What Does It Mean If An Epidural Only Works On One Side Of Your Body? Those Stories Actually Happen

Ad failed to load

There's one thing on the forefront of most pregnant women's minds — labor and delivery. As if growing and carrying a child (or multiple children) isn't the absolute hardest work, the culmination of that experience involves actually having to give birth. A healthy and safe delivery for both mom and baby is always the end goal, so there is zero shame in getting an epidural. But, a lot of women worry about what an epidural could feel like, especially after hearing stories from others. Like, what does it mean if an epidural only works on one side of your body? Does this actually happen, and what can be done about it?

According to Dr. Lakeisha Richardson, OB-GYN, "When a patient gets an epidural, a catheter is inserted into the epidural space of the spinal canal, and a continuous amount of medicine is infused until labor is complete." What can happen with that, Richardson tells Romper, is that if a patient is positioned to one side during labor (for comfort, or otherwise), the medication can also settle on that side. "Patients will have a denser block on that one side, and may experience more pain on the opposite side," she continues.

Ad failed to load

According to Fit Pregnancy, epidurals work to block pain by taking advantage of how nerves that carry pain signals will have to travel through the "epidural space" on their way to your brain. Anesthesia can be injected into this epidural space to block those pain signals. Without those signals, your brain can't tell what your body is feeling.

Over 50 percent of women birthing in hospitals use epidural anesthesia, noted the American Pregnancy Association (APA). In fact, epidurals are requested by name more than any other of method of pain relief. It's important to note that the intention of epidurals are to relieve pain locally, and not block out feeling altogether.

As mentioned by the APA, if you decide to get an epidural, you'll be asked to arch your back and stay still while either lying down on one side or sitting up. After your mid-back is wiped clean with an antiseptic, you'll receive a small injection with a local anesthetic. Then, a needle will be inserted into that numbed area, followed by a small tube (or, catheter) will be threaded through that needle. After the needle is removed, the catheter is taped to your back to prevent movement, and that's how you receive your pain relief.

Ad failed to load

Less than 5 percent of women have unrelieved labor pain after receiving an epidural, as noted by Fit Pregnancy. This can be caused by the baby's position or just simply needing more medication. Occasionally, the pain is relieved on only one side of the body, either because the catheter is mispositioned or dislodged or because the mother stays in the same position for too long.


Fortunately, according to Richardson, if you're worried about having a lopsided epidural, the issue has an easy fix. "The denser, one-sided block can be resolved by changing the patients' position to a more neutral position," she says, "Or, if position changes do not help, the catheter can always be readjusted or replaced."  Easy peasy.  

Ad failed to load

Getting an epidural is definitely a personal choice, and sometimes it can be a last minute, in-the-moment decision. Regardless of whether or not you end up using an epidural during delivery, it's important to research and talk to your doctor about possibilities and options so you can make a decision that you feel good about. And choosing to get an epidural or not has nothing to do with how tough you are — bodies and labors and deliveries are all different, as is every birthing situation. Doing what's best for you and your baby is never a bad choice.  

Check out Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:

Ad failed to load

Watch full episodes of Romper's Doula Diaries on Facebook Watch.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

Umm, Toys "R" Us Has A BOGO 50 Percent Off Deal So You Better Stock Up

After the holidays, you were probably hoping that your kid's massive toy collection would keep him entertained for a little while, at least. But that was wishful thinking, wasn't it? Because now that a couple of months have passed, all those must-hav…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

Turns Out, Kim Kardashian's Favorite Mom Products Look A Lot Like Your Own Faves

Being a mom is really hard work, especially for the first few months, and Kim Kardashian West is no different in that regard. Now the mother of three, Kardashian says that there are a few products she just can't live without when it comes to raising …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

These 9 Instant Pot Recipes Will Make Even The Pickiest Eater Happy At The Table

Like any parent, I've had my share of parenting hits and misses, but one of my favorite "wins" is my daughter's diverse palate. I don't even know if I can take credit for it, but I would like to think I had something to do with her love for lentils, …
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

Soda Might Hurt Your Fertility, Study Says, & Here's What You Can Do

Who doesn't love sugary drinks? I stopped drinking soda years ago, but I still love gulping down those fancy Starbucks coffee beverages. I don't have a big sweet tooth, but I am a sucker for sugar-sweetened beverages every now-and-then. Turns out, th…
By Annamarya Scaccia

10 Things No One Tells You About Having A Baby In Your 30s

If you're like me, you evaluate the pros and cons of any major life decision. When my husband and I were considering starting a family, I thought about my career, education, and financial stability. I wanted to know how a pregnancy and childbirth wou…
By Steph Montgomery

This Woman Thought She Had An Eyelash Stuck In Her Eye. Then It Moved.

