Eleven healthy pregnant women were studied to determine temperature changes after induction of epidural anesthesia during cesarean delivery. Epidural anesthesia was induced by 2% lidocaine 15-20 ml (T 5 level) at 25 degrees C ambient temperature. Tympanic membrane and skin surface temperature, skin-temperature gradients (forearm-fingerchip, calf-toe), thermal perception (1-10 scale VAS) and the presence or absence of shivering were measured. Sixty minutes after induction, tympanic temperature decreased for 0.52 +/- 0.26 degrees C and average skin temperature increased for 0.56 +/- 0.17 degrees C. Central hypothermia and shivering did not produce a cold sensation. Temperature gradients of upper limb increased to 2.0 +/- 3.7 degrees C (50 minutes after induction) and the lower limbs decreased to -1.4 +/- 0.55 degrees C (30 minutes after induction). Shivering occurred in 3 patients. We conclude that epidural anesthesia impaired thermoregulatory control and induced redistribution hypothermia as in nonpregnant individuals.