Epidural - Myths Or Facts

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An epidural analgesia is a procedure that injects local anaesthetic medication into the space around the spinal nerves in your lower back. This anaesthetic medication blocks the pain sensation from labour contractions and during birth effectively. Epidurals are used to decrease or alleviate pain during labour.

The goal of an epidural is to provide analgesia, or pain relief, rather than anaesthesia (total lack of feeling). Epidurals results in decreased sensation in the lower half of the body. This pain relief can be achieved, optimally without losing the ability to control movement in the body.

The advantages of an epidural analgesia are:

• it is effective

• it is generally very safe

• You can still move around and push when you need to

• If you have a prolonged labour process, it allows you to sleep and recover your strength

• If you’re having a caesarean delivery, you can stay awake and see the newborn baby immediately.


Myth 1: Epidurals can cause permanent back pain or paralysis in the mother.

Fact 1:  Serious complications from an epidural, including paralysis, are extremely rare. Some women have discomfort in the lower back (where the catheter was inserted) for a few hours or days after the epidural, but it doesn’t last.

Myth 2:  Epidurals can harm the baby

Fact 2: The amount of medication that reaches the baby from the epidural is so small it doesn’t cause harm.

Myth 3: Epidurals can slow down labor or increase the risk of having caesarean section (C-section)

Fact 3: There is no credible evidence that an epidural slows down labor or  increases your risk of having a C-section. If a woman has a C-section, it will be due to other factors for example: having a very large baby.

In fact, there is evidence that epidurals can speed up the first stage of labor for some women.

Myth 4: An epidural can interfere with the birth experience.

Fact 4: The epidural medications will not cause you to be groggy or tired. You will be able to feel contractions – they just won’t hurt – and you’ll be able to push effectively.

Myth 5: There is a limited window of time when you can get an epidural.

Fact 5: You can get an epidural any time during your labor – in the beginning, the middle or even toward the end.