If you’re going through your pregnancy process, chances are you’ve heard about epidurals, either because your doctor has mentioned them or you’ve heard the term being used when talking about childbirth. But if you’re still in doubt about how epidurals work or have no idea what they are, you’ve come to the right place.

Colloquially called an “epidural,” epidural anesthesia is a pain reliever that is delivered into the spinal cord in the lower back area, and is mostly known for its use during labor to relieve the pain experienced during this process.

It is administered through a catheter, with which the necessary dose can be re-administered in case labor is prolonged and the effects of the first application fade away. As for the duration time, the effects of the epidural last between 1 and 2 hours, and it begins to take effect after about 15 to 20 minutes.


The effects of the epidural vary according to the dose, nullifying pain with low doses, but maintaining motility and sensitivity. At higher doses, it is capable of eliminating the sensation of touch and lower extremity motility.

The contractions are likely to become much more bearable, with a tingling sensation and heaviness in the legs, and even the impossibility of moving them. However, it is important to remember that not everyone reacts in the same way to an epidural, so its effects may vary in intensity.


The epidural should be used when labor is certain and imminent, that is, it is going to happen within the next few hours, and regular and effective uterine contractions are present. For the application of the epidural, it is not recommended that the dilatation be complete, since it would take longer to take effect than the delivery to culminate.


  • Reduction of pain during labor.
  • Allows the mother to be conscious at all times.
  • If it is necessary for the delivery to end in cesarean section, no additional anesthesia is necessary.
  • The dose can be regulated throughout labor.


Headaches may be experienced if there was an error in the puncture, but should be temporary, and blood pressure may drop, which can be easily corrected. In addition, weakness in the legs and difficulty urinating may be felt.


  • Prolonged labor. Pushing may become difficult under the effects of the epidural, which may require the health care provider to use instruments to facilitate labor, such as forceps.
  • Infection. If the administration was sterile and safe, this will not happen, but if it does, the infected area will be drained and antibiotics will be administered.
  • Prolonged numbness. 1 in 1,000 women may have areas of the body temporarily numb, which would be temporary. Permanent damage to sensation or motor function is extremely rare, with a chance of 4 in a million women.

In conclusion, it is necessary to make an informed decision about an epidural by consulting your medical professional, who will evaluate your medical history and inform you of the risks and benefits in your particular case.