Everyone knows labor isn't a cakewalk. It is difficult, painful, and sometimes long lasting. What everyone doesn't realize is that while there are pain relief options there are still side effects to every type of pain relief a woman may choose. Aside from the side effects are the facts that many women may not consider them because they have already decided to have a painless as possible labor.
The most commonly chosen type of pain relief for labor and delivery in the U.S. is epidurals. In fact, about 50 percent of women will choose to get an epidural at some point during their labor. While many women fully intend not to get any type of pain relief during their labor, it is still a good idea to know the facts in case pain relief becomes necessary. Since epidurals are the most commonly chosen to relieve the intense pains of labor, this article will discuss a few things that many people may not know about this common medical procedure.
14 It Might Not Work
Labor is obviously an intense time full of pain, excitement, fear, and uncertainty. The pain, fear, and uncertainty of labor last on average about 8 hours for a first-time mother. Eight hours may not seem like a very long time, but imagine that intense pain of a person stubbing their toe. That intense part of stubbing a toe lasts about ten seconds now imagine that pain a hundred times worse and lasting 8 hours. Suddenly 8 hours seems like an an eternity
Eight hours is a long time to be in intense pain and many mothers may choose to get an epidural. What those mothers may not know is that an epidural procedure takes some time itself and is also painful. The scariest part of it all, is that sometimes epidurals don't work. Not that they don't work as in it only provides a little pain relief, but they don't work as in there is absolutely no effect from the epidural or the medication it. That's right, some women will sit through getting stabbed with a needle and be forced to have a catheter and not move even though the epidural may never work. The reasons for the epidural not working is the anesthesiologist may not place it properly or a woman's spine and nerves could be different than normal (like in the case of scoliosis) and the doctor may be unsure where to place the needle and medication. Whatever the reason may be, many women are unaware that epidurals fail and should know this before they decide on one.
13 It May Be Too Late
While a woman is in the throes of labor it can seem to last forever. Some labors can even last more than 24 hours. While labors lasting an extremely long time are not common, neither is labor being exceptionally quick. However, with some women, especially women that have given birth previously, labor can be very quick.
The predicted length of labor should be considered when a woman is considering her options for pain relief. The time should be considered because if a woman is likely to have an extremely quick labor she could end up sitting through the painful procedure of getting an epidural for no reason. In fact, if a woman happens to progress quickly during the epidural she could have the baby before the drugs even offer her any real pain relief. Then as soon as the baby is born she's stuck with an epidural and not getting out of bed until the drugs have worn off.
12 It Can Slow Labor
After a woman has a baby she may say things like she hardly remembers experiencing any pain or that labor was easy. Maybe for her, that was true or maybe the adorable infant gave her some sort of love induced amnesia. Whatever the reason is, labor is full of pain and anyone that has experienced pain knows that while experiencing pain, time seems to move slower.
Epidural relieves quite a bit of pain for most people, but not all pain sometimes. In fact, some people still feel a few contractions or even a sting during stitches. Usually, the pain is greatly reduced to a very minimal amount, but it is still a pain. Epidurals can slow the progress of labor because a woman may not feel the urge to push or be able to push as strongly. Because epidurals can slow the labor, that obviously means experiencing pain for a longer period of time even if it is reduced. Another thing to consider is that epidural medications only last so long, so if a labor is significantly slowed, an anesthesiologist may need to give the mother more medication. Some doctors will not allow more medication to be given later in labor, meaning the end of labor, which is known to be the most painful.
Trypanophobia is the technical term for fear of needles. While obviously, not everyone suffers from an intense fear of needles some people do. If a mom has this intense fear of needles there is a good chance she will opt out of getting an epidural because of the fact that epidural requires the use of a needle. However, even women that aren't intensely scared of needles may not want an epidural once they hear about the needle involved.
The needles used during an epidural are usually about 3 and a half inches long and much wider than a needle used for a shot. On the bright side, the needle is only in a woman's back for a few minutes. During those few minutes a catheter used to deliver medication to the nerves is fed through the needle and left in place during labor. That's right this needle is big enough to put a small flexible tube through it and while they put it in a woman's back she has to hold extremely still even if she's experiencing intense pain.
