling if left still too long. Pushing was relatively easy, dr would tell when to push according to contraction monitor. Was able to get out of bed with help of nurse to use restroom after baby was all cleaned up and everyone cleared out. I plan to have an epidural again since it was a positive experience for me.
Submitted by LBanks
I did not feel any pain but had to alternate resting on different sides because my legs would start tingling if left still too long. Pushing was relatively easy Was able to get out of bed with help of nurse to use restroom after baby was all cleaned up and everyone cleared out. I plan to have an epidural again since it was a positive experience for me.
Submitted by LBanks
my mother had 3 children, 1 with epidural. she said it took her longer to recover with an epidural, and she had a harder time giving birth, because she couldn't feel the contractions or know how to push, because she was numb and cold all over. it might have been a bad epidural, but still, good to know.
Submitted by sus731
Do you feel anything when you have one? my friend told me that she still felt pain
Submitted by kentucky_gal2009
Do you feel anything when you have one? my friend told me that she still felt pain
Submitted by kentucky_gal2009
I didn't get one because I was having back labor and my back is super sensitive to begin with along with having back problems. I also wanted the baby to be fully awake as possible and I wanted to be able to get out of bed after delivery since a lot of times they make your legs numb.
Submitted by elizabethslifer