Epidural Safety

An epidural is an anesthetic that blocks pain in a particular area, and is among the most popular pain-relief methods given during childbirth -- but are there risks to alleviating the pain?

Explaining Epidurals

See how an epidural works.

“Women do not get a gold star for being in pain,” OB-GYN Dr. Lisa Masterson says. “If that’s something you want to do, that’s fine. That’s absolutely not going to change anything. But you absolutely do not have to be in pain to have a baby. Women have actually died of too much pain, and women in other countries, who cannot get epidurals, would kill for an epidural."

“There are risks to any procedure, but they’re very minimal if it’s done in a safe environment,” Dr. Lisa continues. “They can actually be very helpful for certain conditions in pregnancy, like a twin pregnancy and obviously, for a cesarean-section.” 

Because the epidural does make a puncture wound, risks include bleeding and possible infection.

If you'd rather avoid using pain medications during labor, there are several ways to manage it naturally:

• Doulas, or birth coaches, can help reduce pain
• Immersion in water can decrease pain
• Pain management techniques
• Pre-natal birthing classes
• Acupuncture
• Breathing techniques