I'm not a person who is easily icked out. As a kid, I collected bugs and thought I was going to be an entomologist and asked Santa Claus for ant farms and nets to catch bees. I'm still super curious about anything that flies and crawls, which might s…
By Karen Fratti

A Hot Mess Mom's Guide To Surviving Winter

As I sit here at my home office in Connecticut, it's cold. Damn cold. Winter is a rough season in New England and it's even worse when you're a parent and have to manage cooped up, restless children. It's even worse when you're a hot mess as it is, u…
By Jamie Kenney

5 Red Flags Your Toddler Isn't Eating Enough

Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters, at least in my experience. You offer mashed potatoes, they want french fries. You give them crackers, they scream for chips. It's frustrating, to be sure, but it's usually their way of vying for independence. It…
By Candace Ganger

11 Ways Your Pregnancy Will Be Different If You Have A Boy Vs A Girl

If you've been pregnant before, you might start comparing your previous pregnancies to that of your current pregnancy. A lot of things can change from pregnancy to pregnancy, based on a whole host of different factors (including how well you remember…
By Lauren Schumacker

35 Moms Share The Most Disgusting Things Their Husbands Do

I'm a human being who revels in challenges. I like when people present me with one, especially if they don't think I can meet or succeed it, and I like taking a challenge on, especially if it's unexpected. So when I aimed to uncover the most disgusti…
By Jamie Kenney

How Having Kids In Your 20s Affects You Later In Life

For parents, like myself, who had kids in their 20s, there are a number of questions that come to mind. When you're deciding what your future will look like, you'll likely consider what this means for your health, career, and more down the line. Thin…
By Tessa Shull

8 Reasons I Let My Toddler Play Outside Unsupervised

I'm not a helicopter mom, but I'm not exactly a free-range parent either. I like to think of myself as safely ensconced somewhere in the middle. I insist on certain safety measures, like car seats and helmets. I prefer to keep my 2-year-old in my sig…
By Kimmie Fink

12 Moms Share How They Stay Healthy During Flu Season

Unfortunately, we're in the middle of the roughest flu seasons in recent memory. And we’re not totally out of the woods, either. People around the country are still getting the flu, and, sadly, some of them are having to be hospitalized due to flu-re…
By Priscilla Blossom

8 "Mistakes" I'm Glad I Made During My First Pregnancy

As an adult, I've learned you never really stop hating being told what to do. When I was pregnant I was getting instructions at every turn, from doctors, relatives, and complete strangers on the subway. I would nod and smile but then go about making …
By Liza Wyles

Study: Drinking Two Glasses Of Wine A Day Is Good For Your Mind — Here's Why

There’s more scientific proof that a daily drink or two isn't necessarily a bad thing and could have a place in an overall healthy lifestyle. A new study out of the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) in New York found that — in mice, at le…
By Tiffany Thomas

Research Says Eating Carbs Can Lead To A Healthy Pregnancy, So Bring On The Pasta

In the world of me, no food is better than bread. I know it's supposed to be pretty terrible for you, high in calories, low in protein, and full of that modern-day demon, gluten... but guys, it's really yummy. Especially warm out of the oven, when th…
By Jen McGuire

These Photos Of Prince George Then & Now Will Give You Serious Baby Fever

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their third child in Spring 2018. With all of the excitement surrounding the new baby, it's easy to forget all of the good times that have already passed. The couple's eldest is already well into the sc…
By Azure Hall

This Is, Hands Down, The *Grossest* Thing Babies Do Inside The Womb

Your baby's life in the womb may be safe and warm, but it's also kind of grody. Seriously, the whole process of growing into a human being includes more than a few icky moments along the way. But this is the grossest thing babies do inside the womb b…
By Lindsay E. Mack