Why you shouldn't plan for an epidural

Ok hear me out before you decide I'm crazy. No judgement here!

An epidural is an amazing tool to use for your birth! In fact, I've given birth three times, and guess how many epidurals I've had? Three!

I'll explain myself, but first, what exactly is an epidural? Epidurals are the most widely used form of pain relief for labor, and with good reason:

Epidurals make labor and delivery a MUCH MORE pleasant experience.

An epidural is regional anesthesia that blocks pain in a particular region of the body. The goal of an epidural is to provide analgesia (pain relief) rather than anesthesia, which leads to a total lack of feeling. This results in decreased sensation in the lower half of the body. How much decreased sensation? That depends on the medications administered, and how much. Your legs may feel as heavy as boulders, or you may be able to move them with no problem: It's usually somewhere in the middle.

So let's say that you're in labor and you request an epidural: What happens next?

Since the most common side effect of an epidural is a reduction in blood pressure, intravenous (IV) fluids, usually two bags, will be started before the epidural is place. An anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist will then administer your epidural.

The question is, how long does all this take? How long before you're pain free?

It's usually about an hour, but I've seen shorter and longer waiting times.

Ok so now that that's out of the way (whew!), why shouldn't you plan on an epidural?

First: Not everyone is a candidate for an epidural. Those with allergies to certain medications and some spinal deformities may not be eligible.

Second: What will you do while you wait? What if the anesthesiologist is in the operating room and can't get to you for two hours?

Third: What if it only works on one side? I can tell you that from personal experience, it was like not having an epidural at all.

What I'm saying is that, of course, go ahead and add an epidural to your birth preferences, but be prepared just in case.

How should you prepare? 🤔

Remember those breathing exercises your doula sent that you never practiced?

And those hip squeezes that you and your partner felt so silly doing, so you never did them? How about those visualization techniques you were going to try out?

Yea, that stuff.

That's why we call them birth preferences, not birth plans (read all about birth planning here). They're not set in stone. Oh sure, I've been at a handful of births where every box was checked, but more often than not, births are not predictable.

Trust me, you'll thank me later. 😉

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