An epidural is an injection in the lower back with a combination of pain- killers. Under local anaesthesia, the anaesthesiologist inserts a needle into your lower back. For this to be done, you need to round your back and sit or lie down, moving as little as possible. Through the needle a thin, flexible tube is inserted into your back. The needle is removed and the tube remains in place. Through this tube, you are given painkillers during the entire delivery. After 15 minutes you will feel the anaesthetic start working.

The benefits of an epidural

  • Most women feel little pain anymore during labour.

  • The epidural works better than a pethidine injection or a remifentanil pump.

  • You do not become sleepy or drowsy from an epidural and, therefore, you can experience the birth to the full extent. 

The disadvantages of an epidural

  • Occasionally, an epidural does not work or is insufficient. How often this happens is not exactly known (probably between 5 and 10%). The epidural is then sometimes repeated.

  • Some women experience itching during an epidural. This has to do with the composition of the medication.

  • You cannot get out of bed because you have less feeling in your legs. That returns slowly when the administration of medication is stopped. At a low dosage, you have more feeling in your legs and sometimes you can stand and walk.

Occasionally, it happens that women suffer from headaches after an epidural. That can be remedied with medication.

Practical matters

  • You cannot yet get an epidural immediately and at any time in every hospital. Ask your midwife how this is arranged in the hospitals in your area.

  • Sometimes you can get an epidural during the pushing phase. This varies per hospital.

Text from the Brochure 'How to deal with pain'