An epidural block (also called “an epidural”) is the most common type of pain relief used for childbirth in the United States. In an epidural block, medication is given through a tube placed in the lower back.
For labor and vaginal delivery, a combination of analgesics and anesthetics may be used. You have some loss of feeling in the lower areas of your body, but you remain awake and alert. You should be able to bear down and push your baby through the birth canal.
For a cesarean birth, the dose of anesthetic may be increased. This causes loss of sensation in the lower half of your body.
An epidural also can be used for postpartum sterilization.
Typically, the medication includes an anesthetic that may be mixed with an opioid analgesic. The medication may be given as a single shot or through a thin tube (a catheter) placed in the lower back.
These techniques provide pain relief with few side effects.