Thursday, March 20, 2014

Epidural Or Not?

So many women have concerns about the pain associated with labor and delivery.  When it is your first time having a baby, just about everything is unknown.  With pregnancy, labor, and delivery, you could be on your fifth kid and there will still be so many unknowns because every experience is different.  There are some women that will get through labor and delivery without any pain med at all and say it wasn’t so bad.  Some women need the pain relief and find it excruciating.  Every woman has a different pain tolerance.  For those women who do not want pain medication and go all natural, I have an enormous respect for you!  I wish I had been that strong, but for me it just was not going to happen.  For those of you who feel they want the pain relief, there is no shame in that.  If there are the resources available why suffer if it is unbearable for you.  Remember, you are the only one who know what you are feeling.  That being said, I just want to educate you a little bit further on your options and clear up a few misconceptions.

As with anything, before you move forward with something you should know all the facts.  Talking it out with your doctor or midwife to know your options is your first step.  If pain relief is something you are considering, you need to know what questions to ask. Here are a few questions to think about asking your doctor or midwife while considering any pain relief:
What are the different methods of pain relief available to me?
How will an epidural affect the baby?
Is there any instance I won’t be able to have an epidural?
What are the advantages and disadvantages to having an epidural?
What are any possible side effects?
What are the risks?
How is an epidural given?
How long before it begins to work?
Will it wear off?
Will I be able to move once the epidural is placed?
At what point of labor can I have an epidural?
Is it painful?

There are so many misconceptions about epidurals.  I am guilty of this myself.  I assumed so many things about epidurals going into my pregnancy when I couldn’t possibly have known.  I just want to discuss some of the things assumed about epidurals but aren’t ever really clarified.

The needle is humongous and is more painful than contractions.
This is false.  It is no more painful than having an IV inserted.  The most difficult thing about having an epidural is the possibility that you may have a contraction during the process and you must hold still.  The needle portion is about 1 minute, just long enough to insert the catheter, which is the size of pencil lead.  An epidural is inserted in your back, so for you to see the needle and know exactly what is going on back there is highly unlikely.  Make sure you breath through it, but truly the most painful part is possibly having a contraction during the process.

You are there for hours because you can’t feel anything and won’t be able to push.
Again, false.  Epidurals do help ease the pain, but they do not paralyze you.  You can feel the pressure that urges you to push.  One common thing I have found with other women’s experience, is they expect to feel absolutely nothing.  When the epidural is in and there is still a bit of discomfort, they ask for a higher dose because they are still in pain.  This is where the issue of not feeling comes in.  You wont completely feel nothing with an epidural.  If you know this going in, it will help.

You must wait until you are 5 to 7 cm before you can have an epidural.
This really depends on your doctor, but not likely.  You can ask at any point, normally around 3 cm you are able to have an epidural.  You can always ask!  One thing women don’t realize is that you are able to have the catheter placed and the medication later.  Having an epidural will help your body relax allowing your body to do what needs to be done.  For some women, they are in such pain and the anxiety is so high, the body can not relax to dilate and then there is complication.

I want to share my own experience, not to freak anyone out, but so you are aware of the reality of pain relief.  I went through an induction process so I had pain relief and medication.  I did have an epidural around 4-5 cm when I was brought down to delivery.  I absolutely could feel the sensation of needing to push when it came time.  As I was nearing the point of no return, my epidural wore off.  I want you to know this because there is no guarantee that an epidural will work 100%.  I will say I did not feel 1 contraction once I had the epidural, which, at least in my own experience, the contractions were worse than giving birth.  If you chose to have pain relief stay informed as much as you can.  Try not to blindly go in.  Ask questions, and keep an open mind.

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