Debating on getting an epidural?
Planning for a natural birth, but need some reassurance on your decision to avoid the epidural?
For most of human history, women have birthed without epidurals. But now, with them being so common, it really makes you wonder if epidurals are really that bad; Are there any benefits to not getting an epidural?
The risks of getting an epidural may surprise you. Because of these risks, more and more moms are starting to opt for natural birth again.
In this post, we’ll talk about why epidurals are unnecessary and can even be dangerous for you and your baby.
13 Reasons NOT to Get an Epidural
Besides not having to have a needle shoved into your spine, there are several other benefits to not getting an epidural. Here’s 13 reasons why you should try to avoid the epidural.
1. It Stalls Labor
Plain and simple, epidural equals restriction. You have no freedom to move throughout labor. You have to lay in bed, have continuous fetal monitoring, and loads of IV fluids.
Restricted movement does not favor the natural process of birth one bit. In fact, it’s known to stall labor.
You need to be able to move and change positions throughout labor to encourage your baby into an optimal birthing position. Movement will help your baby engage and move down the birth canal.
Without an epidural, you’ll have the freedom to birth and deliver your baby in more optimal positions, such as squatting, standing, or on your hands and knees.
2. Starts the Cascade of Interventions
Because epidurals are known to slow down labor, your provider will be more inclined to want to start you on pitocin to help speed things along.
Pitocin, however, causes intense, frequent, forced contractions that can put mom and baby in distress.
This increases the chances of you needing an emergency c-section. And this my friends, is what’s known as the “cascade of interventions.”
Pushing is often more difficult with an epidural as well, which increases your risk of forceps, vacuum, and again, c-section (source).
Intervention begets the need for more intervention.
3. You Can't Feel Anything
There’s seriously no comparison to the feeling you have after a natural birth. With an epidural, you simply miss feeling the amazing event that birth can truly be.
You miss the feeling of LIFE crawling out of you.
You’ll also likely be “out of it” after you deliver and may not feel an immediate connection to your baby because of the effects of the epidural.
Yes, contractions can be painful. Yes, pushing can be painful. But, it’s nothing compared to the joy that you are about to receive.
Remember, that when it comes to childbirth, pain is purposeful.
I’m so glad that I was present and able to feel everything with the birth of my babies. It was painful, but man, it was so enthralling.
4. Chronic Back Pain
With an epidural, there will be some immediate pain at the injection site. But did you know that epidurals can actually have some long term side effects as well?
Many moms have experienced chronic back pain for months, and even years, following the administration of their epidural.
5. Severe Headaches
The puncture from the epidural needle can also leave you with a debilitating headache for days to weeks following delivery.
This is a complication of epidurals and is known as post-dural puncture headaches. These can also cause neck pain, general sickness, and an aversion to bright lights (source).
And if you’re one who already suffered from chronic migraines before pregnancy, then you’ll likely find yourself more prone to headache episodes postpartum.
6. Even More Side Effects
As with any medication, there’s always potential side effects. And besides back pain and severe headaches, epidurals can also cause nausea and vomiting, dizziness, shivering, itchiness, fever, and swelling.
And although rare, there’s also the potential for infection, seizures, and serious neurological damage, such as permanent paralysis (source).
7. Diminishes Post Birth High
Did you know that epidurals also block oxytocin receptors (source)?
A mother’s oxytocin should be the highest it will ever be at birth. This love hormone peak is what helps create an instant connection between mom and baby at first sight.
With an epidural, your oxytocin peak will be obliterated.
There’s also this huge adrenaline rush you get after a pain-med free birth.
You have a sense of relief, clarity, and empowerment right after your baby enters the world.
You’re coherent and not in a state of fog. You can remember your birth vividly.
It’s just a natural high following a pain-med free birth.
With an epidural, you’ll probably feel groggy and a little out of it, and your birth may be a bit of a blur.
I seriously had so much energy after both of my births, even though I had been in labor for hours and barely got any sleep the night before. I felt like I was on top of world and was just so smitten with these beautiful babies that I created.
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8. Reduces Success Rate of Initial Breastfeeding
Because oxytocin receptors are blocked with an epidural, breastfeeding is often delayed as well.
Any drug mom receives during labor, will also be passed to the baby via the placenta. Therefore, baby and mom may both not be in the right state of mind to initiate breastfeeding.
Research has backed these theories up and has shown breastfeeding abilities to be highest among unmedicated babies, lower among those exposed to epidurals or IV opiates, and lowest among babies exposed to both (source).
9. Increases Chances of Tearing
Because epidurals numb everything below the waist, you won’t be able to feel the urge to push.
You won’t have control and have to follow coached pushing.
Pushing just isn’t as effective when you can’t feel what’s going on with your body and your birth. This increases your chances of perineal tearing (source).
10. Have to Have a Urinary Catheter
Let’s be honest, catheters suck.
And if you get an epidural, you’ll also have to have a urinary catheter. Because you know, you can’t walk and all. Plus, you may not even be able to feel the need to urinate.
It’s pretty rare to not have a urinary catheter with an epidural, but some hospitals do allow it.
And even if you’re able to get away with not getting one going into labor, you may end up needing one anyways, shall complications arise (like having to have c-section or not being able to empty your bladder postpartum).
11. No Walking After Delivery
Unforuntaley, you’re also strapped to the boots following delivery and not able to walk around right away.
If you refrain from the epidural, you’ll likely be up walking around with little to no assitance shortly after birth.
You’ll be able to walk over to use the bathroom or rinse off. You’ll also be able to walk over and watch if the hospital staff has to do anything with your baby that they cannot do with baby in your arms.
I remember the postpartum nurse commenting on how I must have not had an epidural because I was walking so easily following the birth of my second child. My first child was a little different, because I had been on bedrest for about 5 weeks prior.
12. Slows Down Postpartum Recovery
If you birth without intervention, you’re more likely to feel amazing following delivery.
With an epidural, you’ll likely feel pretty crappy for days, weeks, or even months after birth.
You may still have numbness, tingling, and shaking for awhile after the epidural medications have been discontinued. You’ll have more trouble walking following delivery, and you’re more likely to have had an additional intervention. All of this leads to a longer, more painful postpartum recovery.
Your muscles may be stiff from remaining in the same position for a long time during labor and you may feel more sore from extraneous pushing due to your inability to feel.
13. Strips Your Empowerment
An epidural may provide satisfying pain relief, but pain relief does not equal a satisfying birth.
In fact, evidence shows that women who birth without medication tend to be the most satisfied with their birth experience, even for weeks and years following (source).
You just have this feeling of accomplishment and empowerment after you birth without pain meds. It brings about lifelong confidence and good memories of your baby’s birth.
Just Say No
Epidurals may be an effective pain relief tool, but it does not come without risks….many, many risks.
Epidurals can cause major disruptions in the birthing process. They are often associated with longer labors, trouble pushing, and more interventions. They can even have some pretty nasty side effects, like chronic back pain, severe headaches, and even permanent neurological damage.
Plus, there’s really just nothing compared to the feeling and empowerment you have after a natural birth.
For the health and safety of you and your baby, freedom of movement, faster postpartum recovery, and just a more blissful birth, you may want to consider avoiding the epidural.
I mean, the list really just goes on and on when it comes to reasons NOT to get an epidural.
Remember, for most of human history, women have birthed without epidurals. Let’s take birth back.
You can do this mama!
What About You?
Were you able to avoid the epidural with any of your births? Share your reasonings for not getting an epidural in the comments below and be sure to share this post with other expecting moms.