Preparation to avoid an epidural - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 20 Old 09-28-2013, 08:53 AM - Thread Starter
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Hi Mamas, I'd love to hear your feedback about preparation....books...classes...workshops....anything else etc I can do to have avoid an epidural.


I'm p/g with # 2.  For DS1, I had a doula and laboured at home home for as long as possible.  But then I was completely overwhelmed and frightened by how quickly the pain became intense and opted for an epidural.  I arrived at the hospital at around midnight but it turned out there were several emergency c-sections that night, so I didn't my epidural for about 4 hours, at which time I was nearly fully dilated.  Then it was just a couple more hours until my son was born.


In retrospect, if I was of sounder/stronger frame of mind, and had a sense that the birth was so close, I would have declined the epidural - since I had already coped with the pain using deep breathing and the doula's counter pressure.  But truthfully, once I decided I wanted the epi, I was completely consumed by it.


I found the epi was so cumbersome - all those wires and tubes and being tethered to the bed on my back.  I felt like a trapped animal.  Plus it was hard to feel the urge to push. My feet and legs were completely swollen for a few days afterwards.


I guess I can discuss this experience with my doula to be and develop some strategies for the birth of #2.


Any other ideas?

40 y/o married Mama, 3 y/o DS, Angel Baby lost in Sep 2013, Angel Baby lost March 2014.
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#2 of 20 Old 09-28-2013, 12:38 PM
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I was induced with my first . When they cranked up that pitosin there was no breathing that was going to make a difference . I went insane with the pain till I got the epidural and had a regular old feel like I have to poo and out he came . There were things I didn't like about it - had the constant urge to pee that even a catheter - which I felt alright !- didn't help. With my second I understood the dangers of pitosin and was able to naturally induce . I was in a birth center and the pain never once came in the same realm as the hospital / induction . Could be the pitosin , the not eating and drinking , being the second . But if it had gotten as bad there would have been no way to breathe through it . Completely different . So with my third , I'm doing the hospital thing and ideally would have no epidural but I'm also not going to beat myself up if it happens . I'll do my best - labor at home as long as possible , tub , staying focused , no pitosin but let's face it - I don't know what my baby or my body is going to throw at me that day and as long as the babe is here and healthy I'll be ok with it . Hope that helps .
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#3 of 20 Old 09-28-2013, 03:40 PM
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Fear of the needle and the drugs really kept me from it with my hospital birth with #1. The last few hours of that birth were pretty bad and I was scared I would need ot to be able to progress, but never wanted it.


With babies 2 and 3, staying out of the hospital meant there was no question whether I would get the epi. Having done it before made it so much easier to do birthing though. I knew what works for me. For me that was staying busy early, then trying to rest until I *had* to move and get upright, bath, low moaning, and rocking. Being alone mostly and staying mentally present and analytical works for me, for some it's the opposite.

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#4 of 20 Old 09-28-2013, 04:47 PM
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Read books that help you have a positive attitude about the birth.  (I mean, it sounds like you more or less already do.)  Just get it in your mind over and over that birth is normal, the pain is okay and TEMPORARY, that you can do it, and you are safe.  Anything by Ina May, Birthing from Within.  Hypnobabies while it didn't help me have a pain free birth, really helped me to have a very positive perspective about pregnancy and labor.  It was still freaking hard, but I never thought about pain relief (other than just getting through it and getting it over with!).

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#5 of 20 Old 09-28-2013, 06:04 PM
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i took bradley classes during my second pregnancy which ended up being so helpful to me during labor.  not only did i learn useful techniques, but our instructor helped me to become very confident (my fist child was born via a c-section) and to trust my body and my baby.


and i concur with Jayray's ina may and birthing from within recommendations.  


finally, the two things that were most helpful in avoiding an epidural were laboring at home as long as possible (by the time we reached the hospital i was already 8 cm) and having an awesome and supportive partner who was constantly reminding me what i wanted and what i didn't when i could no longer think clearly.  he was well aware of my wishes (in all areas) and was great at keeping everyone in the room aware of them when i couldn't.


good luck to you! 

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#6 of 20 Old 09-28-2013, 07:15 PM
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The pain for me was positive, because I knew it was productive and that there would be an end to it. In other words, there was a reason for it, and it would soon end.
I had more concern of the risks of intervention and complications that result from the interventions. The birth part seemed easy in comparison to taking on that risk.
I read so many books, from La Maze to Bradley, Active birth, Getting through Birth in One Piece, nothing really hit home for me like Ina May Gaskin though. From then on I had a visual of what my body had to do. Ha! And I moaned low and guttural, my husband said that our home sounded like a haunted house.
Sphincter law, as Ina May Gaskin calls it. Keep them loose and relaxed.

Ironically, I went to the hospital early, 10 am in the morning convinced I was in labor, had my first cervical check, as I had declined all others during pregnancy, and was told ' nothing, not even dilated half an inch'. Then the nurse proceeded to say " If you would like a natural birth then labor at home as long as possible". So I did. Came back 8 hours later, at 7 cm dilated, an hour later fully dilated and ready to push. Hardly had time for the birth pool to fill.

So to echo what others have said, reading Ina May Gaskin and laboring at home as long as possible were very helpful.
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#7 of 20 Old 09-28-2013, 07:34 PM
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I found Ina May Gaskin's book and the Husband Coached Childbirth to be invaluable, that and my birthing tub. I'm hoping they work again this time.
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#8 of 20 Old 09-28-2013, 07:55 PM
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I took Bradley classes and worked on relaxing through contractions--for me that meant spending a lot of labor on the toilet, as I felt like I could only really "relax" in a situation where if I, well, relaxed, it wouldn't be a problem. My thought process as far as the epidural kind of took experiences like yours into account. I thought, well, if I ask for an epidural, it may take a while to get the anesthesiologist here, and by the time I get it it may be too late to really be worth bothering with anyway, so let's just see how it goes without one and if it really drags on I can get one later. And I didn't end up needing one. My labor wasn't that long. I don't think epidurals are the devil at all. I think they're a godsend in long labors and/or when the baby is in a bad position (I don't know from personal experience, but based on stories from friends) but it seems like if you don't get one really early and labor is clipping along, the wait to get one can end up kind of obviating the need. I would just probably remember your last birth and keep the scenario in your head of, it might take a while, do I want to ask for one now so that I can have one later, or do I want to see if I can keep going without one? I don't think either answer is bad. It sounds like you are aware of the pros and cons of both options and can make a decision at the time that's best for you. 


I'm pretty confident that if my next birth goes like my last one or is faster that I'll have the thought process of "It hardly seems worth bothering, I know this won't take THAT long." I too would take a certain amount of increased pain in exchange for not being hooked up to tubes and wires. 

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#9 of 20 Old 09-29-2013, 09:55 AM
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I did Bradley classes, read Ina May, etc.  In the end, the only thing that prevented me from getting an epidural (I think) was my doctor.  After intense back labor and both my doula and me thinking I had hit transition, we headed to the hospital only to find out I was only 2cm dilated.  Instead of giving me the option of an epidural (which, considering the pain I was in, I can't say for sure I wouldn't have taken), my doctor told me she could hook me up to morphine and one other painkiller and send me home.  We were all convinced by that point that even though I'd been in full labor for 14 hours, the baby wasn't coming any time soon (my water hadn't broken, so going home was still an option).  By the time we got to the room where they were going to put the IV in, I had dilated to an 8.  I felt like I'd made such progress and my doc didn't want to slow it down, so we didn't end up getting the drugs.  I had a doula and a Bradely educated partner, but both of them told me to accept the drugs given the pain and the time frame.  Ultimately, I had a wonderful natural birth, but it was HARD.  I really think with a more epidural-friendly doctor I would have just gone that route (and totally regretted it). 


I think partners and doulas are super super important, but for me the most important factor was a hands-off doctor who took the least-interventionist approach. 


(I also labored in the tub, which was the only thing that kept me from begging for a c-section after drugs were off the table).

Beautiful baby girl born 8/13/2012. Little star baby lost at 10 weeks pregnant, 12/18/2013. Currently due 12/13/2014 with a rainbow.
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#10 of 20 Old 10-01-2013, 04:39 AM
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Hypnobirthing, labouring in water, tens machine were what I used.

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#11 of 20 Old 10-01-2013, 09:17 AM
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I think a lot of what got me through was knowing that by the time I wanted to break down, it would be essentially "too little, too late". I also knew that it was going to be far easier to psyche myself up to get through 20 seconds of the 'bad part' than it was going to be to psyche myself up to get a needle in my spine, after all I was already doing it by the time an epidural even crossed my mind.  Ina May also helped me realize that the contractions would never be stronger than me because my body made them. They aren't an outside force working against me.

