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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Pro's and con's of an epidural

This was  a post I wrote from awhile ago that I thought I'd dig up since I just wrote about supporting breastfeeding and epidurals.  Enjoy:)

December 13, 2008

First off, I should share with you that I am more biased towards a
natural birth, but I certainly understand why women use epidurals and
feel like there is a place for them even for those who would like to
have a natural birth.

Second, I am concerned for the safety and well being of all mothers
and babies, as well as their emotional and psychological state during
birth. Thus, I address both of these issues in this blog.

Ok, so I'm sure everyone knows the biggest reason why you would want
an epidural... pain control. Most people do not like pain. Ok, I don't
know anyone that likes pain. So that is pro number one. An epidural is
an easy fairly routine way to achieve great pain control. It is also
well understood and endorsed in the hospital setting.

It also does not require much effort on your part and it has a high
level of satisfaction. Most women who get epidurals say they would use
them again. I have even heard some who had at first wanted a natural
birth decide to get an epidural and wondered why they didn't do that
in the first place:)

Some problems with these areas, though, are that women tend to get
more frustrated if epidural doesn't take (because sometimes they
don't work well), and studies have shown that satisfaction with labor
has more to do with how in control you feel rather than your level of
pain. So, if not having pain makes you feel in control, then an
epidural would be helpful in that respect.

From my perspective, having watched births, I didn't want the epidural
because it then made it very unlikely that I could move around or feel
like a part of my birth. To me that seemed to give less control. So a
lot of it depends on your own personality and your view of pain and
your body.

There are also some medical reasons to use an epidural. If a mother
has been laboring for a long time and has reached exhaustion, her body
needs a rest. There are ways to do this naturally, but it is hard and
not as well supported in the hospital. At this point an epidural
would be useful from a medical stand point. Sometimes a body just
needs to sleep.

There are also some medical considerations, though, when choosing to
use an epidural. Studies have shown that epidurals can cause a lower
blood pressure, which could cause a decrease blood flow to the baby.
On the other hand, if you usually have high blood pressure, then that
might not be a bad thing.

Epidurals can also cause an increase in body temperature. This can
have effects on both the infant and what the doctors decide to do to
treat the tempurature (ie give antibiotics).

If you have an epidural, you will need a catheter... a tube that is
placed inside to help you pee. This also decreases your mobility.
This catheter may stay inside of you until after the baby is born and
sometimes they have to replace it if it is taking a long time for you
to finally use the bathroom.

Tearing is more common with epidurals. Some studies have also shown
that labors are longer with epidurals. Backaches and headaches after
the baby is born are also more common with epidurals.

The bottom line is, if you can deal with the pain I would absolutely
suggest you try and go natural. It is difficult, though and requires
a lot of help, which hospitals are not always good at giving. An
epidural does make it so that the mother needs more monitoring, it is
difficult to feel what your body is doing so trying to position
correctly is hard, and pretty much you are in bed. These factors all
lead up to needing more interventions from the medical team. You'll
need an IV, the machines are the ones that really tell the nurse what
is going on, and there is a higher instance of forceps use and
vacuums. Most babies and moms do absolutely fine, though, with an
epidural. As long as you understand that getting an epidural will
mean more interventions, and if all this is ok with you and you still
would rather be out of pain, then I would suggest going with the

Keep in mind, that you never know what an experience is like until
you've experienced it. I never thought having natural births could
mean so much to me, but I have found great meaning in my births. To
me, that has been a great blessing. With or without an epidural,
birth can be a wonderful experience as long as you take ownership of
it. Learn what you can, figure out why you want what you want, and
talk to your doctor about what you want and how he is willing to
support you in this. Last of all, take some time to explore your own
fears and ideals of birth and pain. Whether you use an epidural or
not, you can find some insight in doing this.

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Birth is a Journey: Does it have to be life changing?

  • One woman might have to climb on an overfilled boat, risking her life and nearly dying as she escapes over the ocean to come to this land. This experience could certainly be life altering. It may very well color the rest of her life, positively or negatively. (I overcame this amazing struggle and here I am triumphant! OR Holy crap, that was SO hard I don’t know if I can go on! By the way, neither response is “right”. No one would judge the woman with the 2nd response.)
  • One woman may buy an airplane ticket, sit on a comfortable 747 and fly to America with a nice smooth flight and landing. She is happy to be in America. Those welcoming her are glad she is here safe and sound. She may only travel by plane 2-4 times in her life, so it is pretty memorable. But the journey itself probably wouldn’t be life changing; it would simply be a journey.
  • One woman may learn to fly an ultra-light plane to lead a flock of geese into America teaching them to migrate. This experience could certainly be empowering and life altering.