Navigate Up

Pregnancy Center - A-Z Index

J
K
Q
X
Z

Print This Page

Epidural - Series

Procedure - Epidural

Procedure - Epidural 1

Your understanding of what happens during labor and delivery as well as your attitude toward it - affect the amount of pain you feel while giving birth. The breathing methods and relaxation techniques you learn in childbirth-education class may reduce your need for pain medication, but you won't know whether you'll need drugs until you're in the delivery room.

The most common form of pain medication used in labor is an epidural block. During the procedure, anesthetic is injected into the epidural space near your spinal cord, temporarily numbing your lower body.

Procedure - Epidural

Procedure - Epidural 2

An epidural usually causes little discomfort and is administered while you are sitting up or lying on your side, with your back curved outward.

After you receive the epidural, your caregiver will closely monitor your blood pressure, heart rate, and your baby's heart rate.

Procedure - Epidural

Procedure - Epidural 3

Before you get an epidural, your doctor will wash your back with antiseptic and determine the best place for the injection. Next, you'll get a shot of local anesthetic to numb the spot where the epidural needle will be inserted.

Procedure - Epidural

Procedure - Epidural 4

The doctor will carefully insert an epidural needle between your vertebrae, thread a hollow tube through the needle, and remove the needle, leaving the catheter in place. Anesthetic is then administered through the catheter.

Procedure - Epidural

Procedure - Epidural 5

Epidurals are very effective at relieving labor pain, but they have some drawbacks: First, they take up to 20 minutes to administer and take effect. Epidurals can slow labor if they're given too soon, and being numb from the waist down may make it harder for you to push your baby out. Unless you are given a "walking epidural" or "narcotic spinal", you'll need to stay in bed for your entire labor. Epidurals can also cause your blood pressure to drop, which in turn may slow your baby's heartbeat. To prevent this, you'll be given intravenous fluids and may be asked to lay on your side to help your blood circulate. To be on the safe side, your doctor will keep close tabs on your baby by continuously monitoring your blood pressure and his heart rate.

Procedure - Epidural

Procedure - Epidural 6

The major benefit of having an epidural is that you can remain awake, alert, and almost totally pain-free while actively participating in your baby's birth. You can also relax and conserve your energy during a long labor. To lower the odds of side effects for you and your baby, your doctor will likely give you the lowest effective dose.

Updated: 12/9/2012

Irina Burd, MD, PhD, Maternal Fetal Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.


©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com