Friday, January 25, 2013

7 Quick Takes (Vol. 26): Epidural Again? Maybe.

(Click for Part 1 and Part 2 of Anne's birth story.) I'm glad this wasn't my first labor. From Peter, I knew contractions weren't supposed to hurt. Uncomfortable, yes, but bearable. Pain is your body saying something is wrong - in this case, that Anne was not "lined up" to come out properly. (Unfortunately, I couldn't fix it, so knowing was not particularly useful... oh well.) So when I chose to have an epidural, it was an informed decision.

I'm happy I had a midwife. It's unfair to characterize all doctors as promoting medical procedures rather than letting nature take its course, but that has been my experience. My midwives were willing to wait if that's what I chose, to not check my pain level every hour, and let me decide what pain relief I might want and when.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about the epidural I got and whether I would want one if God sends us another child. The possible advantage of the epidural (beyond pain blocking) was a faster recovery time. Since there was no feeling of urgency to push, I pushed as directed. This meant that the midwife could hold the baby just inside to allow my perineum to stretch without hurting me. The very small tear I had required no pain medication, which made breastfeeding much easier.

On the flip side, I don't know if the minimal tearing can be attributed to the epidural. It could be because I had a midwife who knew techniques to minimize tearing. (My doctor with Peter did nothing.) It could be because Anne has a much smaller head than Peter did; certainly that is a major factor.

Anne also looks much less like Batman. ;-)

If I become pregnant again, I will definitely discuss with my midwives how to best minimize tearing. The outcome of that conversation will be an important factor in whether or not I choose an epidural again.

If I do choose an epidural in the future, it won't be until labor is well underway. I want to be able to walk and change position during most of labor to help it progress. I know the difference between normal and painful contractions; if there is pain, I want to know why my body is sending me the signal that something is wrong. I don't want an epidural until I'm certain that labor isn't going to stall and require further interventions.

Of course, if I have awful back labor again, I might choose it earlier. That's another reason I'm glad this wasn't my first labor - now that I know how comfortable delivery can be with an epidural, it's harder to consider going natural again. But I know Peter's labor was much easier, so I have confidence in myself that I can do it again. Time will tell!


  1. Congrats on Anne! She is beautiful!

    My biggest problem (among others) with an epi is that your body will send out endorphins to help you deal with pain and they cross the placenta to offer pain relief to baby too (being squeezed with every contraction) An epidural messes with this whole system so while mom may get pain relief, baby gets none.

    1. Thank you! And thanks for the endorphin information, that's definitely something for me to consider.

  2. I had an epi w/ david and not with ellie (it wasn't even a realistic option w/ her birth since we were at a birth center). I tore with david, not horribly, but enough that i had to have stitches. I tore a tiny bit with ellie, but i didn't need stitches to repair it (the midwife held it together for a couple minutes and then gave me instructions to keep my legs closed for a couple days - seriously!). that in and of itself - epi or not - makes a HUGE difference. when you tear and have to have it repaired the pain doesn't come from the tear as much as it comes from the repair. also, if you tore less this time you will most likely not tear worse next time unless there are extenuating circumstances. (and usually if you don't tear once you won't tear in the future). and, i think that you are less likely to tear w/o an epi b/c you can feel what is going on and just have more control (even though it feels like your body is taking over). i thought my recovery was much easier and faster with ellie than with david and i think the combo of no epi, no stitches, and coming home w/in 5 hrs of her birth are huge reasons why.