Labour pain relief (epidural)

Epidural anaesthesia

An epidural is a type of local anaesthetic that can give pain relief to women during childbirth

What is an epidural?

An epidural is commonly used to give pain relief during childbirth. It is a type of local anaesthetic which is injected into your spine to numb the nerves in your womb and cervix that send pain signals to your brain. It can help during a long, complicated or especially painful labour.

Need to know

  • What happens icon plus

    An anaesthetist will ask you to lie on your side or curl up in a seated position. Your back will be cleaned then numbed with a local anaesthetic. They'll insert a needle into your back. A very thin tube called a catheter will be threaded through the needle and taped to your back. The anaesthetic is injected through it and can be topped up during labour. Your baby's heart rate and contractions will be continuously monitored. How much you can move your legs after having the epidural depends on the type of drugs used. We also offer 'mobile epidurals' which provide pain relief but you can still walk around and move.
  • How to prepare icon plus

    Speak to your consultant or midwife about your choices for pain relief during labour. They'll let you know what to expect and exactly what's involved. Like all procedures, there may be some risks and side effects involved. Your consultant will explain these to you. At The Portland Hospital, we have 24-hour cover provided by a resident consultant obstetric anaesthetist should you need epidural pain relief during labour.
  • Afterwards icon plus

    After having the catheter inserted, this can be used to top up your pain relief throughout labour. After the drugs are stopped, it can take a couple of hours for the numbness to wear off. Your skin may have a tingling sensation as the anaesthetic wears off. Your back may feel a bit sore where your catheter was inserted. You'll be able to breastfeed your baby following your epidural.

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This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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