What to Know About Epidurals for Childbirth

Expectant moms, or women thinking about having a baby, often want to know as much as they can about pain management during childbirth.

There are a variety of options available to you, including the use of an epidural. 

Epidurals are the most common form of pain relief during childbirth, with 50% of mothers choosing this method of pain management. Before deciding to use an epidural, we suggest that you explore how they work, potential side effects and which options are best for you.

What Does an Epidural Do?                    

An epidural (epidural anesthesia) is a regional anesthesia that blocks pain signals from a particular part of the body. In the case of childbirth, an epidural numbs the body from the middle of the chest down. 

Decreasing pain levels during childbirth through the use of an epidural typically helps mothers continue to be active and alert during childbirth.

How Does an Epidural Work?

In the case of childbirth, the epidural is placed into a specific spine ligament that sheathes the vertebrae and the membrane that covers the spinal cord to block the pain coming from the lower body. 

An epidural is usually hooked up to a catheter to allow for repeated doses to be administered throughout the duration of the childbirth so that its effects don’t wear off. The medication supplied through an epidural is usually a combination of the regional anesthesthetic and an opioid or narcotic such as fentanyl and sufentanil. 

The combined use of the two helps lower the dose of anesthesia while creating the ideal pain relief with minimal side effects.

Potential Epidural Side Effects

Epidurals are highly effective, with about a 1% chance of a woman needing additional painkillers. 

However, as with any medication, there are potential side effects. Common side effects include low blood pressure, fever and problems urinating. 

Other possible, but rare, side effects include headache, ringing of the ears, backache, soreness, nausea and nerve damage. 

Please note that women who choose to have an epidural are carefully monitored to prevent possible side effects, but it is always advised to speak with your OB/Gyn about any potential risks involved for you.

Does an Epidural Have any Effect on the Baby?

Using an epidural during childbirth has no more effect on the baby than other pain management techniques and there is no evidence of any long-term disadvantages. 

The primary difference between an epidural over traditional medications is birthing time. On occasion, women who use epidurals take longer in childbirth because it takes a bit more time for the baby to get into a proper birthing position.

In addition, there is an increased chance (10% for women without an epidural vs. 14% for women with an epidural) that the baby will need an instrumental delivery such as the use of vacuum suction or forceps.

Is an Epidural Right for Me?

This question is best answered by your OB/Gyn as you create your birthing plan. Your OB/Gyn can inform you about what pain management options are available to you that match your delivery goals. 

Our Expert, All-Female Practitioners

Every expectant mother has her own ideas about how she envisions her birth experience. Our all-female team of practitioners strive to make your birthing experience as safe and rewarding as possible. We care that your baby’s birth aligns with your own priorities. 

We offer you a variety of experts, including MDs, WHNPs (women’s health nurse practitioners) and FNPs (family nurse practitioners) in a single office so we can care for the many aspects of obstetrics and gynecology for our clients. 

Are you looking for an OB/Gyn in the Tucson area? Book an appointment today!


  1. https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/labor-and-birth/what-is-an-epidural-782
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279567/
  3. https://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/epidural/