March 2013 Moms

Epidural or natural??

Yesterday at my doctor's appointment, we were discussing what questions to be ready for during labor and delivery. DH cut in and said something along the lines of "she needs the epidural right?" Dr. said its up to me but labor sucks and since LO is looking like a 10 pounder with a huge head I should definitely consider it. The new dr. he is adding to the practice (who has had children) said "oh yeah you definitely want it". I realize my experience would be easier for everyone if I was not a mad woman but I feel like I have valid reasons for wanting to try without medicine, at least for a while.

  1.  Baby comes out more alert.
  2. Epidural slowed and actually backtracked my sister's labor process.
  3. Faster recovery..

 Has anyone else felt pressure for decision making one way or the other during labor and delivery?

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Re: Epidural or natural??

  • This may be an unpopular opinion but one of the up-sides to having the epidural is that you will be awake (as opposed to being knocked out) if special circumstances require you to have an emergency C-section.  This worked out in my favor in my twin delivery. Because my odds of having a C-section were so much higher with my complicated twin pregnancy (long story), it seemed like a reasonable choice for me to get the epidural. 

    I wouldn't say that the epidural is a must for this purpose alone, but it is one piece of information to have in your arsenal when making your decision.

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  • Both my MIL and close friend have said that I'm going to want to have an epidural. I have done a LOT of research though and have decided I want to have a med-free intervention free labor and delivery as much as possible, I understand there are special circumstances where one has to have intervention to have a healthy baby. (I am in a new program where I have been paired with a public health nurse that comes every two weeks or so and she has said I could probably teach a prenatal class I am so knowledgeable.) DH and my mom stand by me in this decision though, I can understand how hard it would be to have both your dr. and your husband telling you otherwise. Just stand your ground, and maybe have your DH watch "The Business of Being Born" with you. It is a fabulous documentary.

    All this said, I am in no way against epidurals, I just want to go through my birth experience without. To each their own.
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  • This is going to be a topic where people will have to agree to disagree.  I went into my first labor intent on getting an epidural.  I am glad I did- I was actually able to almost sleep for a bit while waiting.  That being said, I was only in the hospital for 3 hours before DS was born.  Labor was definitely not slowed. If I had known it was only going to be 3 hours, I might have tried to go "all natural". 

    That being said, DS and I were perfectly fine.  He was completely wide awake, and breastfed instantly.  I was also up and walking within 20 minutes.

    I may have just had a great Dr adminstering the epi... I didn't feel the pain, but still knew when to push, and it was obviously light enough to come out of quickly.

    Just remember, at a certain point, they will decide it is too late for the epidural, and you will have made your choice by default. 

    Good luck.  Whatever you decide will be right for you.  Your body will know what to do, but dulling the pain doesn't make you any less of a woman or mother. 

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  • The only time my OB has really weighed in on the issue was to say that it is good to keep an open mind and that she doesn't like to see moms who feel disappointed in themselves if they end up feeling that they need an epidural, when they had not originally planned on it.  My plan is to probably get an epidural at some point, but at least try to postpone for awhile with alternative pain management techniques if I can handle it.  As a result, I'm not really that educated on all that natural childbirth entails and didn't take a Bradley method class or read books geared toward preparing for natural childbirth.  I would think being prepared with a "back up plan" to the epidural would be particularly important if that's the route that you plan to take.  

    From what I understand, it may also be important for the hospital where you are delivering to be somewhat supportive of natural childbirth.  For example, our hospital has gravity bars on all of the beds, provides exercise balls, and encourages women to walk up and down the hall with their partner if they can and do other things intended to let gravity work with them, rather than getting an epidural immediately after admission and laying in the hospital bed.  If it were important to me to have a natural childbirth, I think I would want to be paired with an OB who is supportive of that and would need to talk through it with my DH to get him on board as well.  It may be kind of late for you to switch doctors now, but it doesn't sound like the OBs in your practice are particularly supportive of postponing or skipping the epidural altogether, which might not create the best environment for a natural childbirth.     

