One of the things that might keep you up at night during your pregnancy, besides restlessness, discomfort, and the constant urge to pee, is worrying about labor and Epidurals. This is especially true if you’re expecting your first child and have absolutely no idea what it feels like to go into labor. So you start building up the fear, and based on movie depictions you imagine a screaming, cursing, sweaty woman in agony. Or you’ll lend an ear to members of your family; the women that gave birth during a time where pain medication was either not readily available or not as advanced as it is now. So you imagine being in labor for 20 hours like many of our relatives.
Well, times have changed, and your options are plenty. Besides, preparing for delivery should be about packing a hospital bag, and finalizing your baby prep, not freaking out about labor pains!
So, if you’re expecting and find yourself wondering about labor and epidurals, then this is for you.
Commons Myths about Epidurals
1| An Epidural Can Cause Paralysis
“If the doctor does not administer it in the right way, you could become paralyzed from the waist down”. we’ve all heard it, and if you haven’t then consider yourself lucky and pay absolutely no attention to this myth about epidurals. It was common thought that epidurals could result in paralysis, but most practitioners have now dismissed that. It CAN happen but it’s not likely, and it’s definitely not something to consider in your decision.
2| You have to get an epidural in the beginning before it’s too late
There’s no such thing as too late. The issue here would be that by the time you decide to have one. And by the time the anesthesia is ready, you’ll have experienced so much pain. More importantly, while administering the epidural, doctors will require you to sit perfectly still, which might be impossible when you’re experiencing contractions and extreme pain!
3| It will lead to permanent and chronic back pain
Again, there is no concrete evidence to prove this statement. But while you’re not likely to experience chronic back pain after an epidural, for a few days after delivery you might still feel some sort of pain in the spot where the epidural was given.
4| The epidural may have lasting effects on the baby
There’s actually no conclusive evidence on this statement. Especially since unlike other forms of pain relief that are given through injections into the bloodstream like morphine, an epidural is localized in your back.
Potential Side-effects & Things to consider
Epidural anesthesia is one of the most commonly used, and most effective method of pain relief for labor. There are two types of epidurals, a low dose infusion epidural, and a spinal anesthetic. The latter is a one-time shot that will wear off gradually and is usually it is given before planned surgeries. The former is a low-dose constant infusion, so you’ll be able to increase the dose depending on your pain threshold.
Getting an epidural may increase the time spent in the second stage of labor, the pushing part,. And may increase your chances of an assisted birth. Induced labor is becoming more and more common, and the contractions resulting from Pitocin (used to induce labor). Many claim that they are much stronger and much more painful.
Epidurals can also cause a drop in blood pressure, which may effect the circulation of oxygen to the baby, causing the baby’s heartbeat to slow. Other potential side-effects include a severe headache, itching and shaking.
What will it feel like?
Your anesthesiologist will ask you to sit upright, and will place a needle in your lower back. You’ll of course feel the prick of the needle but that’s about it.
For most women, the pain relief is almost instant and almost completely effective.
But for others, while it’ll help numb the pain of labor. The experience still won’t be 100% pain-free. Contractions will feel similar to period cramps simply because it’s not magic! So you might expect some discomfort. That being said, it’s nothing like going through it without an epidural. You’ll still feel something, which will allow you to do all the pushing necessary to bring your bundle of joy into the world. And hopefully, you won’t be screaming in agony and can instead enjoy every minute leading up to the moment where you meet your precious baby for the first time.