An epidural is a type of anaesthetic (medication that stops pain and feeling) that makes your lower body numb without putting you to sleep. It is often used during labour and delivery so that the woman can remain awake but not experience the pain of the birth.
The anaesthetic medicine is injected into the epidural space (the area surrounding the spinal cord) in the lower back by an anaesthetist (a doctor specialised in giving anaesthetics). The area of skin where the injection goes in will be made numb first. Although all of the lower body becomes numb, you can still push during contractions. After the delivery you will need to remain in bed until the anaesthetic has worn off. This usually takes about two to four hours.
An epidural anaesthetic can be used for a vaginal or caesarean delivery.