How do you feel about epidurals?

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Epidural during laborContributed by Monica Beyer

The topic of epidurals, I feel, is so totally personal and dependent on a huge number of factors that there is no way I can rule completely for or against them. I cannot labor and birth other people’s babies, so I cannot say what will or won’t work for them, or what they should or shouldn’t do.

However, I can relate my own experiences and what I learned from them.

My first baby was born in 1995 via c-section. Of course I was anesthetized during the surgery — I had a spinal that left me feeling completely dead and unmovable from my breastbone to my toes. The experience wasn’t a terrible one — I was able to see him right away and as I was young, my recovery went well.

By the time I got pregnant with my second child in 1999, I had decided (at the urging of my OB) to go the VBAC route. I was successful, but I was unprepared for the pain of labor and delivery and as my friends who had babies had undergone epidurals with no major issues, I wanted to try one. The results were good, and I did the same for my third birth in 2002.

My last baby was born just 3 years ago and again, I opted for an epidural. This time, however, it didn’t go smoothly. The anesthesiologist pushed the needle in just a bit too far and I wound up with a spinal, which deadened me again from the breastbone down. My blood pressure plummeted, my heart rate skyrocketed, and for a little bit I was worried they were going to have to carve her from my dead body (that’s how awful I felt).

Happily she was born with zero issues, but I had to return to the delivery suite a few days later for a blood patch after I was discovered to be suffering from a spinal headache (i.e., the worst headache in the entire world).

So… While I have never had an unmedicated birth, if I were to grace this planet with another baby, I would not choose to get an epidural again. The doctors will read you a laundry list of possible complications when you’re signing the consent form, but if you’re anything like me, you don’t really listen and you don’t really think it can happen to you. While my complications weren’t serious, they were still awful to experience and made my baby’s first few days a lot less fun — instead of sitting in bed, nursing her in bliss, I was flat on my back as much as possible and barely able to enjoy her.

I do believe that our bodies are made to birth babies with as little intervention as possible. Epidurals, while often effective, can also lead to a cascade of medical interventions that can lead to even more issues. I kind of feel like I started having babies well before I was fully educated on the birth process and made decisions then that I would not make now. I don’t feel regret for it, but I can hopefully have an impact on those I know and love in the future.

So moms — are epidurals okay, or do you say no thanks?

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