What Is an Epidural?

By Bailey Miller
Reviewed by Alyssa Quimby, M.D.
April 30, 2024

An epidural, or epidural block, is an anesthetic (pain relief) that can typically be administered by an anesthesiologist at any point during labor. It can be a helpful way to limit pain during childbirth without sacrificing your energy and alertness.

An epidural is administered using a needle and tube in the lower back. It essentially decreases the sensation of pain in your lower body. It mostly retains your ability to feel pressure, though, allowing you to push when needed during delivery without feeling pain.

During a cesarean section, a higher amount of anesthetic may be given. This numbs the lower half of the body completely.

Epidurals are generally considered safe for most people, but it’s always a good idea to consult your doctor if you have any concerns about the effects an epidural may have on your or your baby’s health and well‑being.