Reasons Women Want an Epidural During Childbirth

Nurse holds a laboring woman during epidural procedure

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Epidural anesthesia is the most common form of pain relief used in labor and birth today. It is also the most effective at removing the pain during birth. It works so well it can even be used for cesarean birth, allowing the mother to be awake and alert during the birth of her baby, even in the event of surgery. There are a growing number of women who are opting out of using epidurals and choosing to go through labor without them. This means that many women may not understand why others choose to use an epidural. Here are some of the most common reasons I hear when talking to moms about why they actively chose an epidural for their childbirth experience:

Labor Hurts and I Don't Want to Feel It

Pain from contractions usually tops the list when it comes to reasons for choosing an epidural. More importantly, women know that labor is going to hurt, but they actively do not want to feel the pain of labor and an epidural is the best way to remove or minimize that pain.

I’m Afraid of Labor

Not knowing what labor will bring is often frightening. Having an epidural at least provides some predictability to the process in that you may feel more in control of what is happening because you’re not busy laboring and using concentration to get through contractions.

I Want to Enjoy My Labor

Some women define enjoying labor as working actively with contractions, but if that’s not you, and epidural can help you remove the pain and let your body work while you do something else. While some moms do report feeling a bit bored, because labor is not a fast process for most people, they can live with that and make plans to fill the hours up with various things, including enjoying visiting family and friends.

I Don't Want to Associate My Baby With Pain

Some people are concerned that if they experience pain in labor that they will transfer those thoughts to the baby. Think the classic: “You did this to me!” or “When I was in labor with you …” The epidural can help these moms separate that for themselves.

I Did It Before and It Worked Well for Me

Having been through labor before and having an epidural removes the fears of using the epidural that some women experience. Particularly if you had a positive experience with previous epidurals, you’ll be willing to try the same thing again now that you have a proven track record.

I’m Having a C-Section

If you know you’re having a cesarean birth, an epidural is a great choice for pain relief. Though your practitioner may recommend a spinal or even a combined spinal epidural (CSE), the basics are the same—you are awake and able to participate in the birth of your child.

I Don't Know What Else to Do

Some moms felt like they didn’t really have any other options. Maybe they had considered IV medications but decided against them or didn’t feel like natural childbirth was the answer and that left the epidural as the default. Other moms say that this is all that was offered at their place of birth, even if they had previously considered unmedicated birth, with no support it wasn’t going to happen. Going with the flow, so to speak, is how this was described.

My Doctor Recommends It

Some women are going on the recommendation of their doctor or midwife. Being told that it works well and their other patients are happy with the outcomes is enough for many moms to jump on board.

My Friends Recommended It

For some women, a recommendation from a friend trumps all, even the recommendation of the practitioner. You can ask your friends all the nitty-gritty details about what works and what doesn’t. You can ask about how it’s done and what it feels like in a way that you can’t necessarily do with your practitioner.

No matter why a mother has chosen to use an epidural, there are things that need to be done to ensure that she has a positive experience. This can include a childbirth class (Yes, even with an epidural planned!), use of a doula, specific conversations with other support people knowing how they are still needed, even when an epidural is in use. This is what will help make it a pleasant and positive experience for mom.

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