No one is going to tell you that the process of growing and birthing a baby is without pain and agony. For most women, it all starts around 6 weeks of pregnancy – the nausea, the vomiting, the headaches, the body aches. But, thanks to modern medicine, your “labor day” doesn’t have to be what your mom described to you as “the most horrific pain I could ever have experienced in a thousand lifetimes.” Though many feel negatively about childbirth with epidural, it is a choice that many mothers make.
According to AmericanPregnancy.org, 5 out of 10 women request an epidural by name as their pain relief treatment when in labor. It’s the go-to for a reason. An epidural is considered local anesthesia. You’ll be all there for the birth of your baby – not foggy brained. The epidural simply blocks pain in the lower half of your body.
What to Expect
If you choose to get an epidural during your labor, the medication will be delivered through a very small catheter (a hollow tube), which will be inserted into what is called the “epidural space” – right outside of the membrane that surrounds your spinal cord and spinal fluid.
As scary as it sounds to have a tube stuck into your spinal area, it’s really not so bad. They first will inject your back area with numbing medicine and most women (myself included) report very little if any pain.
After you’re numbed up, the anesthesiologist will pass the catheter through the needle, take the needle out, and tape the catheter to your back so the medication can be administered as needed.
When I was delivering my daughter, the doctor turned off my medication at a certain point so that I could “feel myself pushing” better.
The medicine you’ll be given is usually a combo of local anesthetic and narcotic. Baby Center explains, “Local anesthetics block sensations of pain, touch, movement, and temperature, and narcotics blunt pain without affecting your ability to move your legs. Used together, they provide good pain relief with less loss of sensation in your legs and at a lower total dose than you’d need with just one or the other.”
It should only take about ten to twenty minutes for the medicine to kick in, and you may even be given a pump, so that you can control the amount of medicine you get. You won’t overdose, obviously, because they limit how much you can give yourself.
You can request an epidural at any point in your labor, except when the baby is crowning.
Why Are Some People Against Epidurals?
As wonderful as an epidural is, there are some disadvantages that cause some women to opt out. For one thing, getting an epidural might make the pushing stage of your labor longer. Because your lower body loses sensation, your “bearing-down reflex becomes weaker, so it will be harder to push your baby out.
That being said, getting an epidural and having that extra difficulty pushing increases the chances that the doctor will need to use vacuum extraction or forceps during delivery. Of course, this usually just means your baby will have a weirdly-shaped head for a little bit, but it can increase the risk of bruising for your baby.
I’ve also talked to some women who report the epidural didn’t really work for them. One of my friends said that the epidural only numbed half of her lower body – the other half felt all the pain. It is said that the cause of something like this would be that your catheter may have “drifted” a bit. If you get an epidural and notice that you’re not feeling the effects in all parts of your lower body, try to get a hold of the anesthesiologist and see if they can readjust the catheter before you go into active labor.
There are lists of potential negative side effects that you can read about, but for the majority of women, an epidural is a great, safe way of lessening the pain of delivery.
Will It Hurt My Baby?
The most recent studies say go for it! Babies born to moms who choose epidurals are just healthy as babies who are born naturally. One point of controversy is the breastfeeding aspect. Some say that babies born with epidural pain medication have more trouble latching on. But again, you’ll find just as many moms who will tell you the opposite.
In most cases, the truth about childbirth with an epidural is that you are in for a pleasant experience – getting to be active and present for the birth of your baby, but being numb to the pain of it! Share your epidural story with us in the comments section below!
In contrast, some moms choose to have a natural delivery. Here’s some information about that!
Okay mommies I need some advice. I’m 22 weeks 4 days and I am dead set against getting an epidural. I don’t want one because I already have back issues but I am also so scared about the labor pains. Any advice? This is my first pregnancy.
Moms who had epidurals: does it bug you when women who didn’t get an epidural brag about that? Do you think it makes them “tougher”? Question is completely out of curiosity, not trying to start anything just wanted opinions!