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What I Didn’t Know About Getting an Epidural

Getting an epidural

There’s a ton of debate and controversy when it comes to having a medicated labor and delivery. According to Fit Pregnancy, more than 60% of all women have an epidural when giving birth. When I became pregnant with my first daughter, the pain of labor scared me. I knew I wanted some sort of pain management. After lots of research, I decided that getting an epidural was best for me. Here are a few things I didn’t know about getting an epidural.

They Might Make You Wait

They made me wait for my epidural. The doctor started Pitocin at 6 am and broke my water around 8 am which intensified the contractions pretty quickly. I didn’t get the epidural until around 11 am. The nursing staff was very intent on letting me “experience labor” before dosing me up on medication. From reading other women’s birth stories, this seems like a pretty common practice. While I appreciate the nurses’ good intentions with trying to allow me a full labor experience, I had already made the choice to be medicated and would have preferred that relief sooner. 

The Needle Is LONG

They say husbands usually get queasy watching epidurals. If you’ve ever looked it up on YouTube, you’ll see why. The epidural needle is only actually in your back for a minute or two, however, a thin tube-like catheter is inserted and remains in for the entire duration of labor and delivery. 

It Doesn’t Really Hurt

After enduring labor pains, the pain of an epidural is pretty undermined. They numb the area prior to actually inserting the epidural. The toughest part is having to stay absolutely still, even mid contraction. I remember being told to bend over and curve my back while holding onto a pillow. The epidural itself starts working within 15 minutes of insertion. 

Getting an epidural

Photo by Madi Mack

Under Pressure

The epidural blocked the pain, but I still felt pressure. I could move my legs (though I definitely couldn’t walk) and I could feel a burning sensation when the baby was crowning. The epidural definitely dulls down the pain but that doesn’t mean that you will lose all feeling. 

You Can’t Walk

In order to have an epidural, you need an IV and constant fetal monitoring. The epidural itself is connected to its own supply of medicine injecting pain-blocking medication into a space between the vertebrae and the spinal fluid. You aren’t free to get up and walk around, use the bathroom, change positions, etc. They will use a catheter if you need to pee and if you need to go number 2 it’s probably time to start pushing.

They Give You A Magic Button

My epidural was hooked up to a ‘magic button’ or so the anesthesiologist called it. The button enabled an extra dose of pain meds. I only used it when I was pushing but could have used it to my heart’s content (in fifteen-minute increments of course). 

It Takes About an Hour to Wear Off

My epidural took about an hour to wear off. I’m sure this timeframe is different for everyone. For me, an hour after delivery I was able to walk and shower. 

Getting An Epidural

Photo by Madi Mack

Choosing an epidural made my first labor and delivery experience pretty easy. Despite the anxiety and fear I had leading up to the big day, knowing that getting an epidural was an option was a huge comfort. In today’s world of ‘natural birth’ I’m excited to share a different perspective for the mom’s who would rather choose to be medicated. I would love to hear your experience if you had an epidural. 

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2 Responses to What I Didn’t Know About Getting an Epidural

  1. Jen August 7, 2017 at 6:30 pm #

    Thank you for this!! I am a huge advocate for the epidural. My first three were birthed under epidural. My newborn was born natural even though I requested an epidural. I feel a bit upset at nurse staff as they seemed to do the same thing and wait… I don’t understand it but it is what it is and I was given no other choice but to deliver naturally as he came very quickly. I still would have opted for an epidural. No, having a baby naturally did not change my opinion and make me think natural birth was a better method. Not for me. People have high fived me and said wasn’t it so much better? No. It wasn’t. In fact, if I would have gone natural with my first, I’m sure he would have been an only child 🙁

  2. Holly E August 8, 2017 at 12:21 pm #

    I had an epidural with my daughter. It wore off too early and they had to give me an extra jolt of it (think they called it a bolus??). Unfortunately it was time to push not long after that, and I couldn’t feel a thing! They were telling me to push, and I thought I was, but apparently I wasn’t doing a good job of it. My daughter didn’t want to come out, even with the vacuum! I ended up having to have a c-section. Not to say it was because of the epidural….and I wouldn’t go back and change a thing, because I knew the pain would make me panic. Pain killer for me all the way! No shame in it at all. Pregnant with #2 right now, will go the same route with this delivery too.