Can You Eat Before an Epidural?

Husband kissing pregnant wife in hospital
Husband kissing his pregnant wife in a hospital bed. (Image: Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

When you think of the word epidural, you likely think of childbirth. An epidural can be used to ease the pain and make for an easier delivery of a child. An epidural can also mean anesthesia used for surgery on the lower extremities. Another form of an epidural is an injection used to treat back ailments. Regardless of why you are receiving an epidural, there are restrictions on eating prior to your epidural.

Epidural Anesthesia

Epidural anesthesia is a popular form of anesthesia used during surgical procedures on the lower extremities. Epidural anesthesia is also used as a means of alleviating pain and discomfort during child birth. According to the American Pregnancy Association, over 50 percent of women who deliver in a hospital will receive an epidural. Epidural anesthesia is a form of regional anesthesia that numbs you from the waist down. The epidural blocks the nerve impulses in the lower portion of your spine, which drastically decreases feeling in your lower body.

Eating and Epidural Anesthesia

If you are receiving epidural anesthesia for surgery, you will likely not be permitted to eat or drink anything--including water--past midnight on the day of your surgery. The hospital you are having your surgery at will provide you with specific instructions on eating prior to surgery. An empty stomach helps prevent nausea and vomiting following surgery--epidural anesthesia is often coupled with a sedative to help put a patient at ease. If you are having an epidural for childbirth, eating largely depends on the rules of the hospital. Often after the epidural is placed, you will only be permitted ice chips.

Epidural Injections

Epidural injections are used to deliver steroid medication to the nerves of your spinal cord. These injections have strong anti-inflammatory properties and can help reduce pain, inflammation and prevent irritation in patients with severe back pain. According to the Hospital for Special Surgery, patients with lumbar disc herniations, spinal stenosis and degenerative disc disease may receive epidural injections. They may serve as an effective alternative to surgical treatment. Epidural injections are administered on an outpatient basis.

Eating and Epidural Injections

Your physician or the hospital you are receiving your epidural injection at will provide you with specific instructions on how to prepare for your epidural injection. The Hospital for Special Surgery indicates that patients are usually not permitted to eat for four hours prior to receiving an injection. Before fasting, patients should eat a light meal of their choosing. Fasting can prevent patients from becoming sick and is also important in the event of an emergency. Normal eating habits can be resumed immediately following an epidural injection.

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