Epidurals are the most effective and safest way to control the pains of labor, though alternatives include no medications or intravenous medications such as morphine.
An epidural is a soft plastic tube placed via needle into the space around the spinal cord and delivers medicine via continuous infusion pump to the nerves which are responsible for pain.
You may have some weakness in your legs, but you will likely be able to move around your bed unassisted.
The placement of epidurals are 95% successful, however, about 1% may need to be replaced during labor if pain persists despite extra doses of medication.
Epidurals may lower blood pressure.
Epidurals do not increase the rate of cesarean deliveries nor do they slow the progression of labor beyond mildly increasing the time needed for pushing (stage 2)
Itching may occur as a result of one of infused medications, it is not an allergic reaction
Long term back pain is unrelated to epidurals, though soreness to touch at the site of insertion is common for 2-3 days
On average, 1 in 100 women will have a post-dural puncture headache (spinal headache); this headache is unique in that it is positional in nature. You have pain will sitting or standing and immediate relief when lying flat. This headache is not dangerous and specific reliable treatments are available.
Nerve injury, bleeding, and infection are possible though extremely rare, with an incidence less than 1:100,000.