There is enough footage and personal stories of childbirth for anyone to know how excruciating it can be to give birth. This could be one reason why more mothers are asking for epidural anesthesia in order to avoid labor pain. This medication is injected into a small space outside the spinal cord in the lower back. Why is this becoming more popular and is it even safe?
List of Pros of Epidural Anesthesia
1. It provides reduction or relief of labor pain.
This is the biggest benefit. An epidural alleviates pain in the lower body, without affecting your mental state. This helps to make you calmer since you won’t be too anxious or stressed about labor pain.
2. It can speed up the delivery.
When a mother is anxious or stressed due to labor pains, she tends to produce more epinephrine and norepinephrine (stress hormones) which can slower contractions and the delivery process. With the help of epidural anesthesia, there is less pain so she can become more relaxed and rest for a bit, and as a result, her labor progress can improve.
3. It allows mothers to remain awake during the delivery, even for cesarean procedures.
Since it doesn’t affect the mental state of the mom, she is still conscious during the delivery of her baby, so she can still take part in the experience of witnessing her child being born. If you don’t have an epidural, and the doctor says you need a C-section, you will most likely be injected with a general anesthetic and be unconscious during the procedure. But with an epidural, you can remain awake even for a cesarean procedure.
List of Cons of Epidural Anesthesia
1. It can cause health complications for the mother.
Just as any medical procedure, epidural anesthesia comes with risks. It can decrease your blood pressure and increase your oral and vaginal temperature (which can lead to treatment for a non-existent infection for you and your baby). You may also experience post-partum backache due to bruising from the injection. There is even a possibility of experiencing spinal block, which requires a blood patch and bed rest. Other moms also have to use a catheter because their urine retention is affected.
2. It can affect the baby.
Because the mother’s blood pressure is brought down, the heart rate of the fetus can slow down. The epidural may also make you so numb that you won’t be able to feel your contractions anymore and push effectively, requiring your doctor to give you a dose of Pitocin to induce labor or to use forceps. The former can cause you to contract so hard and result to fetal stress, while the former may cause bruising or lacerations for you and your baby.
3. It can make the mother feel detached from the birthing process.
Since epidural anesthesia can make you so numb that you won’t feel anything anymore down there. As a result, you may feel detached and less emotionally involved in the birthing process as you become merely an observer.
In conclusion, it is the mother’s decision whether she will use an epidural during labor or not. This will depend on her health condition and that of her baby’s, her birthing goals, where you want to give birth, and so on. So be well informed and consult with your doctor if epidural anesthesia is something you should consider.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.