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You get that exciting second line on your pregnancy test, it’s exciting, scary as hell and life changing! And after the initial excitement wears off you start thinking about other things like epidurals, circumcisions, formula and other controversial topics.

I was always surprised at how strongly people felt about getting epidurals. Either you got the I wouldn’t go through labor without one or epidurals are not good for you, I’d never do that!

A friend of mine put it aptly-

In any other pain filled situation, as soon as you walk in the hospital doors they pump you full of painkillers. And rightly so, you’re in a lot of pain!

But as soon as it’s because you are in labor, it becomes this weird stigma’d (is that a word?) choice.

The actual definition of an epidural is: regional anesthetic that isolates pain relief to the lower body by blocking the nerve roots.

The different types of epidurals:

STANDARD EPIDURAL

  • Heavy, dead feeling
  • Combination of narcotic (fentanyl or morphine) and anesthesia (bupivacaine, chloroprocaine or lidocaine)
  • Unable to move other than side to side

COMBINED SPINAL EPIDURAL (Walking Epidural)

  • Combination of narcotics, local anesthetic and epinephrine
  • Some sensation left in lower body
  • Able to assume a position on all fours and take the pressure off the back
  • A bit of a misnomer because you probably won’t be walking around but you can get into other positions and move more than the standard epidural.

 

ADVANTAGES:

 

EPIDURALS ALLOW YOU TO REST

This is the first thing for a reason. I got an epidural with 2 out of 3 pregnancies and with those two labors, it made sense and helped SO MUCH. You go from horrendous pain, unable to think, unable to rest or do anything to –

  • Being able to visit.
  • Have fluids and snacks.
  • REST (which is so needed when you are going through a long labor)
  • Gather your strength for the hardest stage of all- pushing out your sweet bundle of joy.

This being said, with my first baby, the epidural actually missed a giant spot on one side of my back. So I was able to rest somewhat but still not quite because I could feel all that pain in an isolated spot. This is common and happens to a lot of women.

 

PAIN RELIEF

Maybe this should be first… haha.

But seriously, if you are pregnant and haven’t experienced a birth yet then I don’t want to scare you but it is very painful.

The sooner that you accept that though, the better.

It’s easy to kind of lie to yourself and say it can’t be THAT bad, right??

It is that bad. I’m so sorry to tell you that.

But-

the good news is that you do have the option of the epidural. If you are not wanting to get one but do anyway- let the guilt go. It isn’t going to serve you.

Here’s a positive birth story for you, one that I have weirdly been ashamed to tell other moms because apparently we all like to wallow in how awful birth is-

With my son, I asked for an epidural right away. I knew what I wanted! And to be perfectly honest with you, it was an amazing birth experience. I chatted with my husband, I drank some fresh green juice. The doctor said push, I pushed. My 9lb baby boy slid into this world like a dream, in under 3 minutes of pushing. I was happy, there were no tears (from pain, anway.) This experience is what made me totally unafraid of having a 3rd baby!

I tell you this to let you know that there are positive birth stories out there

 

YOU ARE MORE ALERT

Because your whole world isn’t taken over by extreme pain and distress, you are can pay more attention be alert during your labor.

With my 3rd baby, I didn’t have the chance to get an epidural and I remember literally just flashes of what was going on. The nurse at one point almost yelled at me YOU HAVE GOT TO TAKE A BREATH, BREEEAATTHHHEEEE. 

So I missed being able to know what was going on at all with this last labor and delivery. I definitely liked being able to breathe, focus and talk with my husband and nurses.

 

RELATED: EARLY PREGNANCY SYMPTOMS

 

RISKS:

 

HYPOTENSION (drop in blood pressure)

Epidurals can cause a drop in blood pressure due to the anesthetic used because it blocks the nerves that regulate blood pressure. 

Unfortunately, this is one of the most common side effects. However, because this is known, preventative measures are taken before getting the epidural to combat the low blood pressure.

 

HEADACHE FROM LEAKING SPINAL FLUID

This is called a post dural puncture and the chances of it happening are about 1 in 200. It will clear up on it’s own in a couple of weeks after delivery however, it it’s really bad, you may have to go in for a procedure called an epidural blood patch where they take blood and inject it near the puncture so that it will clot and heal.

 

LABOR MAY TAKE LONGER

There was a study done in 2014 that found labor could be up to 2 hours longer for women who had an epidural vs those who did not.

It can also increase the pushing phase by 15 minutes.

 

RELATED: HOW TO INDUCE LABOR NATURALLY

 

BEING NUMB AFTER DELIVERY

Every woman is different and can experience varying degrees of numbness for varying degrees of time. With my daughter I could barely walk and was slightly numb for a couple hours after delivery.

With my son, I could stand and take a shower after nursing him for an hour after delivery with no issues and no need for assistance.

 

EPIDURALS MAY AFFECT BREASTFEEDING

The evidence is unclear on how much of an affect they can have. Some of the things they may affect are:

  • Delay of milk coming in- this study showed that women who had an epidural were 1-2 times more likely to notice a delay.
  • Dulling your baby’s feeding behavior- normally they are alert for 1-2 hours right after birth but medication from the epidural can dull their senses.
  • Swelling of breast tissue due to the IV fluids needed for the epidural which can make it harder for them to latch.

All this being said-

I’ve had two epidurals. With my first baby, I did have a rough time with breastfeeding but I did not think it was from the epidural. I’m pretty sure it’s because it was my first baby and I had no idea what I was doing.

With my son and second epidural, I had ZERO trouble with latching and breastfeeding.

I think it’s important that you know the risks, be prepared and get ready for anything.

 

RELATED: HOW TO BREASTFEED (LIKE YOU’VE DONE IT BEFORE)

 

Here’s some perspective for you-

Every time you get in your car to go somewhere, you have a 1 in 103 chance of being in a car accident. That’s not to scare you. Anything you do involves risk.

Epidurals have been improved tenfold since they first came about and for the most part, you will be just fine!

Honestly, going through a labor and birth without one was not something I wanted to do. But, I didn’t have a choice and now that it’s over and done, I can actually say I’m super proud I did it. So if you get an epidural, great and if you don’t, great!

You know the risks involved and I wish you an empowered birthing experience, no matter what your decision ❤