Syringe with green liquid
Some women experience shivering, headaches and even vomit after being administered the epidurial. (Photo: Pixabay)

Q: Is It Necessary To Have An Epidural?
Dr Henry Cheng: “Labour happens when the womb contracts. In general the contractions are painful and the degree of pain increases in intensity as the labour progresses. The frequency of pain also increases to one contraction every one or two minutes. As the feeling of pain is very subjective, it’s probably wise for women with very low threshold of pain to have an epidural. However, women who wish to try out the sensation of labour and later give in to the pain can always have the epidural at that point in time.”

Q: Is It True That Delivering A Baby Naturally And Without Epidural Will Reduce Her Risks Of Suffering From Autism Spectrum Disorders?
Dr Cheng: “With every study there is also a counter study. Generally the feeling is that it does not increase the risks of getting ASD in babies delivered with an epidural.”


pregnant women with a pair of baby booties on her belly
The epidural can help women to relax during the labour process. (Photo: Pexels)

Q: Does The Epidural Quicken The Delivery Process?
Dr Cheng: “The epidural analgesia generally helps a woman in labour to relax. This then allows the cervix to dilate much faster. If the woman in labour has a lot of pain, she tends to tense up her muscles to fight with the pain. This then tightens the pelvic floor muscles and restricts the descent of the baby’s head which ends up lengthening labour time. So with an epidural, the woman in labour gets more rest and feels more relaxed throughout the process.”

Q: Why Do Some Women Shiver And Throw Up After Being Injected With The Epidural?
Dr Cheng: “Once an epidural is administered, the immediate reaction is the blood vessels of the woman will dilate and cause a loss of body heat. The epidural may also cause a drop in blood pressure which is usually well-anticipated and can be easily treated with drugs. However in instances where the pressure drops before the drug is administered, the mother-to-be may feel giddy and nauseous.”


pregnant woman clutching husband's hand
Women with very low tolerance of pain should opt for an epidural-assisted birth. (Photo: Pixabay)

Q: Is The Epidural Injected Right Into The Spine?
Dr Cheng: “The epidural analgesia is administered outside the spinal cord and the spine. There is no use to inject the spine as it is a piece of bone. The epidural covers the nerves as they are leaving the spinal cord and therefore does not enter into the spinal cord and thus cause no long term side effects.”

Q: Is It True That The Epidural Will Cause Backaches?
Dr Cheng: “This is a complete myth. Many ladies who delivered in the era before the epidural also complain of backache after delivery. This rumoured chronic backache is usually due to poor posture after delivery and not taking care of their back. Although there are unfortunate cases where the epidural could result in a puncture of the spinal cord and cause headaches. But that’s usually temporary and is easily treated with medication.”


baby's hand clutching onto an adult finger.
The laughing gas could pass to through the placenta and into the baby who may require medicine to help her breathe better after birth. (Photo: Pexels)

Q: What’s The “Laughing Gas” And Does It Make Baby Woozy?
Dr Cheng: “Other than the epidural, a woman in labour can opt for Entonox, a mixture of nitrous oxide and oxygen known as ‘laughing gas’. The problem with this is that the woman may not be able to follow the proper instructions of using the gas while enduring the labour pains. When too much of the gas is inhaled, she becomes euphoric and goes into a dream-like state, almost like she is drunk. She may struggle on the bed or look dazed not knowing if the baby’s out or not, and doing anything but pushing the baby out. And yes, the gas does cross the placenta and make the baby drowsy at delivery but that’s only temporary.”

Q: Are There Any Other Types Of Painkillers?
Dr Cheng: “The injection of pethidine, a morphine derivative can help to numb the pain. It does not cut it off totally but is often used with the ‘laughing gas’. But this drug crosses the placenta and the baby may need a bit of help later to help it breathe better. Acupuncture and TENS (transcutaneous electrical stimulation) is also used in which nervous stimulation may help to decrease the pain. But personally I’m not sure how effective these are in relieving the pain. Of course the good old hot packs and massage can help release the tension in the back; as well as the husband’s moral support which is vital in making childbirth more tolerable.”

To contact Dr Henry Cheng, call Astra Women’s Specialists at 6353 3878 or visit