Pregnancy Updates

To Epidural or Not To Epidural, That Is the Question

June 8, 2017

At 32 weeks pregnant we are 8 weeks out from the due date of Baby P (we REALLY need to get going on figuring out a name…) and the clock is ticking. We ordered the dresser/changing table & side table for the nursery and last weekend drove to Arizona to get a serious amount of baby hand-me-downs from my cousin. I’m almost done writing all our baby shower gift thank you notes & need to start putting together everything that will be going in the hospital bag. My mom will be helping me organize the nursery next week which is currently a disaster area of gift bags, boxes and dis-assembled baby toys. I’m hoping Tim will be getting us a king sized bed soon, I’m mildly concern as he seems to be settling in quite nicely into the guest room… my master plan may have backfired. (I’m not sure if i’ve mentioned it on the blog yet but last week I officially banished him into the guest room until he got us a king sized bed. There just isn’t enough room for the 2.5 of us and my nest of pillows in our current queen.)

I’m starting to regress and have constant nausea again. Anytime I’m standing I have to pee, including immediately upon standing up from going to the bathroom… I’m thinking I might just start camping out in there. I have constant heartburn, I wake up with what feels like period cramps (Dr.Google says that’s because my uterus is growing so quickly now). I’m back to no energy, I can do 1 task a day and then i’m wrecked the rest of the day. It’s cruel considering how long of a to-do list you have in your 3rd trimester. I’ve informed Tim I think I need to move to bed rest for the remainder of my pregnancy. Half kidding, mostly serious.

All this and I haven’t even gotten to the point of my post today. We’ve started our first of many educational first time parent classes. First up, a 6 hour in-depth labor preparedness class. It’s the one you’ve seen in the movies that’s usually 1 hour over a certain number of weeks- you sit on the floors, practice birthing positions, breathing, watch terrifying videos of labor, etc. We decided to jam it out in 1 day. I really didn’t want to sign up for this class, ignorance is bliss was my opinion but when I signed up for the other classes (infant 1st aid, breastfeeding 101, how to care for a newborn) the owner gently pressed that I really should take the class as a first time mom and i’m really glad she did.

In addition to the obvious educational aspect, the teacher also really focused on empowering the partners. As much as the class was about what’s happening to mom during birth she also focused on how the partner can be a part of that process. I’m so thankful for that. She taught us some great coping and calming techniques we can do together during contractions and how Tim can support me during a contraction. She talked to partners about how important it is to be encouraging during birth and how to be attentive after birth when moms can normally feel forgotten once the shiny newborn is present. She also had me come up with phrases that I would like Tim to say to me during labor as words of encouragement. It wouldn’t even have occurred to me but i’m so glad we identified the things i’ll need to hear from Tim. I decided on “You’re doing great,” “I’m so proud of you,” I love you,” What can I do?”. She also had us discuss who we wanted in the room, when we wanted family to visit and that we needed to actually communicate to family our expectations – “When you visit, could you help with grocery shopping, making meals and laundry?” I’m so thankful we had this simple 3 minute conversation, I feel like it saved us an epic post-partum fight and I know our family will be more than happy to help, it’s as simple as just knowing what you want and asking for it.

However, for me, the thing that turned my world upside down was when we got to the topic of having an epidural. In Los Angeles it’s all about the natural birth. They even ask you about it in the expensive $30,000 a year preschool applications. I’ve always brushed it off, I don’t need to be a hero, give me the drugs. Modern medicine has developed this amazing pain reliever for labor, why go back to the stone age? So my mind was blown when the class got into the snow ball effect that starts with the epidural. Why is it that some of the most heated debates in our country can usually be boiled down to one simple point, but everyone yells about the outliers?

The class didn’t focus on what was in an epidural or any specific negatives with using the pain reliever. I plan to do more research on my own but my point is the class didn’t focus on the medicine itself being negative. What it did seem to show is that by using an epidural it can start a chain reaction which is an argument I haven’t heard before. By getting the relief and being able to relax your progress can regress, meaning there’s a good chance your cervix might start closing again. Which means now they have to up the anty with petocin. Or, you might not push as effectively because you can’t feel the contractions as acutely- this could mean the Dr. would need to cut you (no thanks on the tearing), they may need to use a vacuum or forceps as well to help you get baby out. And all this may lead to a higher chance of a c-section. Also, if you have an epidural, you’re confined to the bed. You can’t get in the tub, or try other laboring positions that might feel more comfortable to you and that might also help your labor progress naturally. You’ll have a catheter because you can’t feel if you have to pee.

