The word “epidural” is thrown around a lot amongst pregnant women. But as common as it is, a lot of misconceptions surround the procedure. Here we’ll tackle three of the biggest misconceptions and myths that people have about epidurals and help you understand the truth.
Myth #1: Epidurals commonly have serious risks and side effects
Truth: The percentage of women who experience very serious or life-threatening complications is 1% or less. Very rarely, women will develop an infection, have nerve damage or internal bleeding due to problems with the injection. These side effects are almost unheard of though, and many anesthesiologists go through their entire career without ever seeing them.
More commonly, women may experience nausea, itching, or hypotension (low blood pressure), which are all treatable and don’t cause any lasting harm to mom or baby.
Myth #2: Inserting an epidural is very painful
Truth: A woman is first numbed around the epidural site with a very small needle, which is a quick moment of minor discomfort. Since the local anesthetic numbs the area, the epidural needle feels more like pressure when it’s inserted rather than being painful.
Also, the needle is only there until the catheter is in place (a minute or two), and then it’s removed.
Myth #3: Epidurals don’t work
Truth: An estimated 95% of women who receive an epidural during labor experience relief. There are very few times where a woman won’t get any pain relief at all. This is usually a result of her or the baby’s position, or because the catheter is not positioned right and, as a result, the medicine isn’t getting to where it needs to go.
Bottom line: Epidurals are generally a very safe and effective way to manage pain during labor and delivery, which is why more than half of women choose them.