Epidural for Childbirth


This procedure is an injection of anesthetic through the lower back. This injection numbs the lower abdomen, blocking the pain of childbirth. A patient who has been given an epidural will remain awake and alert. The patient will still have the ability to push to deliver the baby.


In preparation for the procedure, the patient lies on her side or sits to expose her lower back. The skin is cleansed with an antiseptic solution. A local anesthetic is injected to numb the tissue around the epidural injection site.

Positioning the Needle

The physician guides a larger needle through the numbed tissue and into the epidural space. The needle is not pushed through the dura (the sac that surrounds the nerve roots). The needle is positioned just outside this sac. If a catheter is needed, it is pushed through the needle.

Injecting the Anesthesia

When the needle or catheter is in position, the physician slowly injects the anesthetic mixture. The anesthetic bathes the nerves in the area. The pain-numbing sensation typically begins working within twenty minutes.

End of Procedure

When the injection is complete, the physician removes the needle. The numbness will typically last for a few hours after the injection. If a catheter is used, it will be left in place so that more anesthetic can be injected as needed. The catheter will be removed when the patient no longer requires anesthesia.