What is a Walking Epidural?
A walking epidural is a combination of a spinal block and a regular epidural. It’s also called a combined spinal epidural (CSE).
The epidural is placed like normal, but in addition to the epidural anesthesia, you are also given a combination of narcotic medications, which is injected into your spinal canal.
The result is that your nerves in your tummy area are numbed, but there is a lower dose of epidural medication, so you have more movement. Since you also have the narcotics with a CSE, the pain relief kicks in within just a couple minutes. You also still have the option of increasing the amount of pain relief you get through the catheter.
Can You Really Walk?
Well, the term "walking epidural" is a bit misleading. Don't expect to be strolling the halls if you get one.
You can expect to have more mobility, but you may not be able to walk. The hospital may not allow it because of legal liability, or you may still feel too weak or nauseous to walk. Narcotic drugs have the effect of making you feel a bit loopy, so you may still opt to stay in bed.
You might hear that by getting a mobile epidural, you get the benefit of having no pain, while still being able to move around. Staying mobile helps labor to progress better.
It is true that you will be able to move around more, but research has shown that there is no difference in the length of labor or the requirement of pain relief whether you choose a CSE or a regular epidural.
An alternative to a walking epidural is to get a regular epidural and turn down the amount of medication before it's time to push. Once the epidural medication wears off a bit, you may be able to move into different positions with help.
Turning the epidural down would also allow you to feel the urge to push, which you might not normally feel with an epidural.
The bottom line is this: If you want to be able to move around a lot in labor, an epidural of any kind isn't a good option for you.
What Are the Risks of a Mobile Epidural?
It’s a give and take with the risks of a walking epidural. The side effects are pretty much the same as with a regular epidural.
The risk of a spinal headache is greater because of the spinal puncture. There are also a few other possible side effects, such as nausea and itching.