Should I Get an Epidural?

8 questions about getting an epidural during labor, answered.

Should I Get an Epidural?

Are you pregnant and considering an epidural for pain relief during childbirth? You are not alone. More than 60 percent of women giving birth at hospitals opt for the procedure. To help you make sense of the procedure and figure out if it’s is the right pain-management method for you, we wanted to tell you how epidurals really work and give you some tips!

Here are 8 questions about epidurals, answered:

1. When do I ask for an epidural? You can ask for an epidural at any point in your labor. If you can, it’s better to wait until you’re in active labor since getting one in early labor can increase your chances of a cesarian section. An epidural can take time (from 15 minutes to two hours) to be administered depending on the availability of the anesthesiologist. So keep that in mind, and if the contractions are getting more painful while you wait, plan to cope with any discomfort using breathing, massage and relaxation techniques. Pro Tip: Ask what the wait time is when you get to the hospital so you can plan in advance.

2. How is an epidural placed? You’ll be asked to sit on the edge of the bed, leaning against a nurse or a partner, and be still. After a local anesthetic is administered, a catheter delivering the medication is placed in your lower spine. You’ll start to feel the effects of the medication 15 minutes or so later. After it’s turned off, the numbing effects wear off in an hour or two.

3. Can I move after getting an epidural? You can move, but your lower half will be numb to a degree, so you’ll be required to stay in bed, even with lower dosage ‘walking’ epidurals. Being in a supine position for an extended period of time can lead to baby presenting ‘sunny side up’ (which in turn could lead to a longer labors and use of episiotomy, vacuum or forceps assisted delivery) and affect oxygen to baby’s brain. So turn from side to side every 20 to 30 minutes to help open your pelvis and get baby moving - it works like a side squat! You can use pillows or, even better, use a peanut ball between your legs. Ask your care practitioner about hospital policies about moving and eating after an epidural is placed.

4. What other procedures are involved? Whether you have an epidural or not, most hospitals and birth centers will require you to have an IV, usually inserted in your non-dominant arm. If you choose not to have an epidural, you can ask for a hep-lock instead, so you don’t have to carry the IV bag around with you. However, if you get an epidural, a continuous IV will be placed. Doctors will also insert a urinary catheter to help empty your bladder since you can’t get up to go to the bathroom. They’ll put the catheter once you’re numb and take it out before you push.

5. How much medication will I get? You can ask for the button to control your own epidural medication. Studies have shown that when self-medicated, patients give themselves smaller dosages!

6. What’s in an epidural? An epidural is a regional anesthesia that blocks pain to a specific part of the body. The medications used in the procedure fall into a class of drugs called local anesthetics. They include bupivacaine, chloroprocaine and lidocaine, among others. If your doctor wants to decrease the required dose of local anesthetic and give you pain relief with minimal effects, he or she can deliver an epidural with a combination of opioids or narcotics, such as fentanyl and sufentanil. The anesthesiologist may also combine it with epinephrine, fentanyl, morphine, or clonidine to prolong the epidural effects or to stabilize the mother’s blood pressure.

7. Will I feel pain? You shouldn’t feel any pain. The lower half of your body will be numb, but you may be able to feel pressure of vaginal exams and baby’s head as you push. If you want more sensation while pushing, which can help prevent pelvic injuries, you may be able to ask your care provider to reduce the dosage as you push to have better awareness. Occasionally, the epidural may be uneven, with more feeling in one leg or the other. Let your care provider know as soon as possible, if that is the case.

8. What are the risks? Epidurals are safe but, like any medical procedure, come with a few risks. An epidural may cause soreness in the area of administration, a low-grade fever, and a decrease in blood pressure, which can in turn slow down baby’s heartbeat. Many patients get the shivers or shakes from an epidural, in which case squeezing a stress ball can help. Occasionally, some people are allergic to the medication. There isn’t a good way to test for the allergy, but you can ask for it to be administered in small test doses to start. Epidural anesthesia can slow down the second stage of labor, which can then result in further medical interventions, like Pitocin administration and instrument-assisted delivery. In rare cases, women can experience severe headaches due to leakage of spinal fluid. If symptoms persist, your doctor will inject some of your blood in the epidural space -- a procedure called “blood patch.” Serious and life-threatening risks are rare, but can happen. They include slurred speech, drowsiness, convulsions. Death are very rare, but when they happen it's usually because of cardiac arrest, abscesses or blood clots.

My professional recommendation? Use your breathing, massage and movement techniques as long as you can to make sure your labor builds momentum. When you get to a point where you’re no longer able to relax through contractions and start to tense up, fight and resist them, or if you’ve been in labor for a really long time and are sleep deprived and exhausted, an epidural is a great option to help you get rest and sleep!

