Epidural or No Epidural: That is the Question

Today I officially start the third trimester.  I can’t believe that in only twelve short weeks we will be a family of four!  I’m so excited to meet my new son or daughter for the first time.

27 Weeks

27 Weeks!

Baby Oliva Ultrasound

I’m happy to say that my pregnancy has been routine thus far.  The baby looks great and besides my extreme nausea that lasted waaaay too long this time, I’ve been healthy.  In the past few weeks I’ve gotten a lot bigger, but I can still put on my socks and shoes so I know I still have a ways to go :) .  My only complaint is the lack of sleep because I wake up 20 times per night…boo.

As my due date approaches I think back to the birth of my son and my not so great experience, and I know I want it be different this time around.

When I was pregnant with Philip I was pretty uneducated about giving birth.  I mean, I did what most first time moms do…I read What to Expect While You’re Expecting, and I had a pregnancy app on my phone.  What I did know for sure was what size my unborn baby was in comparison to a fruit or vegetable each week :) .  I also made sure I knew what foods to eat and what to avoid and how to safely work out.  I had the pregnancy part down.

However, when it came to actually giving birth, I didn’t think twice about it.  I was scared of the unknown…terrified actually of the pain, but what was there to know?  I would go to the hospital when my contractions were consistently five minutes apart, get an epidural when I couldn’t handle the pain, and have my baby.

Why did I automatically assume that I would need an epidural?  I had never given birth before and had no idea what I was in store for.  All I knew is that everyone got them and I probably would too because why be in pain if I didn’t have to, right?  When I was in labor I was handling the contractions just fine at six centimeters dilated and my doctor told me I should get the epidural then because, “it was going to get much worse.”  So I listened to my doctor and got the epidural because I was scared.

Well…after I got the epidural my labor came to a screeching halt and I immediately got a severe headache paired with awful neck pain.  I later found out it was a spinal headache, a side effect of epidural anesthesia, that isn’t entirely uncommon and that I had no idea even existed and that lasted for over two weeks.  It was probably included in the two-page release I signed before they stuck the needle in my spine :/.  Long story short I ended up with a c-section and I hardly remember holding my son when he was born.

Women have given birth since the beginning of time all around the world without epidurals, so why do a staggering 61% of women in the US choose to get one?  I think a huge part of the problem is how our society instills so much fear around the birthing process.  Think about the last movie you saw with a woman giving birth…I’m sure she was screaming bloody murder and swearing at her husband right?

Also, in the west we always fix pain with pain pills.  If you’re sick, take some medicine.  However, what I now realize is that when you’re giving birth, yes you are in pain, but you aren’t sick.  Masking the pain takes away your body’s ability to read the cues that help you deliver your baby.

Look, I’m not saying its all sunshine and rainbows.  Giving birth is painful and it’s hard work.  I’m also not judging you if you choose to get an epidural because I got one too, remember.  I’m just suggesting you do as much research as possible before you make the decision to get an epidural.  Here are a few things I didn’t know the first time around:

Positives:

  • Relief from pain
  • Helps the mother rest and relax
  • Allows a mother to be awake for the birth while having a c-section

Negatives for the Mother:

  • Restricted movement
  • IV and fetal monitoring required
  • Prolonged second stage labor
  • Increased likelihood of bladder catheterization and internal monitoring
  • Epidurals interfere with your body’s natural release of oxytocin, which may affect maternal bonding
  • You are three times more likely to be given Pitocin to increase contractions
  • You are three times more likely to experience forceps/vacuum extraction
  • 160% increase in having a c-section
  • 25% of women will experience itching of the skin
  • 30% of women will experience nausea and vomiting
  • 1/3 will experience shivering
  • 1:100 experience prolonged and/or severe headaches
  • 1:500 ongoing numb patches, usually clearing after 3 months
  • 1:200,000 will be crippled
  • Respiratory insufficiency
  • Allergic shock
  • Toxic drug reactions
  • Neurological complications
  • Backache (week to years)
  • Risk of dural puncture
  • Urinary incontinence or bladder dysfunction
  • Sudden drops in blood pressure
  • Nerve injury

Negatives for the Baby:

  • Direct drug toxicity as the drug’s used in the epidural pass through the placenta
  • Fetal distress (can lead to emergency cesarean)
  • Drowsiness at birth, poor sucking reflex
  • Poor muscle strength and tone in the first hours
  • Neonatal jaundice

(Source)

This is scary stuff and I’m ashamed that I never did my due diligence and researched all of this ahead of time.  This time I say NO to an epidural.  My plan is to go all-natural…

Knowledge is power ladies.

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Comments

  1. lindsayjuarez says

    that’s so awesome! my husband and i have been reading about the bradley method, basically using relaxation to get through the pain. i think it’s completely possible, especially with such a great attitude as yours! good luck!

    • says

      Thanks for reading! I’ve heard great things about the Bradley Method. We are going to take a HypnoBirthing class. You should check that out as well. Good luck with the birth of your baby :) .

  2. Stacy says

    Oh my….I’m scared now! I’m interested in hearing about the HypnoBirthing class. Glad you and the baby are doing well!

    • says

      This post wasn’t meant to scare you and I’m so sorry if it did! I want to educate moms so they can make an informed decision instead of waiting until they are in between contractions to make the decision for an epidural. So many women have epidurals with no side effects to them or their baby but its not the case for everyone.

      I will definitely be talking about HypnoBirthing in future posts!

  3. Elizabeth Crouch says

    Great posting Jess!! I love this personal story and realistic point of view too. Have you read Ina May’s Guide To Child Birth? I’m reading that now and intend on having an all-natural birth for my first baby due December 3rd. EVERYONE tells me I’m crazy….drives me nuts.

    • says

      Hi Elizabeth! Congratulations!!! I’m due December 9th :)
      I haven’t read that one yet but I intend too. We are planning on a natural birth as well and are trying HypnoBirthing. Thanks so much for reading!

  4. says

    Um, yeah… wow. I really needed to see this list in front of me. Thank you for sharing the source… I knew in my heart epidurals are just not as safe as everyone pans them out to be, but this really puts it in perspective.

    And of course I’m sooo late on this but congrats on your baby! Haha.

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