If you’re considering an epidural to help manage the pain of childbirth, you’re not alone. More than 60 percent of women delivering at hospitals elect for an epidural during labor. And with good reason: An epidural is considered one of the safest methods of pain control, with just one in 3,000 pregnancies experiencing serious complications. It’s also good for you, since you’ll remain awake and alert during the birth, as well as for your baby, since the drugs will barely reach your bloodstream (so they can’t get into hers).
Jessi Klein makes a strong point about the pressure some women feel to give birth naturally in a society that doesn’t want them to be natural in most other ways. But instead of encouraging women to get the epidural, we should be empowering them to make their own choices, and ensure that our hospitals and society respect them.
It is not fully understood exactly why epidurals prolong labor, but experts speculate that the drug relaxes the pelvic muscles and the woman has less urge to push.
The modern epidural — a powerful combination of painkillers used to help women endure labor — is nothing like the painkillers of generations past.
I decided to go "natural" not in a "feminine" way, but in a "your mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother all have done it before you, so shut up now and get it over with" way. Not "natural" because it felt kumbaya and National Geographic of me, but natural because I couldn't be bothered with putting up with any side effect, rather than none at all. In an example of what matters for some and may not matter for others, the aftermath of the birth was very important to me. Knowing that after giving birth without meds, my body's ability to start functioning normally relatively soon was reassuring.
Haven’t we all experienced the common blame game in OB? Patient may not even have an epidural but the nurse would still call you to evaluate thinking automatically the post-dural puncture headache. If patients have epidural placed, the assumption of PDPH is even higher. However, we the OB anesthesia providers know the headache of an OB patient is not always the result of post-dural puncture.
Let me start by saying that I am not against medical interventions when they are needed. What I am against is when these interventions are spoon fed to us without even an explanation of what they are or what they can potentially do.
So, on the one hand, my decision to have an epidural-free childbirth was insane. On the other hand, I was raised in Vermont. Most of my friends were born at home.
Everyone has a different pain tolerance. Different people have different ideas about their ideal birth experience. Everyone has a different risk-benefit ratio.
Epidurals have risks, but it is important to put those risks in perspective to make an educated choice. Driving a car has risks. Pregnancy has risks.
Regardless, health care providers who speak ill of epidurals are uninformed and I have to ask what they are really afraid of? A unmedicated delivery is not better in any medical sense it’s simply a choice. To make an informed choice you need facts not fear.
In Westernized countries, roughly 50–70% of birthing women have epidurals for pain relief. Research on who gets an epidural and why draws a profile very similar to the people who were taking drugs in the ’70s.
But here’s the thing: If you’re worried that skipping the pain of childbirth means you’re somehow cheating your baby, or yourself, you’re not. Because the truth is, life offers more than enough pain that you will not be able to skip.