the decision whether or not to get an epidural is a personal oneChances are, you’ve already been asked if you’re going to get an epidural. Around 60% of women in the US choose to get an epidural, but there are risks to be aware of.

If you’re wondering if you should get an epidural or not, keep reading!

What’s an epidural?

It’s a carefully created mix of pain medications that are injected into a precise location in your lower back. The result is less to no pain during labor.

An anesthesiologist will decide which drugs to include, but an epidural typically has a combination of a numbing agent and an opioid or narcotic. This combination of drugs provides pain control right away and gives you long-lasting relief. It can be given as needed or continuously through a pump.

How do epidurals work?

It provides medication that numbs and provides pain relief to the region of your spinal cord that manages the lower half of your body. The medication can be increased or decreased depending on your needs.

Standard epidural:

An anesthesiologist will insert a needle into the epidural space and threads a catheter through the needle before they remove it. Medication is given through the catheter, as needed or continuously through a pump. With a standard epidural, you can’t leave your bed and will have little to no feeling in your lower half.

“Walking” epidural:

An anesthesiologist will insert the needle into the intrathecal area and give you a dose of medication which has a limited timeline. How much time a walking epidural lasts depends on what drugs are used. The drugs aren’t given continuously, unlike with a standard epidural.

Not all moms-to-be who receive a “walking” epidural can actually walk around, but it will allow for more feeling and movement.

What are the benefits of getting an epidural?

The most obvious benefit is pain-free labor and delivery. With an epidural, you can still effectively push but won’t feel every contraction. You can even participate and be present for your labor and delivery.

Labor can last a long time, and be super-draining. So, an epidural can give you some time to rest before you have to push. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, getting an epidural can help you cope. Removing the pain may help you focus.

What are the risks to getting an epidural?

The medications used will make their way into your baby’s bloodstream, which might make it harder for them to get into proper birthing position. An epidural might slow labor down, resulting in more interventions.

The medications in an epidural might make you feel dizzy or nauseous because they’re causing your blood pressure to drop. Around 25% of women who get an epidural will develop a fever. Also, some women feel like they had trouble pushing after getting an epidural.

At the end of the day, the decision whether or not to get an epidural is extremely personal. It’s just fine if you’re not sure you’ll get one until you have started to experience the pains of labor.