Epidural or natural?
Getting an epidural or not during labor is a tough choice that every pregnant woman has to face. Some know right away they definitely want one and some may say they would never even consider getting one.
If you ask other moms for their opinion you will probably end up with 1000 different opinions on why you should or should not have an epidural which leaves you back at square one.
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An epidural basically numbs your body from the waist down so you do not have pain during labor so it should be a total no-brainer to get one right?
Well, like everything in the world a Epidural does not only have a positive side. Many negative and long lasting side effects can occur.
Let’s do some fact checks:
What is an Epidural?
An Epidural is a regional anesthesia. It is supposed to take away pain in only specific areas of your body by blocking the nerve impulses from your lower spine. It provides your body with pain medication. You can still move and push the baby out even with the medication.
You can still feel contractions but way less than you would without medication. If you end up having a C-section you will get one regardless.
While some cesarean sections are wanted from the pregnant woman some are so-called emergency C-sections when the life of the mother or the baby is in danger.
Where is the epidural placed?
The Epidural is set in your lower back into the area near your spinal nerves. This video I found on youtube shows you the whole process with explanation.
The Placement can hurt, this really depends on your pain tolerance. It is mostly done when you are about 4-5 cm dilated.
Will it affect my baby?
This topic is not fully researched and therefore I can not give you a sure answer. Many different factors can affect a baby’s health during the birthing process and you can not say for sure if an Epidural can cause any of them.
When should I NOT get one?
If one of these conditions apply to you then you may not even be able to get an epidural:
- Have a infection in your back
- Blood infection
- Took blood thinner
- The epidural area can not be located by the doctor
- labor is moving too fast and there is no time for an Epidural
- low platelet counts
Can an epidural go wrong ?
The short answer is yes. Just think about it: you’re getting a huge needle in your back. But what exactly can go wrong?
The epidural can wear off too soon
When the epidural wears off too soon you will end up feeling the whole labor pain and birth process anyway which makes the whole epidural completely pointless. An epidural is supposed to kick in about 10-20 minutes after getting it.
It can work too late
I had one mom telling me her epidural didn’t kick in until after she had given birth. Her legs just went out. This can be very dangerous if you’re holding your new precious baby.
The needle can hit a nerve
This one can cause some severe problems for years after giving birth.
It can numb too much of your body or not enough
If the epidural isn’t set at exactly the right point you could end up with just one leg numb or being numbed in the majority of your body.
One mom told me she was numbed from the waist up which was endearing her and the baby’s life.
You could have a allergic reaction
If you have allergies or a history of being allergic to medication the same thing can happen with an epidural. You could experience an allergic shock.
One mom told me her heart stopped beating right after she received the Epidural due to being allergic. She and her baby are both fine but this is definitely scary.
This is probably the worst case scenario and very rare to happen.
Other side effects include:
- Back pain even years after giving birth
- Bleeding from the are where the epidural was placed
- Blood pressure drop (this can cause the baby’s heartbeat to drop)
- Numbing sensations years later (for example just one leg that feels numb)
- Slowing the birthing process down (this can cause you to get pitocin – a medication to induce labor – to speed it up again)
While it sounds scary and bad all of these risks are considered as rare side effects.
Pros of having an Epidural
Ok, after all this negativity let’s concentrate on the good parts of having an Epidural during labor and birth.
This is probably the biggest argument for getting one and the one that makes the most sense. A Epidural is designed to take pain away so why should you not get one when you feel like you need it?
An Epidural is considered one of the most effective ways of pain relief with the lowest side effects for mom and baby at the same time. Most women that get one have little to no pain during labor and delivery.
Resting is possible
This is a huge pro for a long labor. When you are in labor for hours on end it can be a huge relief to be able to rest in between contractions or even during the contraction thanks to the Epidural. It can have you more relaxed and in return have a great experience of giving birth.
While you body is partly numbed you still have a active part in the delivery even if you are going trough a C-section. Thanks to the epidural you can stay awake the whole time.
You can still change your mind
Even if you say you will never get an Epidural you can change your mind during labor if you feel like you can not handle it. There is absolutely no shame in getting one.
Also a great positive effect:
- It is very effective
- Usually also very safe to do
- While feeling less pain you are still actively there
So which one is better – epidural or natural birth?
I personally had a full natural birth without any kind of pain medication and I can 100% confidently say: I would do it all over again.
Actually the labor pain wasn’t too bad. I was already dilated a good amount before I went to the hospital and everything went very smooth.
I had contractions in my back only which made it feel like pretty mean back pain on and off.
Just the thought of having a giant needle stuck in my back terrified me more than having to push a baby out. So I waited and waited until it was too late anyway and just half an hour after the water broke and a few pushes (which made me mostly annoyed than anything else to be honest) and my baby was here.
A total of 7 hours labor which is very short so I consider myself very lucky.
Natural Birth Benefits
Your body was literally built for giving birth. When you decide on a natural birth you can still move around during labor without being hooked up to cables (you will still have the fetal doppler on you most of the time)
You can feel the whole experience and hold your baby right away.
BUT it can exhaust you to the point of not having any energy left to do the big part: Pushing the baby out.
At the end of the day…
…there is no magic formula that will work 100% of the time for 100% of the woman.
You can discuss options with your doctor during your checkups. Or wait until the last minute to decide if you want to go with an epidural or not. This website is also a great resource that might help with your decision.
An Epidural can be a great tool to take away pain or it can turn into a nightmare. The choice is yours to make.
More than 70% of women use an epidural during childbirth – that is the majority of women.
Factors that play a role in getting one include:
- size of the baby and your pelvis
- physical and/or emotional health
- if you or your baby are at risk at any point
- how intense your contractions are
My advice to you is: Take it one step at a time. If you are unsure whether or not to get one just let your body do it’s thing and decide if you want to go trough with it doing a natural birth or if you want to relief your pain with an epidural.
However you decide – YOU know what is best for you and you should not let anyone shame you for your decision.
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