Setting up your epidural
- You will need to have an intravenous cannula and maybe a drip.
- While the epidural is being put in, it is important that you keep still and let the anaesthetist know if you are having a contraction.
- Usually takes 20 minutes to set up and 20 minutes to work.
- Some epidurals do not work fully and need to be adjusted or replaced.
Advantages of an epidural
- Usually provides excellent pain relief.
- Sometimes a spinal is given first for a quicker effect.
- The dose or type of local anaesthetic can sometimes be altered to allow you to move around the bed. This is a low-dose (or mobile) epidural.
- In general epidurals do not affect your baby.
- They can be topped up for caesarean section if required.
Possible problems with your epidural
- Repeated top-ups with stronger local anaesthetic may cause temporary leg weakness and increase the risk of forceps or ventouse delivery.
- The epidural may slow down the second stage of labour slightly.
- You may develop low blood pressure, itching or a fever during the epidural.
- The epidural site may be tender but usually only for a few days. Backache is NOT caused by epidurals but is common after any pregnancy.
Risks of having a spinal or epidural to reduce labour pain
Type of risk
How often does it happen?
|Significant drop in blood pressure||One in every 50 women|
|Not working well enough to reduce labour pain so you need to use other ways of lessening the pain||One in every 8 women|
|Not working well enough for a caesarean section so you need to have a general anaesthetic||One in every 20 women|
|Severe headache||One in every 100 women (epidural), One in every 100 women (spinal)|
|Nerve damage (numb patch on a leg or foot, or having a weak leg)||Temporary - one in every 1,000 women|
|Effects lasting for more than 6 months||Permanent - one in every 13,000 women|
|Epidural abscess (infection)||One in every 50,000 women|
|Meningitis||One in every 100,000 women|
|Epidural haematoma (blood clot)||One in every 170,000 women|
|Accidental unconsciousness||One in every 100,000 women|
|Severe injury, including being paralysed||One in every 250,000 women|
The information available from the published documents does not give accurate figures for all of these risks. The figures shown above are estimates and may be different in different hospitals.