An epidural is a small tube placed in the lower part of your back to deliver pain relief medicine during labour. An anesthesiologist (pain relief doctor) will insert the tube with a small needle. Pain relief begins within 5-10 minutes and lasts about 20-40 minutes. Epidurals are usually a safe and useful way to manage pain during labour and delivery.
An epidural does not completely block all pain or pressure, particularly if you are in the late stages of labour. Epidurals continue working throughout your labour and do not run out. Once admitted to a labour room you can get an epidural. It is never too late to ask for an epidural, but once you are fully dilated or if your labour progresses quickly, you may have your baby before the epidural starts to work.
Epidurals may not be appropriate for people with certain medical problems (for example: spina bifida, previous back operations, and problems with blood clotting).