An epidural block is a numbing medicine given by injection (shot) in the back. It numbs or causes a loss of feeling in the lower half your body. This lessens the pain of contractions during childbirth.
The block or shot is given into an area over your lower back or spine.
Your doctor will wash the area of your back and inject a little medicine to numb the spot where the epidural needle is placed:
The numbing medicine is given through the tube for as long as it is needed.
Usually, you will receive low doses because it is safer for you and the baby. Once the medicine takes effect (after 10 - 20 minutes), you should feel better. You may still feel some back or rectal pressure during contractions.
You may shiver after an epidural, but this is common. Many women shiver during labor even without an epidural.
Many studies have shown that an epidural is a safe way to manage pain during childbirth. While rare, there are some risks.
Your blood pressure may drop for a short while. This might cause the baby's heart rate to slow down.
An epidural block may change or alter labor and delivery.
Other rare side effects are:
Updated by: Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Bellevue, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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