>Why get an epidural?

9:11 AM

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An Epidural performed for childbirth.An epidural being administered before childbirth.
I consistently fail to understand why any woman would willingly commit to an epidural while in labor (besides any possible health issues). The only conclusion I can draw is that women are not properly educated by their doctors on the risks that are involved in receiving an epidural or the benefits that come with natural labor.

First and foremost, there's the most obvious risk - a lifetime of back problems. This happens a lot more often than we are often told. The proof can be found by talking to any woman that's had an epidural. The majority of them will tell you they have had back problems ever since. To my understanding this happens due to misplacement of the injection site. You're getting something directly injected in to your spine - of course if they miss by a fraction of a centimeter chances are there are going to be complications that arise from that.

Then there's the fact that an epidural interferes with the natural labor process. Women who receive epidurals are a lot more likely to end up having to get their labor induced or getting a C section. They almost always end up having a longer labor than they would have had if they had gone more natural. This is because since an epidural numbs the entire lower half of the body, the woman is not very likely to receive the signals her body sends her to help her prepare for birth such as the urge to rock her hips around in order to open up her pelvis. If she does not experience these signals her labor is lengthened because without her help to speed things up it takes her body a lot longer to get itself ready for birth. The longer labor takes, the more likely inducement or a C section becomes. Inducement involves non-stop, intense contractions that often makes the woman too tired to deliver naturally and C sections are rather risky just because they're highly invasive.

There's also the risk of an epidural interfering with the birthing process itself. In these cases it is necessary to use a vacuum or forceps to get the baby out because the woman is unable to push the baby out. These both carry risks of brain damage and at the very least the baby's head is likely to be bruised or misshapen from their usage.

Last but not least, there's blood pressure risks and probably a dozen risks associated with improper injection including paralysis and death.

Of course I know that many women opt for an epidural because they're afraid of the pain associated with labor. What they don't seem to realize though (and their doctors don't seem to tell them) is that there are many effective and natural ways of managing the pain, many of which their body cues them in on while they are in labor and others that any midwife could teach them (midwives BTW are covered on most insurance plans that I know of). Additionally there are benefits that come with natural labor that you just don't get with an epidural. Perhaps one of the biggest benefits is the huge adrenaline rush you get after giving birth that makes you feel energetic, happy, and content. There's also the factor that pushing itself feels good and labor itself goes quickly if the woman pays attention and follows through with the signals and urges her body gives her.

The biggest benefit of all though is that you aren't just an observer of your labor, you are an active participant. You don't just lay in bed and wait for the baby to come; you get up and move around, you work on opening up your pelvis so as to speed up the labor process, you are free to do what ever you want to do to help speed up the process and/or relieve your pain. When I was in labor I was lucky enough to have a jacuzzi (one of the comforts you can get only in a birth center) and I found that leaning up against one of the jets where it was shooting water directly on to my lower spine took away all of the labor pain. It was also pretty nice and relaxing to sit in a warm whirlpool after dealing with the mass confusion that comes with the realization that a baby is finally on the way.

My labor was exactly 3 1/2 hours long, including the birth itself (which took 10 minutes of pushing). Observation has taught me that this is a very short labor period in comparison to women that go the epidural route (and any woman that has had a baby knows the less time it takes the better - not only does it mean dealing with less pain but it also means less exhaustion as well). I remember every bit of it fondly and am extremely grateful that I got to experience it all. To be honest, at the very root of it all it puzzles me why any mother would not want to fully experience the birth of her child. Yes, there is pain, but it seems like the most beautiful and wonderful things in life are always accompanied by some amount of pain and the joy brought from such experiences always is so great that it makes the pain experienced seem completely irrelevant and totally worth every bit of it. Going further, once one does their research and finds all the risks associated with an epidural, it seems rather selfish and cruel to be willing to face those risks to yourself and most importantly your baby just so you don't have to deal with the natural pain that accompanies childbirth.

It's like epidurals are viewed as being risk free miracles of medical science rather than the invasive and risky medical procedures they are. Something really peculiar about this is how it is stressed so much how drugs are to be avoided as much as possible during pregnancy with nothing stronger than Tylenol being approved and then at the end most people don't see any problem with shooting up a powerful anesthetic. Umm... you're still technically pregnant until the umbilical cord is cut!

It's no real biggie - after all, it's a personal decision and no one is forcing an epidural down my own throat - but it still really puzzles me as to why so many women opt for it like it's nothing. Maybe they're so miserable from 9 months of pregnancy they tend to look forward to the relief an epidural promises and overlook the risks associated with that relief?

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4 comments

  1. >Unfortunately, not all women have the option of choosing a natural child birthing experience.

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  2. >This is directed towards women that DO have a choice, as stated in the first sentence: "I consistently fail to understand why any woman would willingly commit to an epidural while in labor (besides any possible health issues)."

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  3. >wish i would have known this before i got an epidural. i pushed for 4 hours and the baby wouldnt come out all the way the dr. had to vacuum him out.

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  4. >I'm sorry to hear you had to go through that... I hope you and your child are okay now. Yes, a lot of the women I have talked to that opted for epidurals were not told all the risks associated with them by their doctors. I don't know if the doctors expected them to already know or just wanted to keep them from as much worry as possible but to me it is wrong to with hold information like that from someone, especially when such high risks can be involved (like paralysis). I wonder if there have been any lawsuits in which someone was not informed and suffered one of the more severe risks... ?

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