Should You Request An Epidural During Labor?

EpiduralWhether or not to receive an epidural during labor is a popular topic for mothers who are nearing their expected delivery date. Due to the popularity and known effectiveness of the epidural, few people realize many other methods of pain relief are available to birthing mothers. It is useful to weigh the pros and cons and ensure the facility where you plan to deliver your baby offers epidurals.

Should You Get An Epidural?

Provided there are no contraindications, getting an epidural during labor often is a matter of personal choice. Having a completely natural, drug-free birth is admirable, but remember there are no trophies for suffering for the sake of suffering. An epidural is the most common and effective form of pain relief and is popular for a reason. Because an epidural affects only the local area, it presents minimal risk to your child, unlike with systemic narcotics. You may plan to have a drug-free birth but may eventually opt for an epidural if the pain becomes unbearable. Do not feel guilty because this happens more frequently than you might think.

Some issues regarding epidurals are worth mentioning. One is the potential for labor to take longer than it would without one. This is because it can be harder for you to respond to contractions and push your baby out. Another issue to consider is that it is an involved process. You likely will need to be in a relatively uncomfortable position for a while in order for the epidural to be placed, then must wait 10 to 15 minutes to feel its effects. For those expecting instant relief, an epidural isn’t the best option. It’s important to note that pushing isn’t the only thing that can get more difficult — using the bathroom can be as well. In some cases, women may need a urinary catheter placed to empty the bladder. Epidurals also present a small risk of a prolonged headache and fever as well as a minuscule risk of nerve damage that potentially could be permanent.

When Might I Be Refused An Epidural?

Unfortunately, not all birthing mothers can receive an epidural. Believe it or not, you can actually be too far along in the delivery process for some doctors to perform an epidural. Previous back surgeries, spinal problems and even some medications can contraindicate an epidural during labor, leaving only alternative methods of pain relief. Infections in the area or a very low platelet count almost always will result in a doctor’s refusal as well. Finally, it can all be down to a lack of preparation. Some hospitals require a mandatory epidural class to be taken in order for it be an option for you, thus significant preplanning is necessary. In other cases, an anesthesiologist may be unavailable to perform an epidural when needed.

Remember, receiving an epidural during labor is a personal decision that you almost always should plan for, even if you do not plan to get one. Nothing is more frustrating than requesting this form of pain relief and being denied because you forgot a mandatory class or paperwork. Your OB/GYN can answer any questions you may have regarding an epidural that is specific to your situation, and give you any insight you may need on labor and delivery.

Put your prenatal care in experienced hands with Jill Gibson, MD. Call the office today to schedule an appointment.

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