Getting an Epidural for Back Pain: The Basics

This method of pain relief is quite effective for most women going through labor. Each hospital will have their own policies, but most will authorize use of the epidural once the woman dilates to around 4 cm.

Inserting the epidural for back pain

An anesthesiologist will administer the epidural for back pain and will speak with you about the procedure in advance. He or she will usually explain the advantages and disadvantages, what to expect, how the epidural will be cared for and how it will manage the ache. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Using an Epidural for Back Pain

Once you’ve signed the consent form and had your IV inserted, the nurse will instruct you to sit up and arch your back. The anesthesiologist will clean your back and insert a large needle into the space between two bones in your spine. There are several different membranes covering the spinal cord and the anesthesiologist will make sure that the needle is in the correct space. Once verified, he’ll pass the catheter into the space and remove the needle. After securing the catheter, he’ll inject the epidural for back pain. You should start to feel substantial relief relatively soon.

During labor and delivery

Your anesthesiologist will be available to check on you and administer more of the epidural for back pain as necessary. Once it’s time to push, many doctors will lighten up on the dosage to make it easier for you to feel how you need to push. While you probably won’t feel the sharp acute pain of delivery, you may still feel the pressure of the baby descending through the pelvis and birth canal. If an episiotomy is required to help the baby be delivered, you won’t feel that either.

Most facilities will also require a urinary catheter be placed into the bladder after the epidural is inserted. This is for one of two reasons: first, you may not be able to feel when your bladder is full and be unable to control urinary function. Second, you will probably not be able to walk back and forth to the bathroom, since the epidural will make your lower extremities almost completely numb.

After delivery

Once you had the baby, the anesthesiologist will remove the catheter within an hour or two. Most women report having feeling come back to their legs within a few hours after the catheter is removed.

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