Contrary to popular belief, those who teach childbirth education classes aren't totally anti-epidural. In fact, I am super grateful that epidurals and spinal blocks (a stronger form of spinal numbing) exist. Here are my top 3 reasons I think getting an epidural might be the right thing to do (after you consult with your doc and anesthesiologist of course).
- There is a chance you might need to have an emergency cesarean. Maybe you want to try for a vaginal birth, but because you're having multiples, attempting a VBAC, or for another reason, you're at a higher risk of needing to be taken in for surgery. Staring an epidural line could mean that you'll be able to stay awake if you have to be taken into surgery quickly. You can always ask for only a light amount of the anesthetic or sometimes they're able to just open the line but not give you medication at all.
- You are exhausted. Whether it be a long labor, managing a lot of pain, or you doing a lot of moving and out of bed positions, you may end up physically and emotionally exhausted. When this happens, you actually may be doing more harm than good by not taking advantage of an epidural. An exhausted mom may not want to move/get into good positioning and may have a longer pushing period. So, if you're exhausted, getting an epidural so you can get some sleep and rest your muscles may give you the strength and energy you need when it comes time to do some of the hard work. Your anesthesiologist should be able to adjust the medication after your nap so you can start to wean off the numbing feeling if you want.
- You're scared shitless, and nothing else is working. Fear during labor is not a helpful thing. It launches you into a Fear -> Tension -> Pain cycle that is hard to break. It increases your sensitivity to pain and decreases the helpful labor hormones like Oxytocin and Endorphins. There are a lot of natural techniques that we teach in Lamaze that can help break this Fear ->Tension -> Pain cycle but if they don't work, an epidural to relieve the pain might be your best option. It can help you regain your calm, stay relax, and let your body get back to work.
Please note that even though I do think an epidural is beneficial sometimes, that doesn't decrease the real risks epidurals come with. Like everything in pregnancy and birth, there is a choice to make. This is why it is so important to gain factual, evidence-based information so you can make the best choices for you. Here are some additional resources you should review:
American Society of Anesthesiologist - Childbirth and Anesthesia
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists - Medications for Pain Relief During Labor and Delivery