Preparing for Baby

Epidural 101, What is an Epidural?

Epidural 101, what is an epidural?

What is an Epidural? 

Epidural anesthesia is the most popular method of pain relief in labor.

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Epidural 101, what is the process of an Epidural? Read here.

What is Epidural Anesthesia?

Epidural anesthesia is regional anesthesia that blocks nerves in a specific area of the body. The goal of an epidural is to provide pain relief, not anesthesia. Epidurals help relieve about 80-85% of your pain. What do I mean by this? We want you to have pain relief (analgesia instead of anesthesia), not be a limp noodle. Anesthesia leads to a total lack of feeling. Analgesia is the inability to feel pain.

Wait you said only 80-85% of my pain will be gone? What gives?

As mentioned in Epidural 101, what is the process of an Epidural, we want you to have some sensation. This aids in pushing. A total block won’t let you know when you need to push. That feeling like you have to take the biggest poop of your life, we want you to have it.

What nerves do epidurals block?

Epidurals block nerves in the lower spinal segments. This in turn leads to decreased sensation in the lower half.

Where does the Epidural go?

Epidural 101, what is an epidural?

A catheter will be placed in your epidural space. The epidural space is the space between your dura mater (a membrane) and the vertebral wall. This wall contains fat and blood vessels. The space is just outside the dural sac. The dural sac is filled with cerebrospinal fluid and  surrounds nerve roots.

Types of Epidurals

1. Regular Epidural

The most common epidural used during Labor and Delivery. A catheter is left in place in your back. A medication such as fentanyl or morphine will be administered via a pump continuously. Narcotics are usually used over anesthetics. Ask you doctor which ones your hospital uses, as it varies. You will have a button you can push for extra relief if needed. You won’t be able to get out of bed. Food and drink may be prohibited. Talk to your doctor about your hospital’s policies.

2. Intrathecal, combined Spinal-Epidural, or “walking epidural”

Instead of the medication going in your epidural space, the medication is delivered into the intrathecal space. You may get an initial dose of narcotic, anesthetics, or a combination of both. This pain relief only lasts 4-8 hours, but a catheter is usually left in place. If you want an epidural later this is an option. This “walking epidural” allows you more freedom to move in bed and help with position changes. This doesn’t mean you will be walking.

As you can see there are differences between them. In regards to pain management in the regular epidural gives you pain relief until delivery with no interruption. As the intrathecal the pain medication can wear off, as it isn’t being infused continuously.

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