An epidural is a type of regional anesthesia that works by injecting anesthetic into the epidural space of the spinal cord, resulting in the cessation of sensation in the abdominal, genital and pelvic areas. It is frequently used in childbirth and gynecological surgery. Anesthesiologist Dr. Edna Ma demonstrates how an epidural is performed.
“A lot of people don’t know this, but if you want to have a lighter epidural, if you want to feel a little bit more of the contractions, just tell your doctor or anesthesiologist,” Dr. Ma says. “They can adjust it based on your preferences.”
Are Epidurals Safe?
An epidural, an anesthetic that blocks pain in a particular area, is among the most popular pain-relief methods during childbirth, but are there risks to alleviating the pain?
“Women do not get a gold star for being in pain,” Dr. Lisa 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 for 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 possible infection, bleeding and severe headaches. “But they are very rare,” Dr. Lisa says. “It’s definitely an option women should think about.”