What is an epidural? 

Midwife Suzanne Barber explains what an epidural is.

Find out more about what an epidural is

Transcript of What is an epidural?

What is an epidural?


Suzanne: An epidural is a special form of pain relief, common in surgery and also in child birth. Not everyone will need this special form of pain relief but if your labour’s particularly long or the baby’s in an awkward position or indeed if you have a special pregnancy with twins, you may be advised by your midwife to have an epidural. They will discuss with you all the side effects before hand and make sure you make an informed decision before you agree.


An epidural is always inserted by an anaesthetist. You will be given a small, local injection into the skin in your back and a very fine tube is placed close to the nerves that supply your womb. A very powerful painkilling drug is inserted down this tube. It normally makes you numb from just above the bump, down to the tip of your toes. Sometimes it makes your legs feel very heavy and you’re unable to move them.


Towards the end of your labour, when your baby is getting ready to be born, the epidural can take away the sensations that help you push your baby out. The midwife will help support you, and get you to push just at the right moment. And in order to do so, they will monitor your contractions.


An epidural is just one form of many forms of pain relief. If you’ve decide what you’d like for sure, then it might be a good idea to write it in your birth plan so whoever is looking after you will know what your choices are.


As with many medical interventions, there are risks involved but thankfully with an epidural, serious side effects are rare.


How helpful is this page?

Average rating

Based on 0 ratings

All ratings

Add your rating


The 2 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

ChalkyC said on 01 April 2014

Just a quick comment to respond to stefnoble above. With an epidural, nothing is going into your spinal fluid. As it says in the video the anaesthetic is injected into the area around the nerves to the womb - not the spinal canal. I think you are getting confused with a spinal anaesthetic, which is different.

Also, the 'more info' link next to the video goes to a great page with lots more information about the pros and cons of each of the methods of pain relief, including epidural. My wife and I found it very useful.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

stefnoble said on 24 April 2013

Hmm... Given that someone is inserting something into your spinal fluid, I thought there would be more information on the risks associated with epidurals, rather than a sweeping, "Lots of women have them and therefore the risks are low" statement shoved at the end of the video as an afterthought. Yes, they may be low, but what are they and can we please be allowed to make up our own minds on whether or not we wish to take them.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable