Who Can Have an Epidural?

Dr. Heather Jenkins, family physician, discusses who can have an epidural.

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Dr. Heather Jenkins, family physician, discusses who can have an epidural.
Video transcript

Featuring Dr. Heather Jenkins, MD, CCFP
Who Can Have an Epidural?
Duration: 2 minutes, 4 seconds

Medically, most people can have an epidural if they choose.

Some women may have had previous back injury or even back surgery that can sometimes make the application of an epidural a bit challenging. Most anesthesiologists have a lot of experience with this, and they can usually find a way to work around those kind of concerns.

Sometimes I get asked about large tattoos that women often have on the lower part of their back, and whether that's a concern with their epidural choice. And mostly, this isn't a problem. People can find a way to make an epidural work in that setting, if that's something that they want.

A common myth about epidurals and tattoos is that people get concerned that there's some aspect of the pigment of the tattoo that will be pushed into a sensitive area like the area around your spinal column, and this will somehow negatively affect their health. In fact, most anesthesiologists are very skilled at doing this, and can do it in a safe way that won't provide any concerns about those kind of health problems in your back.

A common concern that women have is that they're somehow going to miss an opportunity to have an epidural if they need it. Specifically, like is there ever a time when it's too late to have an epidural? And generally most people can have an epidural if they choose it.

There are staffing concerns involved and time concerns involved. Specifically, there needs to be an anesthetist available to do it, and you need to have adequate time to actually have the epidural work.

Typically, it takes about 45 minutes for it to be actually effective. If it's obvious that your baby's going to be born within that period of time, your doctor will tell you that. And probably it's worthwhile just pushing out your baby.

If you have any questions about an epidural or whether it's right for you, you can always ask your doctor or your midwife, they can provide you with lots of information.

Presenter: Dr. Heather Jenkins, Family Doctor, Vancouver, BC

Local Practitioners: Family Doctor

This content is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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