Some of us are simply petrified of natural childbirth, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of! An epidural can be a great thing. (Yes, I had epidurals for both of my births.) However, know that if you go that route, you can’t do all the stuff you’re able to do in a natural birth – things like walking around, laboring in a birthing tub, being free from constant fetal monitoring and an IV, etc. I didn’t understand that completely until I was in labor and learned that all the medical things like the IV and the fetal monitor and lying on my back, were all non-negotiable due to the epidural. Somehow I thought I would be able to convince the hospital staff to let me skip the IV and the fetal monitor and that I would win because I usually get what I want. Yeah, right!
If you choose an epidural, here are my Top Five Tips:
1. Labor at home for as long as possible. Take a bath, rest, breathe, and go to the hospital when your contractions are coming regularly, about 3 minutes apart.
2. Have an advocate (partner, doula, mom) with you at all times, to help you discuss any suggested medications and/or interventions.
3. Ask for medication before you need it – it may take over an hour for the anesthesiologist to show up. (You can also request pain or anti-anxiety meds as soon as you’re admitted.)
4. Be nice to the nurses. You may be stuck with them until the shift change (7am and 7pm), and you want them on your side!
5. Try to time the epidural right. You don’t want it too early (it may wear off while you’re pushing), and you don’t want it too late (you may miss your opportunity). Discuss with your birthing team to determine the ideal timing for you.
Remember this is your body, your baby, and the choices are yours. Though you may not always get what you want, don’t be afraid to speak up!