Sunday, April 4, 2010

Getting an Epidural — Is it for You?

So epidurals. If you look anywhere on the Internet, you’re going to find myriad studies that say epidurals do cause labor to slow down and increase the risk of C-sections and fetal distress, and you’re going to find just as many that say the exact opposite. Basically, it’s hard to create an end-all study with so many factors at play, such as obstetrical monitoring, amount and type of medication used, patient factors (which vary a great deal), and investigator bias.

Anyway, this post would be uber long if we went into all those studies here, so my best advice is to do your research and talk to your doctor—and also to refrain from judging other moms who made the opposite choice you did. If you elected natural childbirth, you’re not morally superior to the mom who got an epidural as soon as possible. And if you got an epidural, the natural crowd isn’t crazy. All I’ve got for ya is my opinion and experience, so take from it what you will.

I opted in favor of an epidural for a few reasons, the most important of which I didn’t want to be so exhausted from hours of contractions that I was too zonked out to fully appreciate the arrival of my baby. I was in labor for a long time, and from my experience with the contractions I had before I received my epidural, I knew I would have been completely dead by the time my baby arrived—eighteen hours later. I also wanted to spend the last hours with my husband sans baby in relative peace instead of pain (I know some of you feel that pain is a mental thing, but let’s just agree to disagree on that point.) One other point I’d like to make here: I was super nervous about a big needle being inserted into my back. But it was just the mental image I needed to get past. Reality was totally fine. The anesthesiologist will give you a shot with an itty bitty needle first to numb the area and then give you the epidural. All I felt was the prick of the first needle, and was nothing compared to a contraction.

An epidural was right for me. It helped me feel like myself, and it helped me focus on what was happening around me. It also made contractions a breeze. However, an epidural might not be for you. I’d also like to point out that good advice was given in a previous post—even if you are 100 percent planning on an epidural, be prepared for the possibility (don’t worry, it’s relatively unlikely, but still) that you might not be able to get one if the right combination of events align.


  1. Love your post and that you are not trying to impose your beliefs on anybody. I get really tired of hearing some moms rant about how dangerous epidurals are and all of the info they are repeating is inaccurate. My father has been an OB anesthesiologist for over 2 decades and I constantly hear about all the studies that show the positive outcomes from having an epidural. But in the end, I appreciate your approach. It's a personal decision that shouldn't be shoved in anyone else's face. Thanks for being such a great blogger! - I am a new reader and really enjoy your posts!

  2. I totally plan on having an epidural, and I feel pretty judged by the "all-natural" moms. Oh well.

    For some reason I have been really nervous about getting the actual needle in my back though, so THANK YOU for the reassurance!

  3. I'm so glad that helped! Seriously, I think I spent more time worrying about the needle (I really don't like needles, as I suppose most people don't) than labor itself. I wish someone had told me it was no big deal before I had my baby. After the epidural was placed, I was so relieved that it had been so easy (not to mention that the contractions were now no sweat), I kept looking over and telling my husband "I love epidurals. So much." After I had repeated this oh twenty times he began to be concerned I was getting too much drugs, but really, I was just that relieved :)


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