Should You Have an Epidural?

Although giving birth is never pain-free, having an epidural eliminates much of the discomfort of contractions. If you are slated to give birth soon, you should consider whether you want this procedure or not. Although epidurals come with some drawbacks, many pregnant women think their benefits outweigh the drawbacks.


An epidural is a serious procedure because it involves injecting medicine into your back, numbing the nerves that are near your uterus and cervix. First, the doctor will insert a catheter in the space immediately outside of the spinal cord. Then a mixture of medication will be administered through this catheter. Because this procedure takes place so near the spine, only an anesthesiologist can perform it, so if you are planning to give birth out of the hospital, you probably will not have this option.


In the last century, the manner of childbirth has changed a great deal. Although some women still prefer natural childbirth, eschewing medication during the labor, many women choose the epidural. Intense labor is frequently agonizing, and it sometimes goes on for hours and, occasionally, days. When administered correctly, the epidural keeps you from feeling your contractions and allows you to relax and even sleep during your labor. Obviously, you will recover from labor more quickly when you aren't put through hours of pain. Also, you are likely to be calmer and better able to care for your infant when they arrive.


Epidurals can prolong labor because they suppress the production of oxytocin that occurs near the end of labor. As a result, this stage of labor may last longer than it would if you gave birth naturally. Also, actually delivering the baby may be harder because you have to generate the pushing power consciously rather than have your body do much of the work naturally. Doctors have to use forceps on babies born after an epidural has been administered more often than they do with natural births. Your risk of pelvic-floor problems is also raised.

Although your baby will receive some of the epidural medication, the amount is small and not considered harmful. When you choose an epidural, you do increase your risk of some complications. However, you also should have a much more comfortable and less traumatic delivery. It is up to you to balance the benefits and risks. When it comes to your delivery, you need to be informed and state your preferences firmly. After all, you are the star of this particular show.