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Labour + birth

07th May 2022

A TikTok-er showed the size of an epidural needle, and yep, it’s huge

epidural needle

Sure look – we knew it – mums really are warriors.

Giving birth is no picnic, as everyone who has done it knows, and to help cope with the pain, some women opt for having an epidural – a type of anaesthesia that is injected into the epidural space, which is located around the spinal cord. With the help of an epidural, the woman giving birth will feel numbness between their belly button and upper legs, which helps relieve pain associated with childbirth.

But if you did not opt for one, you might not even know what an epidural needle actually looks like – I certainly did not.

However, thanks to Miami-based medical student Hansel Viera and Dr. Carlos De La Hoz, and their now very TikTok video (15 million views and counting), consider yourself informed:

In the clip, Viera and De La Hoz show off three different needles, asking viewers to determine which size is the epidural needle. Spoiler: It’s the biggest one.

@neodoctors Do you know how big epidural needles are?. The Neomedicine institute. #TrulyGlowingSelfieLove #ItWasntMe #cosmetic #foryou #fitness ♬ Ella Mai – My Way – sabinahannan

To clarify, the needle is used to guide a catheter into the lower back through which pain medication is administered. It also bears noting that a local anaesthetic is applied to the area before the epidural needle is inserted, meaning it might feel slightly uncomfortable, the medical students explain, but should not be painful.

“With this, the patient will feel minimal or none of the epidural needle as it penetrates the skin,” Hansel told Buzzfeed.

“Epidural needles are long so that we get better access to the epidural space,” Hansel said.

“The most common question is, ‘Does it go all the way in?’ And the answer [in] most cases is no, but again, it varies from patient to patient.”

Needless to say, many social media users were pretty shocked to learn just what some mamas go through to bring their babies Earth-side.

However, Hansel says as doctors, they focus on going through the procedure with the patient beforehand, so that nothing, including the size of the needle comes as a surprise.

“One of the best ways to improve the patient’s experience while going through this procedure is by showing empathy and building a good patient-physician interaction,” the viral medical student continued.

“Listening to the patient’s concern, making sure the patient understands what the physician will be doing, [and] allowing time so the patient can process the information. Overall, allowing the encounter to be patient-centred [and] making the patient [feel] in charge of the situation.”