What is an Epidural and What Should I Expect?

“An epidural is a numbing agent that may be a combination of analgesics (pain relief without the loss of muscle movement) & anaesthetics (pain relief with a loss of sensation). It’s the most common type of pain control used in childbirth. Epidural drugs stay in the epidural space & don’t enter the bloodstream, so very importantly, they don’t circulate to your baby” [1]


The Low Down on Different Types of Epidurals


These include:


  • Spinal Bloc: also known as spinal anaesthesia, and normally administered during C-section deliveries, this procedure involves injecting a quick relief local anaesthetic or opioid into the fluid around the spinal cord. The pain relief normally lasts anywhere between one and two hours
  • Epidural Block: this is the most used epidural which a Pain Specialist or other medic, administers during childbirth. The block comprises a mix of anaesthetics and analgesics, which are inserted into the lower back via a small tube. The patient still remains alert, and ready to push the baby out at the right time
  • Combined spinal-epidural: (also known as CSE); this is a regional anaesthetic technique which facilitates a single shot spinal block which is augmented via periodic local anaesthetic top-ups via an epidural catheter. This allows long lasting pain relief [1].


How Epidural Pain Relief Works


An epidural is injected straight into the spine into the epidural space, via a catheter. By placing the catheter here, the Pain Specialist can give the patient continuous medication as required. As soon as an epidural is inserted, pain relief should be apparent within 10 to 15 minutes. You will feel numb from the base of your ribcage downwards, so you are not likely to feel any contractions – which is the idea! [1]


Is Having an Epidural Safe?


“Epidurals are one of the safest methods of pain control during labour & delivery” [1]


The answer to this is, “absolutely. Research has shown that epidurals are extremely safe. Indeed, it is very rare for epidural patients to experience any serious side effects or complications. Furthermore, only a small amount of medication is required to attain the desired effect of blocking out the pain.


Booking an Appointment With a Pain Specialist


Having an online or in-person consultation with an experienced Pain Doctor, is the best way to go at such a crucial juncture in life. They are on hand to explain all the available options in layman’s terms, and ready to answer any concerns or questions.





[1]. Geddes, J. K. (2021). “Epidural for Labor Pain.” What to Expect in Pregnancy.