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Mothering › Groups › December 2012 Due Date Club › Discussions › Epidural pros and cons

Epidural pros and cons

post #1 of 30
Thread Starter 
This is our first baby, I was born in Eastern Europe, all women in my family have natural births (in the hospital) without the epidural or other pain killers, as a matter of fact epidural is not approved in many countries in Europe. I am just freaked out by a needle being poked into my spine, that's enough to turn me off from it. Seems like many women in this forum prefer to have a natural birth. I want to try that too ( in the hospital setting). Does anyone know if u need to talk to your doc about that before hand? Also,what are the pros and cons of getting an epidural. My husband had to get an epidural with his hip surgery and says I should get it too, and not suffer through pain. Would love to hear opinions of other mamas.
post #2 of 30
Definitely talk to your doctor about that. I suggest you do a search for "birth plans" and you'll see some of the considerations other families have communicated to their birth team regarding epidurals and a bunch of other things.

Also most hospitals offer a class/tour so you can learn about the facility before you have the baby. I recommend going to the hospital's class even if you plan a natural birth and take another natural childbirth education class (Bradley method, hypnobabies, and birthing from within are three kinds of classes that you'll hear about in natural birth circles). That way you'll learn some good coping techniques at your natural birth class and also have a good idea of what your hospital's policies and normal procedures are.

I think one of the pros of epidurals is that sometimes women labor naturally for days and get exhausted. In that case an epidural can give mom a chance to rest and continue on. Two friends of mine had that experience and the epidural was a really humane choice at that point.

The cons as I understand them, starting with mom, are that they don't always work, sometimes they only numb one side of the body, they can wear off leaving mom in more pain than she would have been in if her body had felt everything up until then and ramped up her own natural oxytocin a little bit at a time (it's really amazing how our bodies are naturally designed to chemically manage the sensations of birth!), or the epidural might not wear off at all before it's time to push causing mom to push too zealously and tear herself, some women also get a "spinal headache" afterwards if there was a problem with how it was administered. And you can't walk or move around during labor so your options for changing positions are really limited. Moms with epidurals are also monitored continually so you're literally tied to the bed with wires and machines. All these interventions can lead to the need (or perceived need) for more interventions. It's a cascade that often results in Cesarean birth.

That's just mom. The drugs also affect the baby. That was what convinced my DH that no-meds was the way to go. We watched a video where babies whose moms didn't have drugs were born super alert and crawled right to the breast on their own. In contrast, babies who were born with pain meds in their systems were much less alert. Sorry I can't find a link that shows it. Maybe someone else has a clip to share?

I can totally understand a husband not wanting his wife to suffer. But really, birth doesn't have to be suffering. One of my fiends describes contractions as "orgasms of pain", they don't last forever. When they feel like PAIN that's a reminder to change what you're doing, or to check in with fears that may be coming up.
post #3 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by cieloazul View Post


I can totally understand a husband not wanting his wife to suffer. But really, birth doesn't have to be suffering. One of my fiends describes contractions as "orgasms of pain", they don't last forever. When they feel like PAIN that's a reminder to change what you're doing, or to check in with fears that may be coming up.

YES to this!

I was one of those scenarios of compassionate epidural--I labored for 60 hours HARD, not prodromal. I was exhausted and not going to be able to actually birth my daughter without some much needed respite from the labor. I chose to leave home and have an epidural, I went to hospital got an epidural, declined ALL other interventions offered and took a nap, a glorious 3 hour nap. Then I woke up and asked for the epidural to be turned down, to which they though I was crazy, but did it anyways. After a few more hours of increasing labor I asked for the epidural to be removed to which they insisted that I needed a cesarean because my baby was too big for me to birth, yet a full 9 hours after I had arrived I vaginally birthed my DD with the epi out. I am thankful that this was available to me, but I would never plan to use it again. The major thing that we were affected from the epi use was breastfeeding challenges {that lasted months afterwards} and a big feeling of disconnect from my daughter that greatly affected bonding and IMO set the course for PPD for months afterwards. It was a big deal--even though I needed it--we didn't escape the effects. 

When there is no reason for an epidural it should not be used. There are MANY risks that doctors don't talk about or minimize. Def. do your research it is a much bigger deal than our culture makes it out to be.

post #4 of 30

Epi has been show to slow your labor, reduce your ability to feel which stops you from being able to push naturally with your body and crosses your placenta to the baby. I have never talked to my doc just started I did not want one at all. I have had 6 babies with out an dpi, and even with my 9 1/2lb sone with no dpi and no really drugs at all, it was less pain then kidney stones. I would never do surgery with out pain meds but child birth isn't surgery(typically) it is a natural process that nature has equipped us to handle.

Just my point of view specially agree with the not being able to push natural and longer labors after 2 with one and 6 without one. I was young and pushed into things with my 1st and no way to look anything up since internet wasn't big when she was born in the late 90's and I didn't live in a natural area.

post #5 of 30

You may want to look into meeting with a few doulas (with your husband!) because I often find (as a doula) that one of my most important jobs is reassuring the partner who is having a hard time seeing his (her) beloved in pain.  It is very hard for a mama whose partner is saying "just get the epi" to resist it in the moment of labor.  But when I can say to the partner, 'she is coping beautifully, this is what labor should sound like, push here, that's helping' etc. then mama and partner can work together much more strongly.

 

I would also say that there is a difference between pain and suffering.  I have never felt I was suffering for more than maybe a few minutes in my three unmedicated labors (total 32+ hours).  And so I never considered having an epi (I was at home, too, so getting one would have required getting in a car and driving somewhere - which I'm pretty sure would exacerbate suffering!)  As a doula I do my best to help my mamas stay in a place where labor is pain and not suffering, but I do not at all judge any of them for choosing an epi if they are experiencing suffering for whatever reason.  

 

But everything others have said above is true.  So there are many reasons to choose a natural birth.

post #6 of 30

IMO the needle from an epidural is tolerable, but the risks associated and labor management terrify me. Def prepare for a drug free birth if that's your wish. Labor and birth are intense as any transformation would be, but I don't believe women have to suffer. 

post #7 of 30
Talk with your husband and your doctor - just say plainly that you've going to be vulnerable to suggestion and want this to be your decision based on your sensations, but that if you're in enough pain you HAVE to have an epidural, you'll ask for one! Ask them to please not offer. ;) An epidural is not a failure, but it does have risks associated with it for both mother and baby. If you are able to avoid one, all the better.
post #8 of 30
YES to what everyone is saying! There is just so many risks that the epidural brings. Not only can it interfere with nursing, but can also have really scary complications. I had one with my first and five years later, I still have scare tissue on my spine. It gives me an instant headache if I lay on my stomach on a hard surface. Sucky. But, I chose to be uniformed with that pregnancy, and if I hadn't, I don't know if I would be the same birthy mama I am today. Good for you for asking questions and researching!
post #9 of 30

Seconds to everything everyone has said. Another big side effect is called 'epidural fever' - many women after having an epi develop a low-grade fever. The issue there is that you are then separated from your baby if in a hospital, because they don;t want you to get him/her sick. Which interferes greatly with breastfeeding & bonding - some hospital won;t even allow mamas to BF with a fever, which means your baby must be fed formula. Especially in the first few days of life, this is a really bad situation (research 'pristine gut' for more info).

 

I agree with Mamabeakley - my 3 births have included 9 days of prodromal labor, and 57 1/2 hours of active labor - and not a moment of suffering. Plenty of pain, but birth pain has a purpose - and getting your DH on the page of understanding that purpose will have him be much more available to support you in the process.

post #10 of 30

With my first child, I was in the same situation as you are.  DH and everyone I knew wanted me to have an epidural because they saw no reason to be in unnecessary pain.  So, I had an epidural with my first.  Neither my baby or I tolerated it well.  I would definitely research the pros and cons, especially since the average pregnancy book describes epidurals as safe without (IPO) adequately discussing the risks.

 

With my second, I had a natural birth in a hospital.  The difference was night and day.  I am planning to give birth naturally again.  I would definitely recommend talking with your doctor about this.  The doctor I initially saw during my last pregnancy was actually against natural birth and insistent that mothers "need something" during labor.  Obviously, I found someone else.

post #11 of 30

Prepare for a drug free birth and educate yourself beforehand. Prepare to forgive yourself if your plan goes haywire. 

 

I hoped for a natural birth with my first. I always wondered if the epi I grudgingly agreed to (after 27 hours of back labor with a posterior baby) caused DDs heartrate to crash. This ultimately was the cause of my c-section. This time, I don't care what I have to do or how I feel... I'm not getting one. Period. I'm in the process of hiring a doula that specializes in VBAC and switched midwifery groups. Hopefully that helps. I hope you get the birth you want!!

post #12 of 30

I just wanted to add this - not really a risk, but something to think about. Though she is a rarity, my sister has very quick labors (first was about 8 hours, second was less than 3). By the time she got to the hospital when she was having my niece, she was already 8 centimeters dilated and was not able to get the epidural she was planning on. She had not prepared mentally or emotionally at all for experiencing unmedicated labor and it was pretty traumatic for her. She did an amazing job, but she says now that she wishes that she hadn't been so sure that she was going to get that epidural.

post #13 of 30
Personally, the thought an epidural scares me far more than the pain of birth. If a natural birth is your goal, it's really, really important to prepare yourself by reading as much as you can, taking classes and/or watching birth videos. The book Ina May's Guide to Childbirth is a great place to start. I'll be re-reading that this pregnancy, for sure!

I can say from experience that there are ways your body can be in pain that are worse than a normal, uncomplicated birth. Western society holds up childbirth as the ultimate level of pain, but the fear we build up makes the pain feel far worse than it needs to. A doula is a great idea, and even though I had 95% of the birth I wanted and was able to stay in control of every contraction but one, I wish I had hired a doula for my first birth.

We still have many months in front of us to prepare our minds for labour and birth. I'm looking forward sharing resources with each other. smile.gif
post #14 of 30

I know someone already said this but I just want to second it!  Find a doula!!!!!  They will not replace your husband but are so amazing to have around to calm both you and your husband.  I would also suggest a good birth class.  Hospital birth classes are only good for teaching you hospital policy not what natural birth is like.  I would highly suggest hypnobabies or hypnobirthing to help you and your husband with any fears you may have and to also give you some really great tools for coping in birth.  Like others have said it is pain with a purpose not suffering.

post #15 of 30
Thread Starter 

Since this is my first pregnancy (that has gotten this far) my knowledge about pregnancy and birth is very  limited. I will definitely read Ina May's Guide to Childbrith, but can someone tell me what are the primary functions of a doula, can you have one even if you are plannign a hospital birth? How do you even begin looking for one? I live in the suburbs of Washington DC, so if anyone is from this area and has any recommendations please let me know! What does it cost to hire one?

post #16 of 30

Doulas range in cost from area to area, so you will have to do some research to answer that question.

The role of a doula is to be a support person in birth - many are trained in massage, all are trained in understanding labor, natural pain relief, and how to help women have the birth they planned. Knowing you, and understanding what you want for a birth, is a big part of what they do.

 

Doulas are even MORE necessary in a hospital birth than at home or a birth center - they will often be the only person who understands everything that is going on, and is there to advocate solely for YOU (not hospital policies, etc). My aunt is a phenomenal L&D nurse - in a hospital that is award winning for their birth outcomes - and she says she recommends women hire a doula because you need someone who is there JUST for you (your nurse may have 3-4 other patients to help at once!). Finally, ask your doctor if he/she is OK with your having a doula present - if they say no, find a new doctor . seriously - the only reason they would say no is because they want to be in control, and that is NOT the person you want on your team.
 

post #17 of 30

tetiana -  This might be an interesting website to check out...http://www.dona.org Keep in mind of course that there are also lots of great doulas out there who are not affiliated with this organization. Like Sego said, the cost varies form place to place. I'd add that there is also variability in cost within a given area. When I lived in San Diego, for example, the cost ran from free (for a volunteer doula that you would not meet until the birth) up to $1500+. Ours was around the middle of that range, and worth every penny. If you decide to hire a doula, I suggest you and your partner interview several before you decide on one. You want someone with whom you both have good chemistry. And ask them about the support they provde before and after the bith as well as during labor. Some doulas will meet with you a few times beforehand to prepare for labor, or will be around afterwards to help get breastfeeding established.

post #18 of 30

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Edited by nhklh - 11/13/13 at 10:05pm
post #19 of 30
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Edited by nhklh - 11/13/13 at 10:05pm
post #20 of 30
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by cieloazul View Post

tetiana -  This might be an interesting website to check out...http://www.dona.org Keep in mind of course that there are also lots of great doulas out there who are not affiliated with this organization. Like Sego said, the cost varies form place to place. I'd add that there is also variability in cost within a given area. When I lived in San Diego, for example, the cost ran from free (for a volunteer doula that you would not meet until the birth) up to $1500+. Ours was around the middle of that range, and worth every penny. If you decide to hire a doula, I suggest you and your partner interview several before you decide on one. You want someone with whom you both have good chemistry. And ask them about the support they provde before and after the bith as well as during labor. Some doulas will meet with you a few times beforehand to prepare for labor, or will be around afterwards to help get breastfeeding established.

Thank you so much for your recommendation, great website! I was able to find quite a few doulas in my area throught  dona.org, now just need to find out if my doc is ok with me having a doula at birth.

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