I’m going to start this post with the opening statement: This is not a rant about the evils of the epidural.
In fact, I believe some women truly need it. However, one problem that truly is an issue is that American women like to pressure other women into deciding on one before they reach their third trimester.
Personally, I think it’s crazy that so many first-time moms have decided on an epidural right away, no questions asked. And while there is nothing wrong with wanting an epidural, often these women have not researched epidurals, or have planned for what to do if they can’t have one.
The fact is: epidurals come with risks. Yet the procedure is so rooted in our culture that very few women are prepared for scenarios they really should be prepared for.
It’s easy to be nervous about giving birth. So it may surprise you that you may not need an epidural.
When is an epidural a good option?
An epidural may be a good option if you:
- Had labor induced.
- Need Pitocin some time during labor.
- Have a baby that is breech or otherwise not in an ideal position.
- Have back labor.
- Are often anxious in stressful situations (even when you are prepared).
Why? Because those are scenarios where giving birth are the most painful. And for most people, epidurals are by far the most effective way to manage labor pains.
You may be shocked by this statement, but many women give birth calmly and with little to no pain – even without an epidural. Much of what allows this is mentally preparing ourselves to be trusting in our bodies, remaining calm, and becoming aware of what is going to happen.
That doesn’t mean that labor isn’t intense. If you need an epidural, or simply just want one, that’s okay! The point I’m trying to make is that epidurals have risks, and some women may face more risks than others.
What are some of the risks of having an epidural?
Some of the risks associated with an epidural include:
- Nerve damage or permanent paralysis
- Reduced blood pressure (can cause dizziness, nausea, and even fainting)
Some of these risks are extremely rare. However, there are many more symptoms associated with epidurals that can cause problems that are far more likely to happen. Kind of like a domino effect.
Wait! There are more risks than just the ones associated with the drug?
Yes! There are! Due to related interventions required to assist the laboring mother who can no longer feel her bottom half, many women face long-term health problems as a result of having an epidural
For example, common scenarios often associated with the use of an epidural are:
- Loss of feeling of the bladder. A catheter will be required to drain the bladder, which increases chances of infection.
- Increased chances for Pitocin to be recommended. Pitocin is a drug that comes with its own set of risks.
- Increased chances of needing an assisted delivery (forceps, etc.)
- Increased chances of needing a C-Section (this is a controversial subject where some studies show this to be true while others do not).
- Pain or bruising in the back or spine.
- Increased chances of damage to the pelvic floor.
There are many women, like myself, that have gone into the hospital with the intention of having a natural birth and been swept up in the “intervention cascade.”
But this article isn’t targeted at the natural birth crowd. This is for all pregnant women. Be empowered to make the best possible decision for you. As a mom who gave birth only one year ago – labor does not have to be painful. And you do not need to have an epidural to accomplish that. If I left you today with the feeling that you can decide during labor if you want an epidural or not, then I’ve done what I came to do.
So go forth and prepare yourself. Make a birth plan. Talk to your doctor about the risks of having an epidural, and most importantly discuss other pain-management options in the event that you want or need them.
Don’t forget to sign up to my email list for updates on more posts like this. It takes a lot to both challenge the status quo and create a community of judgment-free parenting.