Exposing The Truth Behind Epidurals

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The world is divided among two, the ones who take epidural during child birth and the ones that don’t. What is sad is the fact that even with more than 60% of American women opting for epidural to get relief from labor pain, it is something that is misunderstood a lot. To begin with, most doctors use ‘epidural’ in a more generic sense. It actually encompasses three distinct procedures, including epidurals, spinals and the more recent, the combined spinal-epidural or walking epidural. (CSE)


Most doctors agree that it is inhuman to let patients suffer from severe labor pain and go untreated unless there is compelling evidence that not restraining pain would lead to improved health outcomes for both the baby and the mother.

There is no shame in asking for pain relief during labor. The doctors are not needle pushers nor are they gaining any benefit from the process. It’s the pregnant woman’s right to choose medicated or un-medicated birth of her baby.  However, before going ahead with either, it is time to clear those perceptions regarding epidural.

Epidural And Spinal Are Same, They Both Hurt

For an epidural, a pain relieving medication is injected between the vertebrae and spinal fluid. Taking about 15 minutes to take effect, the medication lasts as long as it is needed. In spinal, the medication is directly injected in the spinal fluid. If CSE is done, the medication takes five minutes to take effect. In both the cases, the catheter that delivers drug stays in the back area until the baby is born, which means medication is continuously administered to relieve the mother of any pain.

However, how long, the potency of the medication, and what kind is to be given, all depends on the health of the mother and the final call is taken by the doctor. Being educated about these medications and the risks involved would help in taking the right decision.

Look At The Size Of The Needle, It Will Definitely Hurt

For both epidural and spinal, a needle is inserted in the back but only for a minute or two. It is through the hollow needle that a catheter is pushed. The catheter injects the medicine. But before all this happens, the area is numbed with a local anesthesia. So what you would be feeling is just the pressure but no pain at all.

Some women also think that the needle stays there, throughout the labor. What is retained is the cannula (part of a catheter) mainly because there needs to be continuous infusion of medicine rather than one dose.

Problems In Pushing, Need For C-Section, OMG!

One of the major reasons that epidurals have such a bad rep is mainly because most doctors don’t adjust the dosage according to the delivery. This has also led to the increased acceptance of CSE where less medication is given thereby decreasing the risk of having forceps or vacuum assisted birth.

However, sometimes epidurals do increase the chances of C-section. Further studies in 2006 revealed that timing of the epidural affects this to a great extent. If epidural is given before active labor starts, the chances of C section increases while if given during active labor, chances of C-section is less.

It Will Harm My Baby

Any medication that the mother takes would eventually reach the baby, same is with epidural. With epidural, the amount is too less to cause any damage. In fact, mothers who received epidural at the right time it was found that it did not affect the baby’s health in any way. Other studies also showed that women who received pain relief during labor, their babies had lesser stress hormones than those who delivered without pain relief.

It Has Serious Side Effects

For vast majority of patients, epidural is really safe. Complications can occur and they can range from short term (drop in blood pressure) to really far reaching ones. Other side effects (which are treatable) are nausea and itching. Another common occurrence is fever, especially if the epidural has lasted for more than six hours. One rare complication is the spinal headache, but this occurs in less than 1% of women.

It Doesn’t Work

There is very little chance of epidural anesthesia not working. For other women who experienced pain inspite of epidural, it’s because the analgesic amount was way too less.

Epidural, spinal or CSE have lesser risks than other forms of pain relief. Women have these concerns regarding epidural, but most likely, it is always other issues which led to more complications. It’s always best to have a heart-to-heart conversation with your doctor and the anesthesiologist before you chose a medicated/unmedicated birth for your bundle of joy.

CureJoy Editorial

The CureJoy Editorial team digs up credible information from multiple sources, both academic and experiential, to stitch a holistic health perspective on topics that pique our readers' interest.

CureJoy Editorial

The CureJoy Editorial team digs up credible information from multiple sources, both academic and experiential, to stitch a holistic health perspective on topics that pique our readers' interest.