What Does an Epidural Feel Like?

Updated on October 13, 2018
Kierstin Gunsberg profile image

Kierstin is a mom to two little girls, is not a fan of Popples, and is really, really good at removing crayon from practically any surface.

Are you wondering if it hurts to get an epidural? Straight up, it doesn't. You're completely numbed when you get it and it feels no different from having someone place their hand on your back with a slight push. Read on to find out more about my experience with an epidural and what you can expect.


Always consult a medical professional when making medical decisions.

What Is an Epidural, and Where Do They Put It?

An epidural is placed into the epidural region of your back (the middle to lower back) with a needle. Instead of making your entire body numb like traditional anesthesia, the medication used in your epidural placement is considered a local pain management option. It makes the place where your pain is centered (your abdomen) numb to the pain. It does this by telling your brain and nerves to basically just ignore that area.

So, How Did I Decide to Get the Epidural?

I didn't choose to get an epidural. I actually was blanking out as I reached transition (pretty normal, I know now, since I've had another child since then) when a nurse conveniently popped in to tell me the anesthesiologist was making his rounds and I could get one if I wanted. Considering I was in transition there was no question whether I wanted relief so that's how I ended up with the epidural (ugh, don't get an epi during transition - more on that soon).

Why Should You Choose to Get an Epidural?

There's a lot of legit reasons to choose to have an epidural. Here's a handful:

  • You want to sleep before pushing. I don't know about all moms but that thing made me super sleepy and I wanted to fall asleep but because I received it so late in the labor-game I was pushing just 45 minutes later and falling asleep between contractions which was spectacularly confusing. If you choose to have one early on in your labor you'll likely get a couple of hours of solid rest before you're ready to push.
  • You're afraid of the pain of labor and delivery. Totally valid fear. Labor and delivery without medication does hurt really bad, I won't sugar coat that.
  • You can do what you want. You're a grown woman giving birth to another human life. If you want the epidural you don't need to come up with a reason why.

When Can or Should You Get an Epidural?

So, it turns out that I actually have a high threshold for pain too. Because I found out after my delivery that the nurses had failed to check my dilation directly before I received the epidural. I was at an 8. For reference, 10 is pushing, so I was likely in transition when they placed the epidural. Not a great time to get an epidural and if I could do it over again I would have taken the epidural as soon as I had arrived, at a 4. This is because the epidural was super strong while I was trying to push and I couldn't feel anything. Had I received it earlier on in labor my body would have adjusted and the meds would have worn off enough to aid me in pushing instead of hindering me.

So, if I were you and you want an epidural, have them be diligent about checking your dilation and place it as early as you feel ready. The old standards for waiting to get an epidural were thrown out the window in 2014 and the new standard is that women should get one whenever they're comfortable, even if it's early on in the labor.

How Bad Does It Hurt When the Epidural Is Placed?

Everyone has different experiences when it comes to labor and child birth but the epidural didn't hurt for me at all. First off, they give you a local anesthetic via a shot. This doesn't hurt either. After that, you're numb in the place where they put the epidural. So, this was a totally uneventful event for me. I vaguely remember the rush of medication coming through the epidural and a slight, tingling/burning sensation which was nothing in comparison to the contractions, so whatevsies.

Likewise, it didn't hurt to have it removed and it didn't hurt for me in that place later on save for maybe a mild bruised feeling which wore off after a few days and didn't affect me beyond the occasional twinge when lying back in bed.

So, all in all, the actual epidural placement was no big thang.

Can an Epidural Be Turned Up, Down, or Off?

Good question. I think it really depends on your hospital, your nurses, your doctor, and protocol. I asked many times for them to turn my epidural down once I'd had it because I felt so floaty and detached from what was happening but they kept telling me that they "try not to do that." I don't know what that meant and I do trust that their reasons were much more informed than mine. I do know that many hospitals turn the epidural down or completely off while you're pushing. This probably sounds scary but being able to feel your contractions and feel your baby moving through the birth canal is so helpful for productive pushing.

If you're nearing your due date you're probably starting to think seriously about whether or not  you'll ask for an epidural.
If you're nearing your due date you're probably starting to think seriously about whether or not you'll ask for an epidural. | Source

How Does an Epidural Feel? Does an Epidural Make You Feel High?

The effects of an epidural are admittedly strange! And that's not bad. But they're weird and I'll say with certainty that it's different for each woman.

For me, personally, I felt rather fuzzy and cloudy and even a little giddy, maybe jumpy. I've also never been great with anesthetic drugs in that a little go a loooooooong way for me and I always say something humiliating and totally unfiltered before the experience is over.

So yes, for me, the epidural made me feel dull, loopy and high especially in comparison to my unmedicated birth in which I felt and experienced everything in stereo.

Does It Still Hurt to Give Birth Even When You Have an Epidural?

In my experience, not really. But it was frustrating. I pushed for three hours before receiving intervention in the form of an episiotomy.

This is the thing though, I don't know if that happened because it was my first birth or because of the epidural. I have friends who pushed a very long time in their first birth without an epidural. Each woman and each experience is just so individual that there's no way to answer these questions for absolute certain. I have heard from other friends who've had epidural births vs. non-epidural births that indeed, pushing with an epidural can be much more difficult.

In my case I went on to have another baby a year later, without an epidural, and I pushed for about ten minutes before her gooey blond head was glinting in the early morning sunshine.

What do Contractions Feel Like With an Epidural?

Like sudden pressure, maybe like your belly is filling up with air. They're not painful.

Can You Walk or Move Around With an Epidural?