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  • I do think it was probably a little too far for the new doctor to say "you definitely want it", but I do agree with your doctor you should at least "consider it". Not in the mindset of re-research everything, but look into it as an option. You might change your mind during labor, so be prepared. That being said, going 100% natural is a great choice (coming from someone who chooses epidurals), but you'll definitely want your DH on board and I'd be more upset about his comments than the doctors. If he's going to make comments like that during an appointment, he's probably going to be more insistent during L&D.

    I am not 100% set on a natural experience this time around, still open to an epidural, but hoping to go all the way without. DH and I have talked through it. I need him to be 100% supportive of my decision and while that's his first inclination, having had the discussion assures we're on the same page, especially since I'll need his help to get through it in the end.

    Luckily, you won't really see your doctor that much during the L&D process and will mostly interact with nurses. In my previous experiences, the nurses will ask if you want an epidural. When I turned it down initially (planning to get one, but wanted to labor for awhile first), I was told to page them if/when I changed my mind and that was the end of it for me. You just need to get your DH on board, so I think a talk about the pros and cons and what you want to happen and how you plan to cope (what method are you using, etc.). After DH's on board, it won't matter what the doctor's say.

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  • One other thing- if you truly want a med free birth, you probably want to look into some books/videos/classes to prepare.  While it is completely possible to do it without any prep, it would be easier on you and your DH (So he can learn how to best support you during labor) to take some sort of class (Bradley, Lamaze, etc).

    That may be why everyone thought you would be going the epidural route, med free seems to go smoother with some advanced planning/education.

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  • I went into my first labor sure that I could handle the pain and would not need an epidural.  I was so afraid of getting an epidural it wasn't funny.  During transition, the anesthesiologist could have told me that he was going to put that needle into my eyeball to rid me of the pain and I WOULD HAVE LET HIM Smile

    This is now my 4th pregnancy and I will definitely be having an epidural.  I just don't get why it is so much better not to.  Why put yourself through that kind of physical stress if there is an alternative?  That is just my opinion though because I know there are a lot of women out there who CAN handle the pain, and kudos to them because if flucking hurts.


  • At the end of the day...healthy baby, healthy momma. I am going to try like hell to go natural but I am open to the plan changing if it needs to. I'm not in favor of epidurals but I know enough medically to know when intervention may be necessary (i.e. c-section, etc). FWIW, we are having a doula attend our birth as well.
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  • Planning on going natural. Scared sh!tless either way, so I'd like to not have drugs in the mix. But I'll remain open, no epidural is my preference.
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  • I agree with what someone mentioned below. People will agree to disagree. Personally, with DS, I ended up having an epidural at about 5-6 cm. It was lovely at first b/c I was able to get a little rest (My labor was almost exactly 24 hours.) However, in the middle of the night, I awoke and the nurse staff told me while I was asleep my contractions kind of slowed down, so they'd administered pitocin while I was sleeping to get things moving. At this point I started to feel everything on my left hand side. They mentioned the catheter for the epidural had wiggled its way out and had to readminster the epi. Needless to say, it worked the second time as well, but after a few hours started to do the same thing on the left side of my body. By the time the second one wore off, I was so close to delivery, they just let it go. I've struggled with whether or not I will go for it again this delivery. As far as your concerns w/ baby. 1) My son was born perfectly alert and healthy, no issue there. 2. Yes, it obviously did slow my labor enough for them to feel the need to add pit to keep things moving. 3) I was unable to drive for 7 days following delivery b/c of the epidural, which was inconvinient, however this time DH will be off for about a month after baby arrives, so not as big of a deal. However I also experienced extreme pain in my tailbone for a few years on and off. I have heard this may be resulting from the epidural. I have also heard it is common for women to break their tailbone during delivery. DS was born 11/28/08 and I experienced pretty chronic pain in my tailbone until about a year ago. It was so bad at times it hurt to sit and then get out of a chair. Again, not sure this is even related to the epi, but it's possible. I don't know if this helps at all, but I thought I would share my experience. Good luck!
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  • You are going to be pressured one way or the other; just go in with an open mind and be prepared for plans to change IF necessary. 