I want to make it clear this was one opinion, I still need to do more research on this. But it’s the first time it’s been explained to me this way.

I’ve already been considering hiring a doula for the labor as a first time parent. After the epidural discussion i’m certain I want one. The teacher discussed how a lot of moms can feel disappointed about her labor experience, feeling like she didn’t have control of the decisions being made around her for her birth. I’ve heard that a lot. In addition to a doula being there to help guide me and Tim as a birth coach (and to help if Tim faints or needs to step out of the room to breathe into a brown bag) I also want her there to help me make medical decisions I can feel good about. Our teacher wasn’t anti-epidural but she did encourage us moms-to-be to try to let our bodies labor on their own longer. I want someone who’s seen several births to be able to encourage me when needed but who also knows that if i’ve hit my limit and am spent to have her encouragement that it’s OK to go with the epidural and I gave it my best.

Bottom line, I went into this class planning to peel into the hospital parking garage and announce i’m here for the epidural, and I guess a baby. And now i’m seriously rethinking that statement, “I’m here for a baby, and maybe an epidural.”

Would love to know from those who have went through birth what their thoughts are, Please let me know in the comments below!!! I have an extremely low pain tolerance. I really want the epidural but feel like I should try to cope a little longer to avoid additional medical intervention that might not be necessary if I gave my body a chance.

UPDATE: After writing this post I talked with the hubby about it and my thoughts. He had a very different perspective and thought the teacher was preferential to natural birth and was pushing for that. He’s still scarred from witnessing me post-opp of my wisdom teeth removal (long story but bottom line, I don’t handle pain well) so he’s still very much team epidural. I’m going to do more research into this and doulas and will give an update when I feel like I have a more well-rounded opinion!

  1. Having had 5 babies, 4 were natural and 1 was epidural (my youngest). All things said were true, but I personally didn’t experience any of the side affects of needing the pitocin or sitting. I can say I was able to joke, talk and laugh with my husband and best friend. I began pushing when I felt I needed to…while my midwife, husband and bff were talking. Midwife looked over and said “are you pushing?” Me “Yes, but I didn’t want to interrupt while you were all talking.” I was more relaxed and focused and able to experience more. My bff “delivered” the baby. Baby had no issues, perfect APGAR scores. That’s not to say there aren’t complications, just my experience. It made me wonder why I’d never done it before.
    The child before that was a scheduled induction and that was the worst experience ever! Pain unlike any from my natural childbirth, a broken collar bone in the baby…I should have waited, but it was scheduled for convenience since I had 3 other kids at home.
    The first 3 natural I had were ok until I hit transition. I did tear with my first. I was extremely focused on the birth, couldn’t tolerate being touched or spoken to, snapped at my husband (with the 3rd, I may or may not have screamed that I hated him. LOL). I remember how I felt, but was unable to keep my eyes open or watch any part of the birth.
    My plan was always to go for a natural, but built into my plan that I would take pain relief if I needed it.
    Whatever you decide, make sure you discuss it all with your “team”, and realize you are planning for a situation you don’t know how you’ll react to until you’re in it. Even subsequent birth experiences are all different.
    Do what you feel is right for you and your baby, know there is no “right” or “wrong”. Either way ends the same, with you holding your beautiful baby. Good luck to you both! Can’t wait to hear about “Baby P’s” arrival!

  2. Hi! It sounds like you have a great attitude about the whole thing! I have two babies. Neither was complicated, though the first required pitocin. I put a lot of pressure on myself not to get the epidural, but I ended up getting it for both. My one regret is putting the pressure on myself! I actually had two great experiences with the epidural. I definitely still felt the births very much, though the epidural worked for what I couldn’t handle. I was also up and walking around no later than I would have wanted to be. Some people say they had to have the epidural, which is sometimes true, but in my case, I would have certainly survived fine without it, but I just didn’t have it in me and I’ve learned that that is totally OK! By putting the pressure on myself not to have it, I actually gave myself unnecessary anxiety and had to have my bp monitored, which threw off all my plans. The last thing a birthing mother needs is added pressure. 🙂 Good luck to you!!

    1. Thanks for this comment. Super helpful! Glad you had two good birth experiences with an epidural.

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