Requesting an epidural is an important choice — and choosing it too early or too late can have consequences. When is too late to get an epidural? Can you request an epidural at 7 centimeters (cm)? Let’s find out.
First off — who am I, and why do I know this? Hi, I’m Hilary — The Pregnancy Nurse 👩⚕️. I have been a nurse since 1997 and I have 20 years of L&D nursing experience, I am also the curly head behind Pulling Curls and The Online Prenatal Class for Couples. 🩺 Sign up to follow me for more positive pregnancy & labor tips! 😊
Also, if you are looking for more comprehensive information about epidurals and labor pain management, I have a whole chapter in The Online Prenatal Class for Couples where I go through the whole procedure and what to expect (plus your other pain management options). Tons of info — be sure to check-out chapter 7.
Can I Get an Epidural at 7 Centimeters?
It’s a good question. I often had patients ask me when was “too late.”
Why could it be “Too Late” to get an epidural?
Well, it is REALLY hard to sit still if the baby is actually coming out and get the epidural placed.
Also, it would be fairly useless at that point.
Plus, the epidural does come with risks along with great pain management — so, making sure it’s WORTH the risk (especially if it will only be “in” for a few minutes) is something to discuss with your team.
Risks of Getting an Epidural Too Late
The main risk is that it just won’t have time to take effect as you’re being “squashed” by giant waves of pain.
The other risk would be moving during the placement and that can have more serious consequences.
So, is 7 cm too late to get an epidural?
I don’t think so, but there is something to keep in mind — and that’s what # baby you’re on. BTW, still not sure what this CM’s are — check out my post on vaginal exams on my sister site.
7 cm still gives you quite a lot of time to enjoy the benefits of the epidural.
7-10 cm will still take you 2-3 hours to get through (could be more, could be less), but remember on your first baby — on average — people push for 2 hours. So, not only will you get the relief while you’re letting baby move down into your pelvis, you’ll also have it during pushing.
If it’s your 2nd (or more) baby you likely won’t get a lot of pain relief from it, but there’s a good chance you’ll get quite a bit. 7-10 cm (when you can push) usually takes 1-2 hours, so you do have time — keeping in mind that’s the textbook case, your case could be different.
Will your nurse help you get an epidural at 7 cm.
I would hope so, and they should. Honestly, at whatever point my patient requests an epidural, I try to make it happen. It does take about 30 minutes from when the patient requests it til’ anesthesia is in the room set up to put it in. I also have a whole
But even if you’re 9 cm and really asking for it, I try to make it happen. I think most nurses do.
Even 10 centimeters, if you really want it and it is your first baby, they should make it happen. You’ll still have that pushing time to enjoy the pain relief with it.
So, there you have it. No, 7 cm is not too late to get an epidural. Be sure to check out all my content on labor pain management (I have a lot)
Here’s the other centimeters in case you wondered:
Epidural Availability by Centimeter:
Keep in mind your epidural is available with doctor’s orders. SO, if your doctor says you can get it at any time, you CAN get it at any time!
Epidural in Early Labor
Can I get an epidural at 1 cm?
Most often this is too early to get an epidural. It would be better if you had your full movement to help your cervix open, but sometimes it is appropriate.
Although, this depends on many factors. If you are a medically necessary induction and have been going for days, you might well need one at 1 cm.
Can I get an epidural at 2 cm?
Similar to 1 cm, it is often too early to get it. Keep using movement/changes in your positioning to your benefit.
Can I get an epidural at 3 cm?
This is a bit more likely… Most doctors will order it at 3 cm.
Can I get an epidural at 4 cm?
Epidural During Active Labor
Can I get an epidural at 5 cm?
Yes, this is a great time to get it.
Can I get an epidural at 6 cm?
Yes, most often — although if you’ve had a few babies, this is the part where your labor starts to speed up — so I’d get it soon.
Can I get an epidural at 8 cm?
If it’s your first baby, yes. If it’s your 2nd baby it is time to have a frank discussion with your healthcare team.
Can I get an epidural at 9 cm?
If its your first baby, you likely can — depending more on how low the baby is.
If it’s your second baby, you need to consider if it will be in long enough to make it worth it.
Can I get an epidural at 10 cm?
If it’s your first baby, and baby isn’t low. Most often, yes.
If it’s your second baby — just push and you’ll have pain relief much faster that way.
This all being said — your body, your choice. Beyond the doctor’s orders, you can ask for what you want. Mother nature can also make her own choices too.
Be sure to grab my hospital packing list to get prepared for your baby: