Many women are choosing an epidural when it comes time to have their baby. Even though this pain relief option is extremely popular (Over 50% of women delivering in hospitals), an epidural does have its’ dangers. There are several reasons to avoid an epidural.
Decreased mobility for the laboring mother
Having an epidural will mean you are more confined to your bed than you would be if you chose not to have it. When you don’t have an epidural, you can walk around, take a warm bath, sit on a birthing ball and get in other positions that can help your labor progress.
Difficulty pushing and increased need for interventions after epidural
An epidural will numb your body usually from the abdomen down. This can result in difficulties with pushing, inability to feel contractions, and an increased need for other interventions. These interventions can include, but are not limited to, the use of forceps or a vacuum to help your baby move down the birth canal. Women who have an epidural may be more likely to have a c-section, but this will depend on how far dilated the mother is. Women who want an epidural but also want to reduce their risk of having a c-section should request their doctor not administer the epidural until they have dilated past 4.5 cm.
Slowing of labor
An epidural can cause your labor to slow down. If you have an epidural, it is important to have someone assist you in changing positions regularly to help keep your labor progressing. This is another reason why women getting an epidural should be firmly in the active labor stage (dilated to over 4 cm) before being administered the pain reliever.
Effect of an epidural on your baby
The effects of an epidural on your baby are difficult to measure. These are symptoms that have been correlated with an epidural; respiratory depression, decreased fetal heart rate, difficulty latching on after birth and lethargy.
Possible future problems after your epidural
Some women have reported having problems after their epidural has been removed. These symptoms include long term headaches, backaches, urinary incontinence and nerve damage. Most of these are considered rare complications, however they are very likely to be under reported.
Pregnant women have choices regarding pain relief during labor. While an epidural sounds great in theory, the effects it can have on your labor, your baby and your body are important to consider before choosing this option. Practice other natural ways of dealing with labor pain even if you have decided on an epidural and you may find that you really don’t need one!
American Pregnancy Association- Epidural Anesthesia http://www.americanpregnancy.org/labornbirth/epidural.html
Can Fam Physicians- Does epidural analgesia increase rate of cesarean section? http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1481670/
Childbirth.org Reported Side Effects of Epidural Anesthesia http://www.childbirth.org/articles/sideeppi.html