10 Infections From Injection Or Tape
Infections are usually easily treated by keeping a wound clean and perhaps some antibiotics from the doctor. However, infections can be scary depending on where they are located and how bad the infection is. Epidurals carry an extremely small, almost minuscule risk of infection. The issue with epidural infections is that a woman may not realize she has an infection and ignore the symptoms.
After labor, a woman's body is in recovery and she might not feel very good for quite a few weeks. Part of the feeling under the weather is due to bleeding so much after labor, healing stitches, producing milk, and organs shifting back into place. Another part of feeling so under the weather is getting up at all hours of the night to care for an infant and not getting to sleep regularly. When a person considers all of this it may be pretty easy to miss the signs of an illness caused by infection. In fact, a woman could be running a fever and feeling very tired and just attribute it to having just had a baby. That is why the risk of infection, though minimal, should be considered when a person is considering an epidural.
9 Risks Like Leaking Spinal Fluid
Almost everything in life has some level of risk. In fact, as of 2008, a person had a 1¼ out of million chance of dying in a car accident. The odds of being struck by lightning are 1 in 13,000 during the average 80-year life. Supposedly, two out of every three marriages end in divorce. Risks are everywhere and not all risks have such negative outcomes. For instance, epidurals have risks.
The risks associated with epidurals are scary and kind of horrific to think about. One risk is leaking spinal fluid. Sounds awful right? It is and it causes an incredibly intense headache, but doctors can treat it relatively easily. Another scary risk associated with epidurals is a woman reacting poorly and having a sudden drop in blood pressure that can result in fainting or even death. Again, this risks are incredibly minimal and go down with a skilled anesthesiologist. Life has risks, but when it comes to a person’s health they should discuss any side effects or risks with their doctor and decide what is best for themselves.
8 Limited Mobility
Anyone ever having stubbed their toes knows it hurts, but they also know they jump around and move. This is a normal reaction to deal with pain, the hopping and moving are caused by a rush of adrenaline from the pain. The same thing happens to women during labor although this movement can also help to speed along labor. Being able to move around not only helps women cope with pain but can help to alleviate some of the intense pain and help move the baby into position.
When a woman has an epidural she cannot feel her legs. Not having any feeling in a person's legs obviously, means it's a horrible idea to try to stand up. For that very reason, doctors do not allow women to get out of bed once they have received an epidural. In fact, woman can't get up for any reason even if she wants too. Once the epidural is placed in a woman's back, she is stuck in bed, not only until the epidural is removed, but until the drugs have completely worn off as well.
7 Slightly Longer Recovery
Recovering from birth sucks. A woman finally has the baby she worked so hard to have and can hardly enjoy it because she is stuck in bed or walking with fear of ripping stitches. Not only that but those nine months of no periods come back with a vengeance full of cramps and adult diapers. To top it all off a woman's breasts hurt, they're engorged, and if breast feeding, mom probably has chapped nipples. Recovery is rough when it comes to recovering from having a baby.
Having an epidural can slightly lengthen recovery times. For one, right after the baby is born a woman is still not allowed to get out of bed or even go to the bathroom any way other than a catheter or bedpan. Worst of all, she can't shower when she may feel the dirtiest she has ever felt. To top it all off there are even some statistics that say overall, women that had an epidural have had overall, slightly longer recovery than women that had a natural labor and delivery.
6 Allergic Reactions
Allergic reactions are terrifying. Anyone that is allergic to bees and sees a bee will show you exactly how terrifying allergic reactions are. People can die from allergic reactions, but that risk of death is usually caused by not getting medical attention quickly enough. For women in a hospital, considering an epidural and fearing an allergic reaction, the first thing to remember is a true allergic reaction is extremely rare, the second thing to remember is that a doctor is right there monitoring and ready to intervene if necessary.
If allergic reactions to epidurals are so rare why is it everyone seems to know someone who experienced an allergic reaction? Well, number one, bad news travels fast, number two they experienced a reaction, not an allergic reaction. What is the difference between allergic reaction and a side effect? Well, an allergic reaction causes histamines in the body to go into overdrive and cause things like a swollen airway and difficulty breathing, whereas a side effect is something like an upset stomach or increased heart rate. It's important to realize there is a difference between a side effect and an allergic reaction when considering getting an epidural or listening to anyone's story about their awful allergic reaction.
