What is an Epidural?

Epidurals are commonly referenced when it comes to labor and delivery, but most people don’t actually know the details of how they work. If you’ve been doing some research on the difference between birth center birth and birth in a hospital setting, epidurals are one topic that may come up a lot! Let’s break down how epidurals work. 

What is an Epidural?

Epidural is a method of pain relief that is achieved by injecting an anesthetic directly into the epidural space in your back. They are most commonly used to block pain signals from labor and contractions.

When is an epidural used?

An epidural is typically administered when you’re about 4-5 centimeters dilated and are in active labor.  It takes about 15 mins for it to start working and for the pain to start subsiding.

What are the risks of using an epidural?

Some of the risks associated with epidurals include:

  • Risk of injury to the spinal cord
  • Headache
  • Temporary urinary incontinence due to accidental blockage of nerves 
  • Sometimes the numbness can cause you to lose control of contractions, so you aren’t able to push as effectively as you could otherwise
  • Nausea and sickness
  • Seizures
  • Infections 

What are other methods for pain relief?

Some other options of pain relief you can try during labor include:

  • Changing positions: you can try leaning forward using a birthing ball or different yoga positions that take pressure off of your lower back to alleviate some of the pain.
  • TENS Unit: this is a small device that delivers a low-voltage current to your lower back, without needing any needles or injections. It is applied directly to your skin. It may help with pain relief.
  • Sterile water injections: This involves injecting a small amount of sterile water at different locations in the lower back to help with pain relief
  • Hydrotherapy: this is immersing yourself in warm water during labor or a part of labor. The idea is to reduce the gravitational force on your lower back and ease some of the built-up tension in your pelvic muscles
  • Nitrous Oxide: nitrous oxide is a pain reliever that is delivered via an inhalant. The best part is that you can control the amount of medicine you take, depending on your level of pain tolerance.

At Charleston Birth Place, we believe in utilizing evidence-based, low-intervention methods of natural pain relief during labor and birth, and all of our birth suites are equipped with many options of comfort measures to assist with pain! Give us a call if you ever have questions!