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How to Support a Woman in Labor with an Epidural


Updated September 24, 2012

Pushing with IV
Photo © butorétoilé - Fotolia.com

Whether you're planning on using an epidural or not, there may come a time in your labor and delivery experience where you choose to have an epidural. An epidural is the most common form of anesthesia for labor. Using an epidural can change how others need to respond to you. Here are some ideas for good labor support when you have an epidural:

  • Emotional Support
    Why did you use the epidural? If an epidural was planned before hand you may have ideas of how you wanted to spend labor. Perhaps you imaged playing games or picking baby names. Maybe you wanted to just sit and chat or even watch television. If an epidural was a detour from your original birth plan you may have used it for a specific reason, like to get some rest. If that was a case a nap or rest may be in order for mom and all the support people from dad to doula. Shifts work well so mom isn't alone.

  • Keep her moving...
    Just because you have an epidural in place doesn't mean that you can't or shouldn't move. Many labor and delivery nurses will automatically come in and help you turn from side to side. This is done for many reason including baby's health, your comfort and to progress labor by encouraging the baby to move down. Don't attempt to move a mother who has an epidural without the aid of the staff. There are a lot of wires that are used for various monitors and medications. Pulling them out will not win you any friends.

  • Keep her comfortable.
    An epidural may not always have 100% coverage. Be sure to tend to her physical needs to stay comfortable. Encourage her to ask questions about the sensations she's experiencing. For example, if she expected to feel nothing, even a sensation of pressure may worry her. Do not use items like hot packs, rice socks or cold packs on non-feeling skin. You can accidentally damage her skin or cause her burns.

  • Keep her emotionally checked in.
    Sometimes with an epidural it's easy to forget that she's in labor. This isn't always a bad thing but occasionally check in with her and her labor. You can have her feel the contractions with her hands placed on her belly. Try subtle reminders like questions about what she's feeling about the labor and/or baby can be useful. Sometimes mothers will still be anxious, even without pain. If this is the case try to use some of the relaxation techniques you learned in childbirth class.

  • Help her with Pushing
    While the epidural will usually take care of the pain of labor, the work of pushing can be surprising to many women. She may need help supporting her legs, ice chips, coaching or other parts of pushing that you may not have considered. Take cues from her and get support from the staff as to how to best help her.
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