There are so many questions about getting an epidural — and the one I get most often is how long does an epidural last? Plus, how long does it last in a C-section (as they’re different). Let this L&D nurse since 2001 tell you how it all works!
How long does an epidural last?
Now, epidurals come in all shapes and sizes. There is an epidural that doctors can use to help back or neck pain. Each of those will last for a different period of time — but today we’re talking labor epidurals. How long will they last? Don’t miss my whole page about labor epidurals.
How long does an epidural last during labor?
The doctor then gives you a large amount of medication into that space — we call that a “bolus”.
At some point, he will feed in a catheter (a tube) that will hang-out in your back until you’ve had the baby.
That little tube will carry the medicine into your epidural space until we stop it or it gets pulled out.
The medicine is pushed in via a pump — very similar to how your IV goes into your arm.
In general, the plan is for an epidural to last until we stop it.
That can go awry with things like the tube coming out of the right spot, or it gets kinked, but in most situations, it lasts until we stop it.
“Back in the day”, doctors used to just come in and give a giant amount of medicine every few hours. It didn’t drip into your back — but I would guess that all hospitals have it going in via a pump while you’re in labor.
Most pumps have a button that you can push for an extra amount of medication. The pump is set to only allow you a certain amount of medication each hour.
If you are in a lot of pain, it is important you let your nurse/provider know so they can assess if you’re progressing or what is up.
Your anesthesiologist can also come in and give more/different medication if the medicine going in via the pump isn’t enough. He can also turn the rate that the medicine goes into your back either up or down depending on if you’re feeling too much or too little.
**Sometimes we will turn off, or lower the rate for your epidural once it’s time to push so that you’re able to feel more.
Btw, if you’d like you thank your nurse, I have a whole post on gifts for labor and delivery nurses.
How does the epidural wear off?
Once we turn the epidural off, it slowly wears off. Usually taking 1-2 hours to wear off.
Make sure you hold onto your nurse and take her help the first time you get up. Your legs will likely feel a bit weird.
How long does an epidural last after a C-section
Most planned C-sections have a spinal, although if you have an in-dwelling epidural they may put in a lot of medicine to get that to work the same way.
Those epidurals will wear off slowly — and last about 2 hours. BUT, your abdomen will have the epidural last the longest, so that’s a total perk of spinal or epidural anesthesia vs general anesthesia.
So, that’s that — in general, you don’t need to worry about the epidural wearing off before you have your baby — but, an epidural isn’t meant to take away ALL labor pain << read that post to find out why.
BUT, here’s the magical question — how to know when to get the epidural — I answer it all here.
AND if you’re interested in more info on pain management during delivery be sure to check out my Online Prenatal Class for Couples hosted day and night on the internet, with your’s truly. Hundreds of couples love this class. It’s:
- Accurate — you’ll get the RIGHT info. Since I still deliver I really know what I’m talking about
- Engaging — there are videos and questions to help you take it at your own pace and stay involved
- Available — no more having to fight traffic, and find the right classroom. It’s here just waiting for you.