How long does it take before an epidural starts to work? There's a really wide variation of timing here --...
How long does it take before an epidural starts to work? There's a really wide variation of timing here -- it all depends on the specific combination of your hospital's schedule, your anesthesiologist's availability, and your own reaction to the medication. In general, expect to wait about... epidural-spinal-anesthesia.jpg1) 10-60 minutes: The amount of time it takes the anesthesiologist to get to your room. 2) 10-30 minutes: How long it takes to have the epidural administered. 3) 10-30 minutes: How long until you should feel the effect of the epidural. Another factor to take into account: In order to not slow down or stall your labor, you can usually only get an epidural when your cervix is dilated to at least 4 to 5cm -- and after you've reached full dilation (10cm), it's too late. While epidurals are there to cut down on the pain, they're not exactly fun to get. To start, the anesthesiologist will wash your back with a sterile solution, which feels cold, and give you a small local anesthetic before the big needle is used. Then you have to hunch over to open the spaces between your vertebrae -- and that's a position that can be really tough to maintain through the contractions. But maintain it you must, as you need to be perfectly still while the doctor is placing the needle and the catheter near the spinal cord. To add insult to injury, if you haven't finished all your hospital paperwork ahead of time, you may be required to sign a consent form before the procedure can begin. (Yeah, try reading the fine print while you struggle through a contraction. Lesson: Make sure all your paperwork is complete no later than week 34!) While epidurals work well for most women (there's a reason people name their kid after the anesthesiologist!) this method of labor pain relief can also be imperfect. For instance, sometimes the medication only affects one side of the body (at least initially). One of the most common complaints is that you have to stay in bed -- no more walking around, trips to the bathroom or other things (like maybe cartwheels or forming a conga line with the tens of people who seem to be in your room) to get labor moving along more quickly. Also, you will almost always be given pitocin, usually via IV (the "pit drip") after an epidural to help force your labor into a higher gear. Finally, don't take it for granted that your hospital always has someone on call to give you an epidural! Especially if you live in a somewhat rural area, it ain't necessarily so. Find out in advance if there are any limitations, and remember that your Ob/Gyn or the doctor on call typically cannot give you the epidural -- only an anesthesiologist or nurse-anesthetist is qualified to do it... even if, at that moment, you'd be happy for even the janitor to come in and stick a needle in your back. (Oh, we're just kidding. Everyone knows the cafeteria staff really has the lighter touch.) Here are some more articles that may interest you:

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