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Epidurals - Advantages and Disadvantages

Elizabeth Keefe


Epidurals are administered during active labor and for cesarean births. What will this do for me? Very good pain relief provide pain relief without sedation allows woman to be fully alert during labor and childbirth.

What are the disadvantages?

  • Administration may be uncomfortable
  • Occasional incomplete pain relief
  • May decrease strength and frequency of contractions resulting in use of Pitocin (induction drug)
  • May interfere with baby's rotation due to laxity of pelvic musculature (i.e. persistent posterior position)
  • May lower maternal blood pressure so IV & continuous external fetal heart monitoring are required
  • Woman may also need to wear a pulse oximeter & receive O2 by mask
  • May require urinary catheterization if unable to void, which may increase risk of urinary tract infection
  • May interfere with pushing efforts during the second stage & increase the need for forceps or vacuum extraction
  • Woman confined to bed and limited in choice of positions. Prevents ambulation which is known to enhance labor
  • Impact on newborn is still ongoing study

A variety of drugs can be used during childbirth. To best understand their impact on you, it is your responsibility to talk with your caregiver about the types, dosages, and effects of medication you may be given. The following is general summary.

Related Articles

Epidurals - What You Need to Know

Water Birth: The Risks and Benefits

Episiotomies: What You Should Know

Pitocin May Harm Babies, Study Says

Vaginal Delivery After Cesarean (VBAC)


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