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.


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