Epidural?

Some of the comments on my birth story post got me thinking about the advantages and disadvantages of natural birth as opposed to epidurals. Just after delivery, I thought I would probably not want to deliver naturally again. By the next day, I felt pretty unsure. Now, a week later, I can see myself doing it again, though I’m not 100% sure. Ask me again in a year or two.

Here’s my two cents on epidurals:

  1. Wanting to feel tough is a really bad motivator for birthing without an epidural. I thought about natural birth with Lego, but in the end, when the contractions started to hurt, I thought, “What am I trying to prove? And to whom?” Suddenly, it just didn’t seem like a good reason to put myself through all that.
  2. If you have positive reasons for wanting to birth naturally, you’ll have a much better experience. I chose to avoid the epidural this time because I looked back at Lego’s birth and realized that the few things I was dissatisfied with all were connected to the epidural. I decided that the best way for me to achieve the birth I wanted with Duplo was to have a natural birth. I found this was a much better motivator because I could see the pain as a price I was willing to pay, and not just pointless.
  3. I’d personally advise anyone pregnant for the first time to get an epidural. First off, you don’t know how long or difficult your labors are going to be, or if there are going to be any complications. Second of all, you’re nervous enough already. You don’t need to stress yourself out about something you can avoid.
  4. If you think you want to try natural birth, do your research. I read up on birthing positions, hypnobirthing and other relaxation methods, the stages of birth, etc. I talked to women who had given birth without an epidural. I read birth stories. I knew going in that women often feel like they want to quit when they hit the transition stage, but that transition is only 15 to 20 minutes long, so they’re almost done by that point. So when I started feeling like quitting, I reminded myself that I was probably near the end (and I was). I knew that the pushing stage is often more tolerable, and it was. I knew that jacuzzis are sometimes called “water-durals” (corny, I know) because they are so effective. I get a lot less scared when I know what to expect, and I can honestly say that I didn’t feel scared while I was in labor. Well, there may have been a moment here or there (Jon Boy’s and Kenneren’s estimates of the delivery time come to mind).
  5. I’m not sure if it’s because I didn’t have an epidural or not, but I have healed incredibly well this time. Duplo, likewise, was alert and happy after he was born. I didn’t expect much difference. Thing is, our excellent recovery and health since the birth could be due to other factors, such as the position I pushed in, or even the fact that this is my second baby.

Anyway, if you’re pregnant, you’re probably thinking about natural birth, whether passingly or seriously. Having birthed both ways, I can’t really say which was better. Duplo’s birth went exactly according to my birth plan, which was very satisfying. Lego’s didn’t, but it was also a lot less stressful. So . . . whatever matters most to you, I guess. I’m still trying to decide which matters most to me.

2 Comments

    I agree with everything except #3. IMO, everyone should go into childbirth the first time (well, every time, really) as educated as possible, and open to chemical pain management (epidural or otherwise). But not having made up their mind definitely either way. I’ve labored with meds (epidural in one case, narcotics in another) and without, and I am glad that each time I waited to see what that birth was like before I made a decision.

    But definitely agree with #4, regardless of what you’ve decided. Especially since some women who want epidurals end up not being able to have one for one reason or another.

    I’m with rivka. Since you *don’t* know what labor will be like why pre-decide for a possibly unnecessary intervention? I’d much rather keep all options open.

    Beisdes, when it comes to nerves, having someone stick a needle in my back ranks way higher on my freak-out scale than childbirth. That would not reduce *my* stress in any way.

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