An anesthetic technique that reduces pain during childbirth without altering the mother's level of consciousness. This type of regional anesthesia is often given during labor to relieve the pain of contractions. A needle is inserted through the skin of the back into the epidural space, surrounding the spinal cord. Anesthetic is then injected around the spinal cord anesthetizing the nerves of the lower part of the body. A well-placed epidural block provides excellent pain relief. A potential disadvantage is a reduction in a woman's ability to push the baby out of the birth canal. Some people feel that the use of an epidural block may increase the likelihood of a cesarean section. The epidural block may also lower a woman's blood pressure, affecting blood flow to the baby. However, in the hands of alert, experienced personnel, the risks of an epidural are low.