Epidural Pain Relief

What is the Epidural Pain Relief Measure?

Epidural pain relief is administered by the insertion of anesthetic drugs directly into the spinal column to provide pain relief to the parts of the body involved in labor while leaving the woman conscious throughout labor.

The epidural pain relief measure is the percentage of woman who received epidural pain relief while having a vaginal birth. If you would prefer to avoid this procedure and give birth without this type of pain medication, a lower rate is better.

What does epidural pain relief mean for me and my baby?

Epidurals are the most widely used form of labor pain medication but side effects such as fever, itching, bad headaches and a slowed fetal heart rate are possible. Because epidurals slow labor, synthetic oxytocin (Pitocin) might be used to strengthen contractions. Epidural pain relief can also make pushing more difficult and make interventions such as forceps or C-section more likely. As a result, many women prefer to have access to drug-free measures (such as tubs, showers and birth balls) or other types of pain medicine (such as nitrous oxide) and give birth without using epidural pain relief. Doulas can also help many women avoid an unwanted epidural.

Why do hospital epidural pain relief rates matter?

Your likelihood of receiving epidural pain relief can be influenced by the hospital where you give birth. Hospitals can help you avoid an epidural by making other labor pain relief options available and supporting their use. A hospital with a lower epidural rate may be better at offering other help with comfort and pain relief during labor.

What can I do with this information?

If giving birth without epidural pain relief is a high priority or you’re interested in exploring other pain relief options, looking for a hospital with a lower epidural rate may help you find an environment that will support your wishes. Make sure that your doctor or midwife knows whether or under what conditions you want to receive epidural pain relief. Finally, be aware that you might change your plan during labor. Some women who want an epidural find they do not need it, while others who plan to avoid an epidural find that it can be helpful.