Should I Get an Epidural?

Should I Get an Epidural?


(Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your doctor)

Should I Get an Epidural?

When I was pregnant with Leo, I became fixated on the childbirth process.  Like, reading blogs, watching delivery videos, discussing childbirth details with my mother and mother-in-law.  Perhaps because I had nothing to compare it to, I was both excited and terrified to experience labour and delivery for myself.

I found myself torn between having an epidural and going au naturale.  From what I understood, there was no real middle-of-the-road.  People were either pro-drugs, or pro-natural childbirth.  My conundrum was this: I had no idea how childbirth really felt.  What is the pain really like?  Could I handle it?  Could I even bring myself to push if the pain was unbearable?  On the flip side, would I be able to push if I was numb from the waist down?

The truth about epidurals

Epidurals are one of several options used to subside pain for women in labour.  They are administered through a needle inserted into the lower back, and they take about 20 minutes to begin working.  Epidurals numb a woman’s body from tummy down.

The good

Epidurals help control pain in childbirth.  In fact, sometimes they get rid of the pain completely.  In a long labour, a woman might feel that an epidural gives them the chance to rest and prepare for delivery.  An epidural doesn’t give the “foggy” or “drugged” feeling that other pain medications might.  Epidurals lower the blood pressure of the woman, which can be useful for someone suffering from pre-eclampsia.  If a woman does deliver via c-section, an epidural will allow her to be alert throughout her child’s birth

The bad

Because a woman is numb from the waist down, she must have a catheter inserted to prevent her from peeing her pants. There are some potential lasting side effects for the mother, including spinal headaches and paralysis. An epidural can cause a drop in the fetal heart rate.  Some women who have an epidural find it more difficult to push during delivery, requiring more interventions including forceps, vacuum extraction, Pitocin and/or a c-section.

My decision

I finally concluded that my husband and I would loosely make a tentative birth plan.  For us, that plan included a water birth at the hospital, which precluded the option for an epidural.  We chose to attempt the birth with no drug interventions.  However, we put a huge asterisk next to our unwritten birth plan.  This was all dependent on how things were going.  If I couldn’t handle the pain, we’d change course.  The asterisk helped me to feel like I had options; I wasn’t headed down a scary one lane road to delivery, because I knew I could change my mind at any time.

For what it’s worth, I ended up giving birth to Leo drug-free on the delivery bed.  It was not exactly how I had planned it, but it was perfect, because it was my story.

(Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your doctor)



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