To Epidural or Not to Epidural!

Photo credit: Twine & Twig Studios

If you are pregnant or have had a baby, more than likely you have discussed pain relief options and maybe even used one. Generally, your OB will make sure to discuss different pain relief options with you well before you go into labor because there are many different types and once you’re in labor decision making can be very difficult. Epidurals are the most common form of pain relief used for childbirth, however, there are different types of epidurals so being educated beforehand is wise.

There is no right or wrong choice when choosing to have an epidural or not, while sometimes it is necessary for health reasons it’s also okay to choose to have one simply to minimize pain. My twins are the only birth I can personally reference, and they were a scheduled c-section, so pain relief was always a part of the plan. However, if I would have gone into labor and experienced that route I still would have been all for an epidural!

For some the idea of an epidural can be more frightening than birth, others really have their hearts set on an unmedicated birth, and there are always mommas who are just plain overwhelmed with all the options! Regardless of how you are feeling it is always a good idea to understand that anything can happen and it’s great to do a little research before going into labor! For a little insight, I have highlighted some basic information along with a couple reasons I think epidurals are wonderful and reasons I could see why some choose to steer clear. Please remember your OB is your best source for information, I am just sharing my thoughts momma to momma!

What is an Epidural?

Epidurals are a local anesthetic. They are very effective in pain relief because they block pain in a specific area of the body. It is administered through a catheter that is placed between two vertebrae in your back. They are also safe to give with other medications that may need to be given.

Epidural Pros

  • Effective pain relief.
  • Allows you to focus and rest.
  • It can sometimes speed up labor due to you being able to focus and relax.
  • Allows for a calmer more comfortable birth experience. Yes! Yes! Yes!
  • If there is a need for an emergency c-section you already have one. For instance, if you are attempting a VBAC there is a risk that you may end up needing a c-section.
  • There are minimal risks to your baby.

Epidural Cons

  • You will have to stay in bed because the lower half of your body will be numb.
  • It can cause a sudden drop in your blood pressure.
  • It can potentially slow down labor resulting in need of interventions such as the need for Pitocin(used to induce labor by causing contractions), or the use of a vacuum or forceps.
  • You may experience side effects such as nausea, shivering, backache, headaches, or a ringing in your ears.
  • It may cause pushing to be more difficult since you will be numb.
  • Effects could last for a few hours after birth resulting you to need assistance walking or caring for yourself and baby.
  • Although rare, you may experience permanent nerve damage in the area where the catheter was and other long-term effects.

Whether you decide on an epidural beforehand or to give labor a go without one, the decision is yours and it’s most important to be educated on your options. Good luck and happy laboring!