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#12 of 20 Old 10-02-2013, 06:12 AM
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I would just read as many positive birth stories and books as you can. I also found the explanation of the birth process in Husband Coached Childbirth especially helpful. I knew with my first birth that I was in transition when I started getting that panicky, I-can't-do-this-anymore feeling so I knew I was near the end and was able to calm myself with that knowledge. Practicing full body relaxation was extremely helpful for me for my first labor, the only times I couldn't fully relax my body was in the car on the way to the hospital, filling out the pre-registration form the hospital lost (!) and the two times they were checking my dilation, otherwise I could relax my body fully and let the contractions do their work and the pain was minimal and not really pain anymore, just intense working muscles. When I was tense or couldn't move where I needed to, oh boy did it hurt! I also think my labor was speedy since I wasn't "fighting" it, only 6 hours long and the first 3-4 hours were very mild contractions, I had worse BH with my twin pregnancy wink1.gif I thought they were finally BH at first as I hadn't felt any with my first pregnancy.

However, I did allow myself the option of an epidural if something out of the ordinary happened. IMO, that is what epidurals are there for, if you have really bad back labor, if you have to get induced and the pitocin contractions don't give you breaks in between, etc. I know some folks don't allow themselves even this out, but it was important for me.
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#13 of 20 Old 10-06-2013, 02:32 PM
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Thanks, Mamas, for all of these posts. I know that I want to have a natural birth, but it seems everyone around me is of the opinion that I 'm crazy for even wanting to participate in that. If I had a dollar for every time someone says "why would you do that to yourself?" I would have a baby college fund. Your support is very helpful to us FTM's who have decided to listen to our bodies instead of the peanut gallery!
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#14 of 20 Old 10-12-2013, 01:15 PM
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I have ready "Natural Hospital Birth" in my preparation not to have an epidural. Needles are NOT my friends and I want to stay away from them as much as possible.

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#15 of 20 Old 11-13-2013, 10:03 PM
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I'm planning an unmediated birth. I'm reading "Birthing from Within" it's a great prep for natural birth. Glad to see your doing well! How are you feeling?
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#16 of 20 Old 11-14-2013, 02:21 AM
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I think having been through it once already will be the greatest asset. I got an (unecessary, it retrospect) epidural at 7 cm because I started to panic and do "labor math" as my doula trainer calls it (well it took me this many hours to get this far, I can't make it x amount of ours longer!). Knowing what I do now I think I could talk myself down better, since you can go from 7 to 10 in a really short amount of time. Also having a doula would have helped me immensely, someone to calm me down and "take charge" so to speak. 


Have a good idea of your specific hospital policies in advance so you aren't surprised by anything. Stay at home as long as you can. Find some comfort measures you think will be most effective for you. Be confident and don't let the hospital staff use fear to manipulate you. I'm sure you'll do amazing!

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#17 of 20 Old 11-16-2013, 10:51 PM
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You can do it! You can do it! You can do it! I would suggest really focusing and believing in the fact that your body was made for birth and is perfectly capable of birthing a baby without an epidural, just like the millions upon millions of women who have birthed throughout history before you!

I've read all the books people mentioned above and recommend them also, as well as a book titled " Journey Into motherhood: Inspirational stories of natural birth." That Is the number one book I give to friends because It was the most Influential In my journey to having a natural birth, even when almost everyone around me was against the Idea and tried to talk to me out of It. It was pretty hard-- as a first time mom-- having other moms, who had gone through the birth process, who I'd like to look up to, say the worst things to try to scare me out of my choice. Anyway, the book I mentioned is simply a collection of women's own personal inspirational birth stories. It really empowered me and I hope it would do the same for you! Don't listen to the nay-sayers! You can absolutely have the type of birth of you want and you deserve it!

Oh I would also add... try to watch as many inspirational birth dvds as you can, too! My midwives had a whole library full of them and I couldn't get enough. Actually seeing other women having these strong, peaceful, beautiful labors and births without Intervention did wonders for my self-confidence and ability to trust to my body.

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#18 of 20 Old 11-18-2013, 11:39 AM
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I would talk to your doula about things she can do to help, questions she can ask you, things she can remind you about. For example, she could ask you if you would like to get checked before deciding on an epidural. If you know you are close, you might know you can keep going without it. She can also remind you of things you have talked about before. When you are in the thick of the pain, it can be hard to think logically and remember things you already know. I would also encourage you to really practice the methods you plan on using to cope. If you are doing meditations or self-hypnosis, spend a good amount of time listening to them. Practice your counterpressure moves and such with your partner. Practice breathing and breathing in different positions. You never know, this labor might be very different from the last one. You have a better idea of what to expect. Good luck!

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#19 of 20 Old 11-18-2013, 06:39 PM
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For me personally, I read Ina May Gaskin over and over. It was so empowering. I also did a lot of mediation so that I could put myself in that mindset easily during birth. I didn't do any classes or anything... I think basically it was just preparing myself mentally.

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#20 of 20 Old 11-24-2013, 11:48 PM
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I want to read ina Mae's book. Haven't gotten my hands on one yet. Watch the business of being born on YouTube. I loved that. Very informative
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