Epidural Anesthesia in Childbirth
(Peridural Anesthesia; Regional Anesthesia; Epidural)
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Reasons for Procedure
- Low platelet counts
- Blood is too thin because of blood thinners
- Bleeding (hemorrhaging) or you are in shock
- Serious infection in your back or blood
- Labor is moving too fast and there is no time to place the catheter to administer the drug
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
- Your blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing rate will be monitored. Your baby's heart rate will be checked. Before an epidural can be placed, IV fluids will be started.
Description of the Procedure
- You will need to arch your back and remain very still. You will either be lying on your side or sitting up.
- The area around your waistline on your middle back will be wiped with an antiseptic solution to reduce the chance of infection. The solution may feel cold on your skin.
- A small area on your back will be injected with a local anesthetic to make it numb.
- A needle will be inserted into the numbed area in your lower back. A catheter (small tube) will be threaded through the needle into the space that surrounds your spinal cord in your lower back.
- The needle will be removed and the catheter taped to your back. The doctor will use the catheter to put more medicine in, if necessary.
Immediately After Procedure
- Ringing in your ears
- Soreness where the needle is inserted
- Difficulty urinating
How Long Will It Take?
How Much Will It Hurt?
- If labor continues for more than a few hours after the epidural, you may need a urinary catheter. This is a tube that your urine will pass through when you need to go to the bathroom. It will be removed after the baby is born.
- Rarely, the effect of the epidural may progress up your spinal cord causing difficulty in breathing. Tell your doctor if you experience this.
- A few hours after the baby is born, you may feel a tingling in the lower half of you body. This means that the anesthesia is wearing off. You may need help to walk until the anesthesia wears off completely.
- If you have a headache, let your nurse or doctor know.
Call Your Doctor
- Lingering or worsening back pain
- Severe headache
- Signs of infection such as redness or swelling
American Academy of Family Physicians http://familydoctor.org
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists http://www.acog.org/For%5FPatients
Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca
Women's Health Matters http://www.womenshealthmatters.ca
Bennett MJ, Leader LR, et al. Handbook of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. 4th ed. London, UK: Chapman and Hall; 1996.
Comfort measures (pharmacologic) during labor. DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated November 12, 2012. Accessed December 20, 2012.
Whitley N. A Manual of Clinical Obstetrics. Philadelphia, PA: JB Lippincott Company; 1985:343:619-621.
- Reviewer: Andrea Chisholm, MD
- Review Date: 03/2013 -
- Update Date: 03/15/2013 -
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
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