5 Bad Anesthesiologist
Bad doctors are awful. No, not bad as in they made a person wait for more than thirty minutes in a cold office while wearing a paper gown, but bad as in bad at their job. If a doctor doesn't seem to have knowledge of certain common medical ailments or procedures they probably aren't a good doctor. If a doctor smells like alcohol they’re a pretty awful doctor. Basically, there are a lot of ways doctors can be bad at their job, but a truly bad doctor is one that cannot handle doing certain procedures properly and does not have true knowledge of the human body and what it may need.
Anesthesiologists are doctors too. They have undergraduate degrees, four years of medical school and residency. It takes a lot of education and training to become an anesthesiologist and sometimes even longer to become a truly skilled one. That all being said, there are still anesthesiologists that are bad at their job. Maybe they have shaky hands or maybe they always take two times to get the needle placed correctly in a woman’s back. Whatever the reason may be, no woman wants a bad anesthesiologist for an epidural or really any other procedure.
4 Fewer Bragging Rights
Giving birth is the most painful thing a woman can experience and survive. We have all heard this phrase. It's hard to prove it true, but most people that have gone through it would agree that is a true statement. After all, a woman’s organs have to shift and her own body has to push an entire human the size of a watermelon out of a whole more akin to the size of a walnut. It's not pleasant, but it's amazing to say they've done it.
Even more amazing than having had the strength to push a baby out without intervention is the ability to say it was done without any kind of painkiller. Seriously, that's pretty much worth bragging about (not that people should because it can come across as being judgmental). Every labor and body are different, the labor that lasts eight hours is obviously easier to do without pain relief than a labor that lasts say 20 hours.
3 Catheters And Bed Pans
Being a woman sucks sometimes. First, it’s puberty, bringing periods and the awful cramps every month. Then suddenly later in life birth control becomes an issue. Both of these things are annoying, so is having to wear uncomfortable bras just to work out. Womanhood is rough, but no time as rough as when in labor, even if a woman chooses to get an epidural it's not fun.
Just when a woman thinks she can have a relatively pain free labor and be left alone for a while. She finds out it’s about to get more intrusive than just a needle and tube in her back, she’s about to get stuck with a catheter. That’s right. She really can’t get out of bed for anything so she has to pee through a little tube stuck inside her even while laboring. If that isn’t bad enough, if a woman needs to have a bowel movement she still can’t get out of bed. Instead, the nurse will bring her a bedpan to try to lay there and use. That’s right, not only is there a risk of pooping during labor, but if a woman chooses to have an epidural she has to poop in bed anyways. Being a woman is rough sometimes.
2 Difficulty Feeling When To Push
Labor is super painful like horribly, awfully, painful. Epidurals take away most pain, making it seem like the perfect match. The problem with that train of thought is that epidurals not only take away the pain, they take away feeling. Epidurals take away most sensations below the waist, including the helpful ones. Like that sensation a woman gets towards the end of labor that tells her to push.
Not being able to feel the sensation to push isn’t the worse thing in the world since the doctors will have a woman hooked to a monitor and can tell her when to push. The real downside to the loss of sensation is that even if she is told when to push, it can be difficult to feel if she is pushing hard enough, since she won’t be able to feel it. It can feel a bit like being blindfolded and told when to take a step. Sure a person may step but they may not do it as gracefully or well.
1 You Enjoy Pain
Masochist. That's the term for someone that enjoys pain. A masochist doesn't just apply in the creepy 50 Shades of Grey way, but any kind of pain. Some people apparently like pain. It’s hard to fathom enjoying pain because pain is painful (duh). But some people out there enjoy pain. Labor is painful, the pain is so worth the beautiful baby at the end, even if a woman is giving the baby up for adoption, she'll agree the pain was worth it. But hey, it's still painful.
The cute baby doesn't make the pain less painful that's just a fact. But the truth is that many moms can’t really describe the pain. It could be because there is nothing to compare it to. But you don’t have to be a masochist to enjoy the pain. For some women, they may just see it as part and parcel of bringing a child into the world, a rite of passage of sorts. we’re pretty sure that no matter what kind of labor a woman has, she will agree that her lovely baby was well worth it.