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Getting an epidural during labor is a big decision that you should consider before the big day gets here.

You don’t want to wait until you’re in the heat of the moment to decide because there are many things to consider.

If you decide to get one you’ll be in the 60% of women who’ve chosen to do the same. I myself have had three babies and had an epidural each time. I believe it allowed me to enjoy childbirth and the whole experience more fully. I am very grateful for that.

Below is everything you’ve ever wanted to know about getting an epidural so you can make an educated decision for yourself and your baby.

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Everything You Needed To Know About Epidurals During Childbirth

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What to expect with an epidural


What It’s Like Having an epidural


It won’t happen right away


Make sure if you’re planning on getting an epidural you do not wait until you are really far gone.

You don’t want to get one too early, of course, but once you ask for one it can take 1-3 whole hours to have the procedure done.

The nurse has to order the procedure and then you will have to wait in line because others will be on the list to get one as well.

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It’s hard to determine the right time to get one as labor can suddenly progress very quickly. All you can really do is keep in mind that you will have to wait a bit for relief.

What to expect with an epidural

It may be a good idea to ask the staff the average wait time for the Anesthesiologist in their facility. Although that may not give you much insight into what actually happens in your particular situation considering every day is different but it may comfort you some.

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The anesthesiologist will numb the area first

Before the procedure is done they will numb the area a bit. It will help for the initial pain of the needle entering.

It’ll take effect within minutes and will make the procedure more comfortable.

You will still feel the tube threading down your back and minor pressure and prodding but it shouldn’t be too painful.

Generally, the whole thing doesn’t really hurt unless they hit a nerve. If that is the case, you’ll feel quick, dull shooting pain, but it passes quickly.

For most women, it’ll be a breeze once numb.


 You’ll get immediate relief

Once the epidural is complete, you’ll feel relief right away. And because contractions and labor can be tiring, the epidural will help relax you enough so you can rest or get some sleep.

Resting is important because it will prepare you for pushing and the work involved in your labor.

An epidural can help you be more focused and present during delivery because you won’t be distracted by the pain.



Will Pushing Still Hurt?

You might have heard that you’ll be completely numb after an epidural but that’s not entirely true.

You’ll still feel some sensation and the urge to push so you can deliver your baby.

You will also still be able to feel the baby come out with an Epidural but it will feel mostly like intense pressure rather than a burning pain.

It can make the experience much easier for you if this is the route you choose.


The epidural may not work

This is the reality of getting an epidural. There’s always a chance that simply may not work and it happens more often than you think.

It is dependent on several factors including the skill of your anesthesiologist and your own unique anatomy variations as well.

Sometimes it will work on one side and not the other. This happen to me a bit with my first one.

It may also start randomly wearing off in certain areas as well. Mine started wearing off while I was pushing and I was numb everywhere except one little area around my stomach where I felt the pain of full labor.

It was really bizarre but I was able to withstand the pain due to being numb everywhere else.

What to expect with an epidural

You might need a urinary catheter

Since the epidural numbs the lower part of your body, you may need a urinary catheter put in place if your labor lasts more than a few hours.

It’ll be removed once the epidural wears off, but you might feel some discomfort for a while after the catheter comes out.

Because the catheter wouldn’t be placed until after you are numb you shouldn’t feel any pain from the catheter being inserted.

Alternatively, they may do an ‘ in and out ‘ catheter several times during your labor.


Shaking or shivers is completely normal

You may very likely get the shivers after getting your epidural.

It’s a completely harmless and natural response to the medication.

It does stop after ten minutes or so and it simply feels like shivering from the cold.

You should also be aware that shaking during childbirth happens too, with or without an epidural.

This reaction is quite common but doesn’t happen to every woman.


Other Important Info:


An epidural can mean a severe headache for some

Headaches following an epidural can come on and be fairly intense.

They typically occur within a few days of the epidural.

They occur when the needle goes too deep and creates a spinal fluid leak. Most people should find relief with rest, hydration, and pain medications, but if it persists talk to your doctor right away.


Your epidural could last too long.

Once you have your baby you’ll want the epidural to wear off.

But sometimes it can take a bit to do so, leaving you sorta stranded in your bed when it’s time to get things moving.

It usually doesn’t take too long to resolve but it’s just something to keep in mind.


Epidurals Can Wear Off During Labor Too

Sometimes the epidural can wear off before it’s time to push because they only last a few hours typically.

If this happens they may offer you other types of pain management or maybe even another epidural.

Or you can go ahead and go natural from that point on.

What to expect with an epidural

It may only work in sections

Occasionally women get an epidural and it will only work on one side or in certain sections.

This is because the catheter is mispositioned or dislodged or because the mother stays in the same position for too long.

It really sucks when this happens but it is always a possibility.

But as long as you’re in good hands with a skilled Anesthesiologist you will likely have no problems.


When Is the best time to get an epidural during labor?

The best time to receive an epidural is as early as when you are 4 to 5 centimeters dilated and in active labor.

Normally, it takes about 15 minutes to place the epidural catheter and for the pain to start subsiding and another 20 minutes to go into full effect.

You can get them earlier or later though of course. But once you get to a certain point the option will become unavailable.

Here’s a post about how to cope with labor without an epidural.

In the end….

Getting an epidural is a great pain management option for labor. It’s proven safe and effective and it will help you be more present in the moment so you can really enjoy the experience fully.

Good luck mama!

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What to expect with an epidural



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