Epidurals, Are they for you?
In one of my previous blogs, i briefly touched on epidurals, and now I'm going to take the time to talk about epidurals and my experience with them. Just like usual, i'm not here to tell you what you should do, and what you shouldn't do. I am the kind of person who is all for having your birth whatever way you want, whether that be drug free, or not, and there is no judgement from me for someone who opts for pain relief, as i am also one of those people. Chose whatever you want when it comes to your birth, but i will explain from my experience what an epidural feels like, any thing you should keep in mind before getting one, and what it feels like after having one.
How does it feel?
In my experience, having an epidural was pretty painful. I don't know if it was just the anesthesiologist or possible lack of anesthetic but i remember the whole thing and it hurt! The midwife mentioned to me that he was rather rough, and actually had to put it in twice because he missed the first spot. Yikes, right? I distinctly remember the epidural being worse than the contractions i was having at the time. I guess because i didn't actually want an epidural, that getting one probably hurt more than i wanted. At the time when i got the epidural, i was coping well with contractions and didn't feel i needed any pain relief. But my mum mentioned that the pain will only get worse and she said that i may really need an epidural as the labor progresses. So i agreed to get one, and at that point i think i was pretty much happy to go with whatever, as my labor was already an unusual one, (you can read up on my labor, in my previous blog 'My Birthing Experience'). Receiving the local anesthetic stung quite a bit, but it wasn't what i thought was the most painful. It was the needle itself that comes after the local anesthetic that hurts, and then the tube that gets placed into your spine. Pregnancy, birth and baby can help you understand the process of an epidural if you have not yet learnt about it, Epidural | Pregnancy Birth and Baby.
For me the whole process of the epidural just hurt, much more than i thought it would too. It's not something that i would go out of my way to recommend to someone unless they really need it. If you've got a high tolerance for pain, and you find you are coping well with labor and contractions, you probably won't even need or consider an epidural. There are other forms of pain relief they can offer you, and epidurals may be the last thing to consider for some women. Am i glad i got an epidural? Yes i am, because as my labor progressed it became rather traumatic. But its always important to keep in mind that epidurals aren't always breezy. You may get an anesthesiologist who is a bit rougher, or not as experienced and it can result in a pretty painful experience getting one. Or you may not receive enough local anesthetic before the bigger needle goes in, and then you feel more pain than your contractions. Do keep in mind though, that once the epidural kicks in, you don't feel anything from the waist down, unless you're like me and could still feel half your body. Yes, you read that right, i felt half my body from the waist down. My entire right side was pretty alive, i could wave my leg around, i could roll easily onto that side, and i felt contractions on that side of my body. The good news was that even though i could still feel half my body, i didn't feel any pain until i had to push. The epidural took away all pain, left my right side alive, but no pain, and left my left side completely numb with absolutely no pain. This made the lead up to pushing, easy and i felt like i caught my breath back. I was able to get through the dilation and contraction process much easier. An epidural was especially needed as my levels of oxytocin during my induction process were lifted to level 22. Which my mum thought was crazy, i of course had no idea what was considered normal or not, so i just went with whatever.
So how does it feel really? Well the process of having an epidural, hurts, obviously not for everyone, but for me, it hurt! Afterwards, it does take the ease off tremendously during labor. And another thing to remember is that, epidurals don't always work for everyone, sometimes they don't work at all. Thankfully for me it did work, but not to its full capacity, which shows that epidurals don't always work, sometimes they half work like mine. If you're curious about how epidurals look, or the size of them, i'll refer you to this video i found on tik tok, and honestly i had no idea what an epidural looked like even after i had one. Do you know how big epidural needles are? Wow! I know it sounds like i am trying to scare you out of an epidural but i am really not. I'm actually just trying to help make sure every mum, and mum to be, knows what epidurals are like before making the decision to have one. Just in case they choose to have one and regret it because they haven't heard lots of different experiences. Neither my mother, or my sister (who were the ones i listened to the most about labor and pregnancy) had actually had an epidural so there was only so much they could tell me about it. Had i of known all the facts about epidurals, knew different experiences, and known all the ways that an epidural can provide both relief, and pain it may have made me choose differently. If i really think about it, i probably still would have opted for the epidural even knowing what i know now. And during my next labor, if i feel i need the epidural, i will probably take it.
What you should keep in mind
To keep in mind before going all in with an epidural, is just to really educate yourself on everyone's experiences. You don't need to know all the nitty gritty details, but just enough to really give yourself an idea on the variety of outcomes of having an epidural. Read up on women's experiences with having an epidural, and read up on their experience after having the epidural. It's always important to make sure you feel comfortable with your decisions. And if you feel like you don't know enough about epidurals, learn about them, ask as many questions as you can to make yourself comfortable. Not every woman opts for an epidural, lots of mum's go drug free, and if that's something you really want to do, than do it! I really am hopeful that i will be able to go through my next labor drug free, and if i can't, i will be okay with that too. There are plenty of mum's who go for the pain relief aside from epidural and that's completely okay too, i am wondering if that is something i will opt for this time. Its best to read up on it all if you can and then make your decision, after all its your labor, and you want to make sure you're 100% comfortable and happy with your decisions. I would urge even the toughest mum, with a huge pain tolerance level, to read up on epidurals just in case, because you never know what will happen during your labor and sometimes in certain scenarios, a c-section is what is best to ensure the health and safety of both baby and mum, and an epidural can be performed for that.
After the epidural
For some women, there is side effects that occur after having an epidural. I can only tell you about mine, because i myself don't actually know of all the side effects that happen after having an epidural. I was able to walk freely without wobble, and go to the bathroom normally about an hour and a half after my epidural wore off. I didn't get a headache as i had expected, instead i had pain every now and again in the spot where i had my epidural. It felt kind of like a throbbing sharp pain in my area where i had my epidural. I also had typical back ache and pain after epidural but i'm not entirely sure if that was caused from epidural or just from pregnancy and carrying a large baby. The small throbbing pain, occurred often at least twice a week, for the first few weeks and lessened as time went by. I do still every now and again experience that small sharp pain in my epidural spot but not as often. I didn't experience any dizziness or weakness and the area itself healed swiftly with no issues of infection. So for me, the aftermath of epidurals aren't as bad as recovery from other parts of labor. I am happy with my epidural experience, i just wish i had of known all the facts about them beforehand, as well as being able to have one put in without pain, but i think that might just be wishful thinking.
Overall, epidurals can be scary, but they can be a blessing in a moment where you need it most. But always remember that you don't have to have one if you feel like you don't need it, and you don't have to not have one either. Don't feel like just because someone you know went drug free in their labor, means that you have to as well. Every labor is different, and everyone's pain tolerance is different. If you want an epidural, and are comfortable with your decision to have one, go for it, just remember the possible side effects and if the positives outweigh the negatives, it isn't a bad decision. I didn't really have time to weigh up my pros and cons before getting one, and i think if you sit down and think about it before going in to labor, you'll be able to make a decision before your baby is even ready to arrive. And if you choose to not have an epidural and want to have a drug free labor, at least you'll know about epidurals as a precaution for the unknown. Do not let any one, whether they be your family, friends, or anyone really, shame you or ridicule you for having an epidural, labor is not easy, and it affects everyone differently. No one has the right to tell you, you aren't strong enough just because you've had an epidural, or you haven't experienced true labor just because you have had an epidural. They are all incorrect, every mum had the right to choose and if you want pain relief, Go for it! and if you want to go drug free, Go for it! You are free to choose what you want, and it should be without judgement from others!