    I had an epidural with DD, and her level of alertness wasn't due to the epidural it was the IV pain medications that my OB pumped me full of trying to get me to avoid an epidural. I had discussed with my OB that I wanted to attempt an epidural free birth so I could be up and around and labor as I needed to. She told me that they have IV pain meds that can help take the edge off- well, for me that meant knock me out so I only wake up during a contraction and pass back out and have no "real" recovery mentally. I wasn't able to get up and around because I was knocked out- so that was a moot point. I ended up begging for my epidural because I had scar tissue that had to be physically broken by the doctor before I could dilate and the pain was so bad I couldn't take it anymore. If my specific situation hadn't occurred, DD wouldn't have been able to descend and I would have ended up having a c-section.

    Point being- have a specific plan, but also have a level of importance attached to that plan. If I would have held onto not having an epidural I would have had a c-section, and to me a vaginal birth was MUCH more important than not having epidural. So this time around I have told my OB that I will more than likely have an epidural but I want NO IV pain medications- by having a clear mind I will be able to cope better during labor and who knows, maybe I'll make it all the way.

    And as far as your sisters' back tracked labor- a similar situation happened with my sister and she ended up having a c-section; she was also induced a week early because she was "done" being pregnant so LO wasn't ready to come. After 14 hours of pitocin, cervadil, an epidural and having her water broke with no progress the only option was a c-section since he wasn't ready to come on his own. Saying that an epidural slows progress is a blanket statement that doesn't truly apply across the field. My epidural sped up my labor-

    Whatever you decide to do, research and know going in that it's your decision and no one elses. Tell your entire L&D team, OB, DH, whoever will be there and stress the importance of it- but also know if medical intervention is necessary don't be stubborn and cause potential detriment to either your health or LO's. 

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  • I'm planning a natural vbac. I got the epi ASAP with DD and wish I hadn't. It didn't work, but I was still confined to the bed, after almost 4 hrs of pushing she wouldn't come out, led to a c/s. I want absolutely no part of that again. OP bear in mind that the epi does not always work, and can lead to a cascade of interventions, leading to a c/s. Sometimes the epi is a great thing, sometimes not so much. 

  • I'm going to agree with the PP.  There is no right answer for if to use medication or not.  My thought is that it is your birth experiance, and you should leave it without any regrets.  Be informed about every possibility so you are happy with the outcome no matter what it is.

    That being said, it sounds like maybe you havn't talked too much with your husband about what your ideal experiance is.  If you do want to go natural, he is going need to be your champion and help you with this goal.  I would reach out to the NB board about how to talk to him about what you want and to get him on board 100%.

    Also, your Dr. sounds lazy.  They shouldn't just be telling every woman that they are going to "need" an epi.  There are pro's and con's to this decision and as a medical expert they should have been going through these and help you make an informed desision, not just spouting out their personal opinions.

  • I think you should try natural if that?s the route you want to go. I would recommend you delivering at a hospital where you can get an epidural if you need one. I just spoke to a lady that went natural at a birthing center. She said it was the worst, most painful experience and that she was regretted her decision. Her husband didn't want to leave to take her to the hospital because they had already paid for the birthing place and would have to re-pay at the hospital (so she never got an epidural even though she was in a lot of pain and wanted one).  I don't know how many major surgeries you have had, but the medicine is what makes it bearable for me.

  • Let's see I had an epidural and my DD was very alert, my labor was very fast, and I recovered within a few hours and felt like I could run a marathon. Epidurals aren't given til your in active labor and dont usually slow labor at that point. Sometimes if your so anxious about the pain and can't relax, you will actually not progress. I wouldn't go off anyone else's experience.
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  • I didn't feel pressure from my OB to get an epi, which is a huge reason why I love my OB. She was very supportive of my plan to go unmedicated. I WAS worried because one of the doctors in the practice seemed much more pro-drugs and of course she was the one on call when I went into labor (and literally mentioned pitocin in our 2 minute convo when I told her my water broke). Anyway, I ended up having the unmedicated delivery I wanted (it helped big time that I labored at home for a long time and showed up basically ready to push). My regular OB and DH were very supportive, and that's what mattered most. I also hired a doula the first time around, and I would consider one if you want another advocate.

