Epidural Benefits and Risks [Infographic]

August 2019

Use our guide to weigh the pros and cons of this labor pain management technique.

Having a birth plan can help prepare you and your women’s health care team for the day you welcome your child into the world. One factor you’ll likely consider is an epidural, a type of regional anesthesia commonly used to relieve pain during labor and delivery. Let’s look at some epidural benefits and risks to help you make a well-informed decision.

Epidural Benefits

  • Pain relief
  • Maintain alertness
  • Lower stress and anxiety
  • Less fatigue

Epidural Risks

  • Blood pressure drop
  • Epidural fever
  • Rare complications

Learn more about these epidural benefits and risks below.

Weigh epidural benefits and risks to determine whether it’s right for your labor and delivery.

Epidural benefits

Over 60% of women use an epidural during labor. Let’s find out four reasons why they’re so popular.

  1. Pain relief

Pain relief, of course, is the primary reason for epidurals during birth. They are used to numb the spinal nerves and block pain signals from reaching the brain. Since labor can last several hours, a catheter will often be inserted into the epidural space of your spine to numb your body from the tummy down.

  1. Can maintain alertness

An epidural provides regional anesthesia that has no impact on your mental alertness. You can stay awake and engaged throughout the entire birth process. Some women find that an epidural helps them feel more comfortable, so that they can focus on their personalized labor techniques.

  1. Lower stress and anxiety

Giving birth can be a stressful event. In addition to the mental toll, stress hormones can slow contractions and extend labor. Effective pain relief helps remove a major source of birth-related anxiety, so that you can feel more relaxed and calm as labor progresses.

  1. Less fatigue during and after birth

The rigors of labor can be exhausting. On average, it can take 12-28 hours for a first birth, which can layer sleep deprivation on top of the physical demands. If you feel more relaxed during labor, you may experience less exhaustion and irritability during and after birth.

Epidural Risks

An epidural is safe for most women, but it can cause uncomfortable symptoms like itchiness and nausea for some, and can increase the risk of:

  1. Blood pressure drop

Epidurals cause a blood pressure drop in about 14% of women. While this drop can cause dizziness and nausea, and possibly affect the baby’s heart rate in the short term, it’s usually corrected with medication. 

  1. Epidural fever

About 23% of women get a fever from an epidural, though the exact reason for this is unknown. Ask your women’s health provider how they respond to fevers during labor. 

  1. Rare complications

While serious epidural side effects are rare and temporary, it’s important to factor them into your decision. Temporary side effects can include severe headaches, breathing problems, or site infection. Because epidurals are used to provide pain relief at the level of the spinal nerves, women often worry about nerve injury. However, nerve injury only occurs in anywhere between 1 in 4,000 to 1 in 200,000 cases.

When it comes to your little one, there’s no evidence that epidurals are harmful to a baby.

Discuss these possible epidural benefits and risks with your women’s health provider when developing a birth plan. If you’re looking for a pregnancy provider, call 920.885.6090 or get in touch with us online to schedule an appointment with our doctors, midwives, and women’s health team today.


This is a public forum, by which BDWH provides general information to patients and prospective patients. You should not post any personal or identifying information on this Blog. The information that appears on this Blog does not constitute medical advice and is not a substitute for a consultation with a Healthcare Professional.

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