Epidural anesthesia is the most common form of pain
relief for laboring women, and they resort to it for
valid enough reasons. One such reason being the wish
to conserve their physical and emotional energies
for later after their baby arrives. Secondly labor
can be truly a painful experience for many, much beyond
their endurance. And finally majority of women want
to be active participants during the birthing process.
Many women embrace this form of pain relief for the
benefits it offers but it is good to be aware of the
drawbacks irrespective of the decision you will make.
• Epidural anesthesia is estimated to relieve
90% of pain in 85% of women, according to survey.
This form of pain relief works on reducing the unpleasant
aspects without affecting awareness and memory of
the birthing process.
• Many women find that epidural gives them the
opportunity to relax and not be so uptight about their
baby's birth. The relaxation achieved with epidural
causes the contractions to work more efficiently,
especially during the active phase.
• Epidurals can actually help speed up the labor
process more so if the mother has been subjected to
an exhaustive long labor.
• Laboring mothers are of the view that epidurals
doesn't act like a sedative and blur their thinking.
Instead it provides the opportunity to be emotionally
alert when their baby is born.
• An epidural in place can prevent the use of
general anesthesia (which is more risky) in the event
of an emergency cesarean. In vaginal births where
stitches may be necessary epidural will provide anesthesia
for that as well.
• Epidurals actually offer the worn out mother
a chance to rest it off before actively pushing again.
• For women predisposed to hypertension or have
medical issues such as preeclampsia, epidural anesthesia
tends to lower maternal blood pressure. Given the
situation a lower blood pressure is desirable as labor
pains may increase the pressure level.
• In most instances relief to the abdominal
area and lower back is within minutes, 20 mins max.
There is a choice of using it for a short while and
then giving birth without it or it can be topped up
for the remainder of the labor.
• There is a contentious view on the use of
epidural in early labor. Some experts believe that
if epidural is administered early on it hinders progress
and increases the likelihood of intervention such
as forceps, vacuum or cesarean. On the other hand
some studies show that epidurals received in early
labor hastens the progress.
• For reasons not known women with epidurals
are more likely to develop fever during labor. The
condition has to be medically managed through IV antibiotic
treatment, speeding up labor with syntocin, forceps,
vacuum or cesarean. Since the cause of fever is not
established it becomes necessary sometimes to check
the baby for possible infection and even give the
newborn IV antibiotics for a few days after birth.
relief may not be complete. Contrary to belief, labor
may still be tough, and pushing can still be exhausting,
particularly if it is your first baby.
• Use of it may cause maternal blood pressure
to drop, causing the mother to feel faint (sometimes)
temporarily. There is also an increase risk of fetal
• Epidural anesthesia numbs the pelvic nerves
and either weakens the urge to push or causes it to
go away altogether. Contractions become sluggish and
bearing down becomes more difficult.
• Since you are numb from the waist down to
your knees, you will stay confined to bed and hooked
up to machines (epidural pump, IV and fetal monitor).
Your baby will be continuously tracked on the fetal
monitor and a coach may be necessary if bearing down
becomes an issue. The whole experience becomes medical
• There is a tendency to feel pain in the back,
shoulders, neck or head for hours and sometimes days,