Is Taking an Epidural Injection Safe For My Baby?

An epidural injection can occasionally slow down labor.  Also they can lower your blood pressure during labor, which is why they should be performed exclusively by highly trained OB anesthesiologists who specialize in their performance of labor epidurals. Ask your OB for recommendations as to whom should perform it.  Interview that person before.

What is an Epidural Injection?

An epidural is catheter that delivers local anesthetic that stops labor pain without stopping labor.  The epidural local anesthetic is delivered through a catheter inserted into the spinal canal.   The purpose of this kind of injection is to provide pain relief, as opposed to complete lack of feeling. They work by stopping the nerve impulses from the lower part of the spine that carry the pain signals. That’s why when a pregnant woman is given an epidural injection she experiences less sensation in the lower part of her body. Epidurals are usually combined with opioids or narcotics to decrease the dose of local anesthetic, but still get the desired effect. This combination also reduces the side effects that administering a local anesthetic alone would produce.

How is an Epidural Injection Given?

It can be administered while you are lying on your left side or sitting. You will have to arch your back and remain still while the needle is being inserted.  The waistline portion of your lower back will be cleansed with an antiseptic and a needle containing a local anesthetic will be inserted to numb the region. Once that has been completed, another needle containing the epidural drugs is injected into area of the lower back surrounding the spinal cord called the epidural space. The next step is to thread a small catheter through the needle and into the epidural space to provide the continuous medication free of further needle pokes.

What are the Advantages of Having an Epidural?

Image Courtesy of stockimages /

Image Courtesy of stockimages /

  • If your labor takes a long time, it will give you time to rest and save your strength for pushing.
  • This type of injection lets you stay alert so you can see the birth.
  • The amount of the dose can be controlled to provide more/less anesthetic as needed.
  • It does not travel throughout your system, meaning your baby will not be affected by it.

What are the Disadvantages of an Epidural?

On occasion, they can slow down labor

One of the epidural side effects is that it can cause a drop in your blood pressure during labor. That’s why they should be performed exclusively by highly trained OB anesthesiologists who specialize in the performance of labor epidurals. Ask your obstetrician for recommendations as to whom should perform it.  Interview that person before time.

Other common side effects include shivering, ringing in your ears, backache, nausea, or problems urinating.

A little less than one percent of women who receive epidurals experience a severe headache resulting from spinal fluid leaking because the membrane surrounding the spinal cord was punctured when the needle was inserted. This will usually go away within 48 hours. If not, a procedure called a blood patch is performed to inject your own blood into the epidural space to increase production of spinal fluid.

Epidurals have been highly successful in relieving the pain of labor and making labor a more enjoyable experience.

[Featured Image Courtesy of David Castillo Dominici /]

Dr. Mark Gostine

About Dr. Mark Gostine

A physician for more than 30 years. He is a proud father of four and a grandfather of two. The announcement of his daughter Emily’s first pregnancy and the joy of his first grandchild, were major turning points in his life. They became the inspiration for babyQ. From then on, he wanted to dedicate his clinical knowledge and energy to helping young women have healthier pregnancies and better babies. Voted one of the best 100 doctors in his field in America, Dr. Gostine is a practitioner of nutrition who creates health education modules for his patients. He, along with Dr. of my children,” he says. “My hope is that young mothers and fathers everywhere will give their children the best start because it is so much better to prevent disease early than treat it later.” Dr. Gostine, a native of Michigan, received his medical degree from Wayne State University College of Medicine in Detroit, and is Board Certified in both anesthesiology and pain management. He completed his undergraduate studies and his medical residency in anesthesiology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, followed by a pain management fellowship at the Kansas City Consortium in Missouri. Currently President of Michigan Pain Consultants and Founder of ProCare Systems, he is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan.