At the Westminster Maternity Suite we offer effective pain management solutions for you during your labour and birth.

Our obstetric anaesthetists are experts in pain relief during labour and are on hand to ensure that your birth is as comfortable as possible. They are responsible for your well-being and safety throughout your stay on the maternity ward. Working closely with your consultant to plan your type of anaesthetic and pain control, you can rest assured your safety comes first.

Our anaesthetists are available to discuss options for pain relief including epidurals. They also provide anaesthesia for caesarean sections, which are usually performed using spinal or epidural anaesthesia.

This service is not included in the hospital fee and will be billed separately by the anaesthetist. Find out more about our maternity prices and packages here.

What is an anaesthetic?

Anaesthesia stops you feeling pain during an operation. There are different types of anaesthetic:

  • a local anaesthetic uses an injection to numb a part of your body. You stay awake but don’t feel pain
  • a regional anaesthetic uses an injection of anaesthetic to numb a larger part of your body (such as an arm or a leg). You stay awake but don’t feel pain
  • a general anaesthetic gives a state of controlled unconsciousness during which you feel nothing. This is essential for many operations and you will be asleep for the entire procedure


A common choice of anaesthetic during labour is an epidural. An epidural can drastically reduce the amount of pain you feel while keeping you present and alert.

An epidural is a procedure involving the injection of a local anaesthetic into the space around the spinal nerves in your lower back. The anaesthetic blocks pain caused by labour contractions. Epidurals are always performed by our experienced anaesthetists.

Although an epidural can cause you to have a reduced sensation in the lower part of your body, you can still push during the birth.

Types of epidural

There are two epidural types used during labour combined spinal-epidural and epidural with a catheter.

Combined spinal-epidural (CSE)

Combining two injections, a spinal block and an epidural to provide faster pain relief. It’s also a slightly lower anaesthetic dose, so you keep more sensation in your lower body. This type of epidural is sometimes called a ‘walking’ epidural due to the fact you can still move once it’s administered.

Epidural with a catheter

The anaesthetist will administer medicine through a catheter (thin tube) into your lower back. The catheter allows for a continuous flow or multiple doses of the epidural medication. This way, if your labour lasts longer than one dose of pain relief, it can easily be topped up.

How does an epidural work?

Anaesthetists can use two different types of medicine in an epidural, analgesia and anaesthesia.

Analgesia is pain relief and anaesthesia is a loss of feeling or sensation in a particular area of your body. Typically, anaesthesia is used during a caesarean section (C-section). So, you’re awake but won’t feel any surgical procedure.

Most epidurals during labour are a combination of the two so that you’re numb in the lower half of your body and feel no pain.

Epidurals prevent pain signals caused by contractions from travelling through your spine to your brain.

The anaesthetist injects epidural fluid into the space around your spinal cord. Your spinal cord connects all the nerves in your body to your brain – so, by blocking the pain in your spinal nerves with an epidural, the pain signals sent to your brain are also blocked.

When might you receive an epidural?

If you’re considering an epidural to assist you during labour, then it will be administered during the first stage. You can have it at later stages. But sometimes, it can be too late if you’re already pushing or fully dilated.

You can receive an epidural even if you go into unplanned labour or if you did not previously want to have one. You can decide at any point if you feel the need for pain relief in the form of an epidural.

Most women can safely have an epidural, but you’ll need to discuss your circumstances and health with your midwife or nurse before going into labour.


Explore our team of highly experienced private anaesthetists below.

Dr Nhathien Nguyen-Lu is a consultant anaesthetist and the fellowship lead for obstetric anaesthesia at St Thomas’ Hospital.

Nhathien has a calm and gentle approach to birth experiences. She is passionate about ensuring women feel empowered and have a comfortable, pleasant and safe delivery for both mother and baby.

Her interest is in high-risk obstetrics including postpartum haemorrhage and she is the lead anaesthetist for patients with invasive placentation.

Nhathien is an honorary senior clinical lecturer at Kings College London. She is an educational supervisor to both medical students and senior anaesthetic trainees and plays a role in the assessment of trainees at their regional appraisal meetings.

Dr Neel Desai is a consultant anaesthetist at St Thomas’ Hospital and honorary senior clinical lecturer at King’s College London. He is a caring, compassionate and committed anaesthetist who listens to parents and understands the importance of providing evidence-based and individualised care in a holistic manner.

In collaboration with the obstetricians, midwives and neonatologists whom he works closely with, Neel supports the attainment of effective, high quality and safe outcomes for mother and baby. He remains calm and focused in emergency situations, paying attention to the details which matter to maintaining a positive birth experience for parents.

Neel has excelled in the academic field, publishing widely in national and international journals in subject areas related to obstetrics and anaesthesia.

Discover our dedicated maternity experts

Meet our team of leading obstetricians. From pregnancy scans to advanced fetal interventions, our specialists are here to provide you with personalised care.