The Perfect Time to Get an Epidural Revealed

woman in labor

Picture it. You've waddled your pregnant self into the maternity ward, huffing and puffing and ready to blow the house down. The nurse takes a gander down below, and yup, you're dilating and definitely in labor. So how soon can you get an epidural, you ask?

Not yet, they say. It's not time. You think you're ready, but you're not. So when will it be time, you try not to scream at the condescending face that just told you that you don't know your own body?

Turns out, the habit in many hospitals of making moms wait until they're at least 4 or 5 centimeters dilated before acquiescing to her request for pain meds may be wrong.


A new study by the Cochrane Review -- an independent non-profit that makes assessments of various health care interventions -- has found the best time to give a mother an epidural is when she asks for it. Yes, even if she's in the early stages of labor.

More From The Stir: 5 Myths & Realities About Epidurals

The researchers took a look at nine different studies on pregnancy and pain relief and found no "clinically significant differences" between moms who had an epidural "early" and those who were made to wait until after the 5-centimeter mark. That means no higher risk of C-section, no higher risk of forceps or suction or other intervention to assist with delivery.

Basically? They've just told doctors to finally listen to women ... because it turns out we actually do know a thing or two about our bodies and what we need.

More From The Stir: Cervical Dilation From 1-10: Are You Ready for Delivery?


Folks, not every woman will want an epidural. That's fine. If you want to go unmedicated or perhaps choose another route for pain relief, good on you. But when a mom does request the pharmacologic pain relief method the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists calls "the most flexible, effective, and least depressing to the central nervous system," she should feel like she's being listened to ... and not pushed off with some nebulous talk of the perfect time.

Because the perfect time? It's her time. 

When do you think a mom should get an epidural?


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