The Big Bad Epidural

by Mrs. BWF on January 26, 2012

The Natural Birth Community is quick to say, “Don’t do it! You can do it without it! An Epidural is dangerous! It is evil and causes problems!” Mostly, this is true. You CAN do it naturally and Epidurals do come with risks to mom and baby.

There are studies, personal experiences and more that show Epidurals are a drug, has risks, and effect the mother’s body and the newborn as such. They also can slow down labor and be the beginning of a cascade of interventions. If you didn’t want  pitocin, constant monitoring, not being able to move around, etc., those options are no longer yours. Epidurals often lead to purple pushing, tearing, episiotimies and cesarean births.

That is all true.

As you can see though, I linked to information about Epidurals and their risks. I will not go over that here. This is not another blog post to tell you how horrible you are if you birthed your little one with an Epidural.

Is the Epidural always evil? Is there never a good use for one? Just like with any allopathic remedy or intervention, it is there for a reason. Unfortunately, it (the epidural and other interventions) are used far too often, when NOT necessary. This is why many are quick to say, “It’s pure evil!” What is missed though, is those times when it is needed. When it serves its purpose. When it does good. Yes, I said good.

Here are a few examples when an Epidural is a blessing to a mother.

Mom has become too exhausted. She has had a long labor and has become too tired and can not rest. In this case, an epidural may help her to get the rest she needs. Her uterus can still contract and baby can move down the birth canal. It is a better outcome than an unnecessary surgery. It would be best to help ensure mom gets adequate rest when she can during labor to prevent exhaustion from occurring.

Malposition of baby. When a baby is not in an ideal position it can cause a very painful, long labor. It may become difficult for mom to relax as baby tries to turn with the contractions. I’ve been there…twice. It’s so painful. I got an epi with one and did not with the other. Optimally, mom will do what she can during pregnancy to help baby find a great position. There are also things you can do with your midwife or OB in labor to help baby shift (hands and knees rocking, etc).

Fear. Yes, that is a valid reason for an Epidural. If a mother can not work through her fears in pregnancy and they are carried over into her labor, her uterus will not have the blood supply it needs and may not be able to work at its best. This also causes a great deal of pain. There is more information about this in the book, Hypnobirthing, the Mongan Method. Having an epidural will allow the woman’s body to do its job without her fear (mind) getting in the way. Of course it would be wonderful if all women could Birth Without Fear, but that is not the real world.

Lack of support. I truly hope all women will have the support she needs to birth so that this is not an issue. However, if she doesn’t she may find that she needs an epidural to be calm and birth.

Any situation where it helps avoid an unnecessary cesarean section.

A Cesarean Birth (instead of a spinal).

Remember, each woman, pregnancy, labor and birth are unique. I know this is not a popular view on Epidurals in the Natural Birth World, but it is reality.

Please, if you are researching Epidurals, use the links I’ve given in this post. Try to do what you can to avoid your chances of needing an Epidural.

Sometimes though, it can’t be avoided and that is OK. That is what it is there for. It is my hope that women can work through fears, have the right support and be able to avoid an unnecessary Epidural. However, the Big Bad Epidural is not always evil.

*Picture of Dale by Studio Viohl

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