Pain relief is something that is very commonly used during childbirth because the experience is extremely painful for almost all people. Epidurals are popularly known as an effective method for reducing labor pain, and this is one of the most common pain reliefs that doctors use during childbirth. Walking epidural are an alternative to the classic epidurals that get you completely numb. Walking epidurals are safe and effective pain relief without numbing all the sensations for the pregnanct person. 

A walking epidural use medicines that give greater movement and feeling to the lower portion of the body during labor and delivery. In the procedure, they administer anesthesia directly into the outer section of the epidural space according to need during labor. 

The anesthesia specialist or the anesthesiologist adjusts the dose to numb the pain but not completely. This allows enough sensation to control pushing and positioning. But do not literally go by the, with a walking epidural, people will not be exactly walking. 

Difference between classic epidural and walking epidural 

The main aim of an epidural is to provide targeted analgesia or pain relief rather than full-body anesthesia. A walking epidural lets the pregnant person experience that they are delivering their baby as well as receive a lot of the pain. 

As for anesthesia, there are different forms of epidurals. One of those is a continuous classic epidural, while the other is called a walking epidural. 

Classic continuous epidural 

When talking about a classic epidural, they keep the catheter in place so that they can administer any kind of medication throughout the labor. These medications block the lower body nerves, which causes a lack of feeling in that area, and the person loses the ability to move. 

Spinal injection 

In this process, they give a single dose of medicine to the spine. These spinal injections wear off easily. And these can be used on their own or along with an epidural. 

Walking epidural 

A walking epidural is a procedure that combines a spinal injection and a classic epidural. It uses a low dose of medicine, and it offers continuous relief. They use the same medicine in walking epidural as used in classic epidural but with a reduced dose. 

The drug cocktail mainly has a narcotic (fentanyl, morphine), and another drug similar to epinephrine is also used for giving a prolonged anesthetic effect and for stabilizing the blood pressure of that person. 

Various birthing centers and hospitals offer various kinds of epidurals along with some other options for pain management. Talk to the doctor about which options suit you. Tell them about your preferences and the hospital’s requirements and policies. 

How It Works 

An anesthesiologist is always there to oversee this epidural. It takes about 10 minutes to complete the procedure. They give pain relief in the next 10 to 15 minutes. 

They do the actual insertion when they insert the catheter and the needle. It is in between the contractions so that the person can be still. 

Getting a walking epidural is not much different than getting a traditional epidural. However, the medications and placements that they use are slightly different in both cases. The pregnant person must mostly sit up and take a cat pose or make their spine curved from head to chin. 

The doctor or the person doing the procedure cleans the back in the presence of the doctor, numbs the place with some local anesthetic, and then injects the needle in the appropriate spot along the lower spine. 

After placing the needle, they feed the catheter in, and the needle is removed. After that, the catheter is taped in. 

Mostly, you will have the chance to get the epidural once you have dilated four to five centimeters. Technically, you can get the epidural at any point, and it is never too late to get an epidural.  

But once you have reached ten centimeters. It is the time to push, and at that point in time, it is more important to push rather than get the epidural. 

Also, keep in mind that an epidural does not reduce the pressure and pelvic pain that you feel during the stage of pushing. So, even if they are given an epidural just before pushing, they are still going to experience some of the pain that cmes with delivering a child. 

Pros and Cons 

One of the main advantages of getting a walking epidural is that it allows the ability to move, and that promotes contractions. It also shortens the labor times sometimes. 

Along with that, just as mentioned in the article above, with the help of a walking epidural, a pregnant woman gets to feel the sensations of the labor but without that intense pain. 

Mobility is mostly useful when you get to the second stage of labor. Here, trying to be in a squatting or upright position can help with the birthing process. It also gives the women more control over their bodies and improves their comfort during delivery. 


Some of the advantages of walking epidural are: 

  1. It allows you to get into the delivery position 
  1. The need for vacuum extraction or forceps reduces 
  1. Lower c-section rates 
  1. There is a chance to shorten the labor 
  1. It helps in decreasing the pain 
  1. Allows mobility during labor 
  1. The dose of medicine is less 


On the other side, getting a lower dose of anesthesia might not give you the relief you need to bear this extraordinary pain. Sometimes, it often happens that mid-labor, they switch a woman from a walking epidural to a classic epidural. 

Fortunately, it is quite easy to make the switch. As soon as they apply the higher dose of drugs, it comes as a relief to the pregnant person from that excruciating pain. 

Some of the drawbacks of walking epidural are: 

  1. It does not eliminate the risk of giving an epidural 
  2. Often needs to switch to classic epidural 
  3. It may not provide as much relief as you need 

Risks and Possible Side Effects 

Even though walking an epidural does not expose you to a high dose of medication, it does not eliminate the small risks that are associated with the treatment. Some of the possible complications are: 

  1. Severe headache because of a leak in the spinal fluid 
  2. Backache 
  3. Difficulty in urinating 
  4. The blood pressure can drop suddenly 
  5. Nausea 
  6. Shivering 
  7. Local pain in the place where the catheter is inserted 
  8. Ringing in the ears 
  9. Nerve damage in the place of insertion, but this happens rarely 

It is a common concern among mothers that they are exposing their kids indirectly to anesthetic drugs, and that can cause some kind of damage to their baby. But it happens rarely that a child gets any side effects from the epidurals their mothers are receiving. 

Wrapping Up! 

A walking epidural might seem like an appealing option for labor who wish to control the pain but still feel the contractions and move around freely during the delivery. 

Ideally, you should discuss all the pain management with your doctor before the delivery. Hence, you know all your options before you settle for one. 

Make sure both these forms of epidural, the traditional one as well as the walking epidural, which is a lower dose, are effective and safe. However, they do need close monitoring of both the baby and the mother during delivery to make sure that everything is going smoothly.  


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subhasree nag
Subhasree is a content writer who is passionate about traveling, writing, and reading books. In her leisure time, she is seen listening to music and watching web series. Writing along with music and dance are ways in which she expresses herself.

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