    ETA: I do agree, though, than an open mind is very important. The doula I hired had experience with women who went natural, women who wanted not to do an epi but had one in the end, and women who wanted an epi from the get-go. I liked that she wouldn't judge me if I decided I wanted an epi.  And, i wanted to be very sure I wouldn't judge myself if I changed my mind, or some situation arose where an epi/CS/whatever became necessary. 

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  • image aprilsarahjune:
    This may be an unpopular opinion but one of the upsides to having the epidural is that you will benbsp;awake as opposed to being knocked outnbsp;if special circumstances require you to have an emergencynbsp;Csection.nbsp;


    This is for sure a consideration. It depends entirely on the labour you have. I had my labour augmented from the getgo, which turned it into a hellish nightmare. I have an extremely high pain tolerance from living through several back injuries and I was grateful can you imagine? that my doctor stretched me to 3cm so I could have the epidural. Then when it was a c/s I was awake and alert to hear my boy cry the first time and saw him immediately.
    It is a personal choice, and one that no one else can really weigh in on. You can decide now, but ultimately you won't know what you want until you are in labour. FWIW, I would do research on both sides, medfree birth techniques as well as read up a lot on epidurals, just so that you are prepared for whatever comes. Good luck!
  • Taking Bradley Method classes to go natural. Good luck to you in your decision. 
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  • I really would like to have a natural delivery.... the pre-e last time made it so that I couldn't..

    However, I didn't think my baby wasn't alert.. and I didn't think I had a slow recovery.

    The epidural for me was heavenly, but I did feel like it got to a point that I couldn't feel myself having contractions, so I wonder how productive I was with pushing.

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  • I will definately be getting another epi if all goes as planned but I have tons of respect for those that go natural. As for your 3 reasons, I can speak to 2 and 3- once I got my epi, everything moved MUCH faster and my recovery was a breeze.  Everyone's experience is different regardless of epi or natural births.

    I completely understand that there are positives to a natural birth, so I'm in no way trying to minimalize your reasoning, just giving you a positive experience from a non-natural birther :)

    Bottom line, your H needs to be on board as your support system, you need to do some reading or take classes on natural pain management techniques, and have a clear idea of what you want and be ready to communicate that. GL!!! I hope you get the labor you want!

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  • I had a nine and a half pound baby whose head has always been in the 98th percentile and I didn't have an epi.  I really don't think it makes much difference if the baby is big or small; the pain is probably pretty much the same either way... and you'd never know the difference anyway.

    If there's no reason to plan on an epi ahead of time... unless your hospital needs you to pre-order it or something then just play it by ear.  Try to "go natural" and if it's too much, get the epi. 

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  • It is an individual choice and everyone's labor is different.  I went through 12 hours of labor with no meds (my cervix wouldn't fully dilate and my almost 10 lbs son did seem to want to come out).  By the end I was exhausted and my baby was in distress.  I finally got the epidural and as soon as I did my body relaxed and my water broke.  When my water broke we found thick meconium in the fluid.  I had to have an emergency c-section.  I was glad that I had the epidural.  Hopefully your labor experience will be different than mine. 

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  • For DD, the pain of the contractions getting from 7-10cm was worse than the pain of the contractions when I was pushing her out. (Because I was focused on pushing more than the pain.) Laughing gas was my best friend getting to 10cm then it was all business pushing her out.

    This time around I'm hoping the same thing will happen, if I can endure the pain of the transition contractions I know I can handle the pain of pushing out the baby. If I can't endure the pain of the contractions this time around I'll have no problem getting an epi if still possible of course, but I'm not going to make that decision until I have to."last chance to get an epi, it's now or never" type situation.

    Planning is everything, but our plan is nothing.

    Good luck to you, this is a very personal choice and your DH and you need to be on the same page when you get to the hospital.