Illustration by Shanequa Simpson for Well Rounded.

We're so glad to live in a time when modern baby gear exists. Sure, no one is going to argue that having a baby is easy—but it can be easier with support from some gadgets designed to help your baby and put your mind at ease.

As you build your baby registry, look for products that go the extra mile to make your life a whole lot easier. For example, what's better than a bassinet? A bassinet that can rock by itself. And what's better than a traditional baby monitor? One that allows you to actually take a peek at your baby. Believe us when we say these upgrades can make all the difference.

Here are 10 baby gadgets that will make your life so much easier… relatively speaking, of course!

A bassinet to promote safe + sound sleep

HALO Innovations Bassinest Swivel Sleeper Essenta Series Nautical Net

The safest place for your newborn to sleep is in your room, but not in your bed. Thanks to the swivel function of the Halo Bassinest, you can easily tend to your baby during the night—which means more sleep for you, too. Trust us when we say that is the best gift you can give a new parent.


A smart swing for your baby

4moms mamaRoo 4 Bluetooth Enabled High-Tech Baby Swing - Classic

Believe it or not, many babies are born with strong opinions about how they want to be rocked, swung or shushed to calm down. With the mamaRoo's various motions and reclining positions, you'll be able to find a setting your baby loves when you need to free up your hands for a bit.


A complete travel system for car + sidewalk

Chicco Bravo Travel System - Indigo

No matter where the day takes you—or what mode of transportation you need to get there—getting a complete travel system for your baby will equip you for anything.


A swaddle you don’t have to wrestle

Love To Dream Swaddle UP Original

What do babies and Harry Houdini have in common? A knack for breaking out of tight constraints—which can be a headache when swaddling is the best way to help promote good sleep. Thanks to a breakout-proof swaddle that allows your baby to sleep with their hands up, you don't have to work up a sweat just to get your baby comfortably swaddled.


A nursery wherever you need it

Baby Trend Lil Snooze Deluxe II Nursery Center

During the early days of parenting (when you are feeding and changing your baby around the clock), having convenient access to everything you need with a go-anywhere nursery station can save you serious time and energy.


A little help for stuffy noses

Fridababy NoseFrida Nasal Aspirator

Up until the point years down the road when your child is able to blow their own nose, the sniffles can be a real struggle—but not with a nasal aspirator that makes it easy for you to get that snot out of their nose.


A way to keep an eye on your baby

VTech 5" Digital Video Baby Monitor - VM5251

Trust us when we say you'll sleep better when you know your baby is also sleeping soundly. That's why we're so thankful for modern-day video monitors, which allow you to check in on your sleeping baby without running the risk of waking them up when you sneak in for a peek.


A bassinet for hands-free rocking

Simmons Kids Silent Auto Gliding Elite Bassinet - Odyssey

Babies are soothed by rocking motions. But what does that mean for you if you can't rock them throughout the night? With an auto-gliding bassinet, they can comfortably drift off to sleep... and continue snoozing.


An easy way to contain diaper smells

Diaper Genie Expressions Pail

Sometimes it's the little conveniences that make a big difference in the quality of your day-to-day life. That's why a great diaper pail should not be undervalued: By containing the smell, you will save yourself dozens upon dozens of trips to the garbage can.


A white noise machine that pulls double duty

Hatch Rest Sound Machine, Night Light & Time-to-Rise

A phone-controlled sound machine may be something you never considered until now, but it will be a major lifesaver for years to come, especially as it can also function as a time-to-rise clock that promotes good sleep habits for your child.


And as for securing all these awesome products? Well, a Target baby registry is the way to do it. By creating your baby registry with Target, you will also enjoy their Year of Benefits registry program, which includes perks like a welcome kit with more than $100 in savings and samples, two 15% off coupons to complete your registry, and a full year of returns. The benefits are better than ever right now: Target just launched the Year of Exclusive Deals perk as one of its registry benefits, and this includes a year's worth of discounts on baby essentials (think diapers and formula) and comes complementary when you sign up for Target Circle.

Because while parenting may not be "easy," deciding to register with Target definitely is an easy decision. Start your Target baby registry now and enjoy shopping with a Year of Benefits featuring a Year of Exclusive Deals available via Target Circle, two 15% off coupons, a year of hassle-free returns, a free welcome kit and more!

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.

And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


10 photos to take on baby’s first day that you'll cherish forever

You'll obsess over these newborn baby pictures.

Bethany Menzel: Instagram + Blog

As you're preparing for baby's birth, we bet you're dreaming of all of the amazing photos you'll take of your precious new babe. As a professional photographer and mama, I have some tips for newborn photos you'll want to capture.

Here are the 10 photos you will want to take on baby's first day.

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