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the top 10 reasons to get an epidural July 27, 2007

Posted by guinever in birth, birth story, epidural, health, labor, pregnancy.

I like to show this list to pregnant women so they have a chance to consider the side effects of an epidural before they’re actually in labor and wanting one. When a woman is in labor and overwhelmed with pain, she is not going to care about this list, not going to read it, she’ll just scribble her name on the dotted line and yell,

I don’t care! Just stick the needle in my back.

BUT if she reads this while still pregnant, long before labor begins, she’ll have time to consider the side effects and say,

You know what, I don’t want an epidural. I don’t have to get the epidural.

These reasons are taken from the release form that a woman must sign before getting an epidural (I got this form from a local hospital.) It is titled, “Authorization for the administration of epidural/spinal analgesia for pain relief in labor and delivery.”

  1. The epidural/spinal may not work and give partial relief (1 in 10).
  2. Dural puncture headache (1 in 40)
  3. Backache and/or leg pain (1 in 50)
  4. Significant decreases in blood pressure (1 in 50)
  5. Total spinal anesthesia ( 1 in 500)
  6. Toxic reaction (1 in 500) This may include a seizure, cardiac or respiratory arrest, or rarely, the possibility of death.
  7. Massive epidural/ spinal anesthesia (1 in 1000)
  8. Transient paralysis or nerve damage (1 in 1000)
  9. Permanent paralysis or nerve damage (1 in 5000). Other rare complications include infection, loss of epidural catheter in the epidural space, fetal distress, bleeding, or infection at the skin, subcutaneous tissue epidural or subarachnoid spaces, and possible death.
  10. I also realized that during the course of my labor, my labor may either speed up, stop, or slow down, which may make it necessary to have forceps or Cesarean delivery. As this may occur during the course of any labor patient, either with or without epidural/spinal analgesia, it is difficult to determine whether or not epidural/spinal analgesia has a bearing on these outcomes. But in any once patient, this may occur as a result of epidural/spinal analgesia.

You may be asking, but how can I get through labor? How can I handle the pain? The answer is preparation. Read all you can. Consider this list of books. Take an independent childbirth class (not associated with a hospital or doctor’s office). Read the birth stories below so you can be inspired and gain the confidence to birth your baby.

For an in-depth look at the effect of epidurals, read this medical paper.



1. Sarah - August 20, 2007

I was told that with my first child, my labor was progressing slowly, and maybe I wasn’t able to relax and let the cervix dilate properly…therefore the epidural would let me relax…I was into labor about 26 hours with pitocin, but no epidural. At that point I would’ve signed for a full frontal labotomy. I got the epidural and cervix stopped moving completely and even went back a little. So at 7 cm, baby’s heartrate was dropping with the double peaked pitocin induced contractions…and C-Section was performed. While on the operation table, before they let my husband in, they were prepping me…epidural wore off, before they gave me the second operational block. I said I wanted to push and that I could feel the head. I was told not to push, they PULLED my legs together and strapped me down to the table. 10 minutes later, I had a healthy baby boy. My VOTE is no for epidurals and the entire mindset that labor is an illness that can be cured.

Dear Sarah, I’m sorry that you had that kind of experience. We can always look back and wish we had done something a little differently. But we can also try to make the next experience a little better and we can learn from the birth stories of others as well. It sounds like you made the best choices at the time based on the pain you were in and the pitocin that you were on. Yes, I agree with you. Pregnancy is not an illness! It a natural, wonderful event in a woman’s life. ~blessings, Guinever

2. halfpintpixie - July 27, 2007

good to see that list. I agree it’s essential to get informed before labour starts as you’re in a whole other place then! I found the key to avoiding one was to make sure your birthpartner is on your side, and can stand up for your wishes if you’re having a hospital birth. Also, your chances of getting an episiotemy are much higher with an epidural as you’ll likely be restricted to pushing on your back… ouch!

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