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  • image Abeja1226:
    Let's see I had an epidural and my DD was very alert, my labor was very fast, and I recovered within a few hours and felt like I could run a marathon. Epidurals aren't given til your in active labor and dont usually slow labor at that point. Sometimes if your so anxious about the pain and can't relax, you will actually not progress. I wouldn't go off anyone else's experience.

     This was my experience with both my epi's. And I had 4th degree tears and was still up and going the next morning :)

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  • I'm not sure if its because others couldn't handle the pain so it makes them feel better to tell you that you can't either but everyone I have told has said "yeah right, you're going to be begging for the epidural!" It's really irritating and I just ignore them but I am sticking with my plan to attempt a natural delivery. And that's just it, I never said I will NOT have an epidural, I just want to attempt a natural birth, for all of the reasons you listed and more! I say, stick to your guns, ignore your doctors and all the naysayers and do what's best for you. If you end up having an epidural at the end of it all who cares, you attempted!
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  • So much to say... First, I think its wrong for your Dr's to try to sway you one way or the other. Its a personal choice. Second, once you make a choice, I hope your DH will fully support you - it sounds like he has his mind made up for you. Third, my advice is to keep an open mind. Go into it with a birth plan, but make sure you understand that your labor will not follow that plan perfectly and that you will need to take things as they come.

    For example, I planned to try natural with my 1st. I was doing fine until Dr thought I wasn't progressing fast enough and started me on pitocin. That was a whole new level of pain that I was not equipped to handle, especially since I knew I still had hours and hours of labor ahead of me. I got an epidural....but it did not work at all! (it numbed my right leg only). The pain was excruciating, and I labored like that for 12 hours.

    I was induced with my 2nd, so again with the pitocin. I wanted to labor on my own as long as possible, because like you I was afraid of the epi stalling labor. The contractions were fierce, but I wasn't dialating past 3 cm after many hours of labor. I finally got an epidural, and it totally sped up my labor. I was dialated to a 10 in about 50 min! So it just goes to show you, you just don't know!

    This time around, I would *like* to try natural. I am hoping against hope to avoid having any pitocin (in my mind, this was the key factor in requiring epi's in both my labors). But I am also going to go in with an open mind, and see what happens.


  • I had my second baby without an epidural (not by choice, but because he came so fast) and there was no difference between how alert he was compared to baby #1 or baby #3 where I had the epidural.

    Faster recovery?  I never heard this one.  I think it all depends on your body and how quickly you heal.  I did not have an episiotomy for any of my births and with each delivery it gets easier and easier.  I think the size of your baby and how elastic your skin is plays a huge role.

    For this last pregnancy, I'm getting the epidural.  And I'll love every minute of not being in pain. 

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  • For DD1, I'd planned to go as long as I could without the epi, but always planned to get one eventually.  I had a horrible experience.  The anesthesiologist tried 3 times to place it, and each time exclaimed, "Oops!"  Finally I asked her to leave, but not before she punctured the epidural space.  So I didn't get an epi, and I ended up with spinal headaches.  After coming and going for a month, I broke down and had a blood patch done - which was an extremely painful experience.

    I am so afraid of spinal headaches again that I'm not planning to get an epi this time around.  The risk of spinal headaches really is something to consider when trying to decide on an epi.  They're no joke.  They were way worse than laboring, delivering an 8.5lb baby without drugs, feeling the 2nd degree tear as it happened, etc.  WAY worse.  I couldn't even hold my head up, let alone take care of a newborn. 

  • I didnt read the other responses, but I am all for epidurals. I see no reason to put myself through all that pain if I dont have too. It made my labor experience so nice and relaxing. (imo)

    Both my kids came out crying at the top of their lungs and alert. Both of them breastfed right away like champs. My recovery was perfect, I was up walking around almost right away. It didnt slow down my labor at all. In fact, with both of my pregnancies from first contraction to delivery was less than 4 hours

    But ultimately, its up to you and what YOU want to do. :) 

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  • image tmsgrl:

    During transition, the anesthesiologist could have told me that he was going to put that needle into my eyeball to rid me of the pain and I WOULD HAVE LET HIM Smile

    Love it!  

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