I don't have any experience with a "walking epidural" or know much about other women's experiences when it comes to this but I definitely couldn't even sit up on my own with the epidural yet alone walk. I was numb from the bottom of my rib cage straight down to my toes. This sounds scarier than it is, but if you're hoping to labor in a variety of positions or to walk through the contractions, you likely won't be able to with an epidural.

What Does Pushing Feel Like With an Epidural?

This is different for everyone. If your epidural is turned off prior to pushing, you'll probably feel your contractions and the pressure/urge to push. Most women find this to be a relief and some find it painful. Either way, pushing is just a LOT of work. It's like the same feeling as lifting really, really heavy weights. It takes focus and determination and is empowering once it's all over with.

If your epidural is still going strong or hasn't worn off much, you may find pushing more difficult due to the lack of feeling in your lower half.

Is There any Way to Avoid Getting an IV With an Epidural?

No way, and you don't want to. Epidurals mess with your blood pressure and it's a good idea to have a heplock in place (a mechanism that makes it quick and easy to hook you up to an IV) and fluids going before you even receive the epidural. Epidural = IV, plain and simple. You can be in charge of where they put it though. I had a specific place that I wanted my IV and even though it frustrated my IV therapist I reminded her that I was the one in labor and though she rolled her eyes at least twelve times in the course of our conversation she respected my wishes.

Bless maternity nurses and doctors, it's not an easy job.

When Does the Epidural Wear Off?

I know I keep saying it, but it's true that labor and delivery are different for each person and I just don't want for you to base your whole experience off of mine and be thrown off if you have a different experience. But for me, the epidural numbness and floaty sensation didn't wear off fully for about five hours after delivering my daughter. That's okay because after you give birth, your baby will be busy with nurses and doctors getting measured, weighed, bathed, etc. and this is a good time for you to close your eyes in between questions about the birth certificate and vaccines.

What is Recovery Like After Having an Epidural?

Common knowledge says that recovery without an epidural is easier than recovery after an epidural and in my experience this is true. It took longer for me to feel like myself after receiving the epidural and I became light headed quickly in the weeks following birth. Maybe this had to do with the act of birth itself, but in my recovery in my non-epidural birth I didn't experience the light headedness and the postpartum bleeding ended sooner.

In the end though, epidural or not, you heal.

What Is the Best Part About Getting an Epidural?

The ability to relax before pushing was the best part about getting an epidural for me. Once I'd gotten it I was able to invite family members who had been anxiously waiting in the waiting room down to see me before I started pushing. That was such a special time!

What Is the Worst Part About Getting an Epidural?

The worst parts about getting an epidural, in my one experience getting one, was that I felt numb both physically and mentally and it made me so dizzy and sleepy post-labor that I believe this is why I passed out in my post-labor shower. The best place to pass out is in the arms of nurses, in your hospital room, so all-in-all this wasn't the worst thing ever, and after a few hours of sleep, a foot-long sub, and a good cuddle with my new baby, I was feeling much better. By that night I was up walking around my room, using the bathroom without assistance, and changing my precious new daughter's diaper. So even though there's some negatives along with the positives of having an epidural, the effects aren't necessarily long-lasting. Like any medical procedure, there's some yucky parts.

Would I Give Birth With an Epidural Again?

Never say never but probably not, no. I don't think I would give birth and choose an epidural again. And it's not because I think it's weak. I actually think it takes more guts to get an epidural because there's so much unknown involved. I don't believe it's inherently risky, I don't think it's irresponsible, and I certainly don't think it does any harm to the baby. I have no lasting effects, and it wasn't really any more traumatizing than just the reality of becoming a parent for the first time.

But I didn't like the way I felt and because in a subsequent birth I didn't receive an epidural, I have that to compare it to.

That being said, I know so many women who have had multiple epidurals and they have positive and empowering experiences to share. That just wasn't my situation.

If I chose an epidural again I would do three things differently:

  • Eat. I would eat periodically through my labor. I think that this would have helped me combat the tiredness the epi brought on. In the years since I had my kids, most hospitals have changed their protocol on this and now allow mothers to eat during their labor. Woot woot!
  • Earlier Placement. I would not have had that epidural at an 8. I'd have had it as soon as I was admitted at a 4. This would have given me several hours to sleep and the benefit of the epidural is that it really does take the pain of active labor away, so sleeping would have been easy. By the time I was ready to push, I believe the epidural would have leveled out and I would have had more wherewithall when I was pushing.
  • No Shower. That damn shower. Whether you've had an epidural or not I don't recommend getting out of your bed within the first few hours of birth. Sit up, wiggle your body, drink some water, eat, snack, hold your baby, let yourself bleed, and give your body and mind time to adjust to all that just happened.

Whether you choose to have an epidural, end up going a different pain-management route, or decide to forego pain medication completely, trust yourself and don't let others cause you to feel insecure or second-guess yourself. This is motherhood, after all, and the one thing you absolutely have to do is own it, unapologetically.

Have You Had an Epidural Birth?

If you've already had an epidural birth, would you choose to have one again? Let me know why or why not in the comments!

See results

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Kierstin Gunsberg


      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment
      • profile image

        Amy Lou 

        5 months ago

        I had an epidural shot with my second pregnancy because the labor for my first was short. About an hour of pushing but total of 5 hours (had a caudal placement). A shot lasts about an hour to hour and half. It didn’t work!!! Thank goodness my labor was only 2 hours!! Apparently it doesn’t work on everyone.

      • Vegas Elias profile image

        Vegas Elias 

        23 months ago from Mumbai

        I find this hub a great hub painstakingly researched and presented.

        I recommend this hub to both genders but especially to men because being a man myself I cannot really imagine what a woman goes through at childbirth. This should make us men more sensitive towards our soulmates.

        Good writing. Keep it up.


      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, wehavekids.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://wehavekids.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)