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Relieving Labor Pain with Epidural


Epidural (sometimes called an epidural block) is a type of regional anesthesia given to relieve pain during labor and birth. With an epidural, you will remain awake to deliver your baby, but you will be numb from the bellybutton down.

Your birthing team at Dignity Health wants you to have the birthing experience you’ve been envisioning. We offer labor pain relief options, including epidural, in the Bay Area. To learn more, take a tour of our birth center at Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz and our birth center orientation class at Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City. To see a Dignity Health doctor that’s right for you, use our online Find a Doctor search tool.

Reasons for Epidural

An epidural blocks pain signals in order to decrease sensation in the lower part of your body.

Epidurals are used to:

  • Help the mother-to-be get some rest. With an epidural, you may be able to relax (and even sleep) through some contractions during a time-consuming labor.
  • Decrease pain. Given at any point during labor, an epidural can provide continuous pain relief throughout labor and birth.
  • Facilitate C-sections. An epidural allows you to be awake during a C-section.

Epidural: What to Expect at Dignity Health

An epidural provides pain relief within a few minutes. Because an epidural can cause low blood pressure, a nurse will start an IV in your arm and begin giving fluids before the procedure begins. A blood pressure cuff will likely be placed on your other arm so your childbirth team can monitor your blood pressure. Also at this time, a fetal monitoring belt will be secured around your belly in order to monitor your baby’s heart rate.

Your provider will inject a small amount of local anesthesia to numb the area. A thin tube (catheter) will then be threaded with a needle into the epidural space near your spinal cord. The catheter will allow pain medication to flow into your back area.

With an epidural, you will probably still be aware of your contractions, but not feel pain. Let your childbirth team know if your pain increases. We can provide additional medication as necessary.

As you’re making your birth plan, talk to your Dignity Health doctor about benefits of choosing an epidural for labor pain relief.

Dignity Health offers complete labor and delivery services, including an epidural, in Santa Cruz and Redwood City.