Labor is a unique experience that's personal in a way that many don't understand until they've been through it. It's a journey in every sense of the word and one that's rewarding, challenging, and exhausting, to say the least. There are many methods in today's medical world to make things easier, both holistic and not, but one of the most popular is the epidural. This numbing agent has been around for quite some time now and is by far the most popular means of getting through labor as painless as possible. But does that mean it's right for every mom? Possibly not.
Just as with anything else we use for pain management, an epidural can have side effects that affect certain women differently than others. It's not tailored to suit every pregnancy and might not even be recommended for some. Additionally, some women are just plain uncomfortable with the thought of being completely numb or immobile, and there's nothing wrong with that. An epidural is a woman's choice, just as anything should be in the medical field. What she chooses to feel (or not feel!) during labor is up to her, and here are some solid reasons for why she might refuse.
20 There's A Possibility It Will Slow Labor Down
It's no surprise that an epidural can actually slow down the labor process, and there are several factors that go into this reasoning. The main reason for the labor slow-down is due to the fact that a woman is completely numb when it comes time to push. While this helps with the pain management aspect of labor, it doesn't do much in the way of encouraging mom to push as hard as she possibly can. When pushing becomes an uncertainty because a woman can't feel how hard she's actually pushing, the process can become a bit more lengthy simply because it takes more time to push the baby out.
19 Some Moms Notice A Slightly Longer Recovery Post-Epidural
Sometimes, but not always, an epidural can seem to lengthen recovery time. This is likely due to the fact that if a woman can't always feel when and where she's pushing, the chances of tearing can increase, which can then add time to recovery postpartum. According to Elizabeth Chabner Thompson, MD, after having four children, she opted for the labor she went through without an epidural. She noted that her recovery time seemed to be much faster, and she didn't have any problems with tearing, as she was able to feel what was going on. The doctor also claimed that her increased feeling allowed her to focus much more on when and how she pushed.
18 It Was Once Believed There's A Link Between C-Sections And Epidurals
The link between c-sections and epidurals likely spawned from the fact that an epidural can cause a woman to have a fever during labor, which could throw her baby into distress quickly. When this happens, a likely course of action is a c-section, because it's the quickest way to get the baby out without further distressing mom or increasing risks during natural birth. If this is something that a woman is worried about, there are other options to explore.
17 Fevers Are A Possible Side Effect
All kinds of things are happening when a woman goes into labor and she might not even realize that fever has come on suddenly. Metropolitanmama.net writes that nearly 19% of all women report having a fever of at least 100.4 during labor. While this is still low-grade, some women even reported having a fever higher than this, which can then cause significant complications. A high fever can result in an increase in both a mother and her baby's heart rates, which is something doctors tend to avoid in an already high-stress situation. This can then (sometimes, not always) lead to a c-section to avoid putting the baby in distress.
16 Being Numb Isn't Everyone's Forte
It's a strange feeling, that's for sure. When we hear the term "numb," many of us automatically think of novocaine when we go to the dentist's office. While the idea is very much the same, an epidural is far more serious and much stronger than a bit of novocaine, which wears off after several hours, max. An epidural targets our entire lower half while in labor so in addition to being numb, she also won't likely have full mobility after the fact. This is understandably an unsettling thought and while completely normal and administered by a trained professional, that doesn't make it any easier to tolerate the numbness.
15 What Goes Into Mom Will Inevitably Go Into Baby. It's Safe But Concerning
Some moms do find themselves concerned over the fact that an epidural is entering a mom's spine, therefore it does make some contact with the baby. There are no definitive studies to show that a baby is harmed in any way by an epidural but we can't blame moms for being worried about it. This is a big part of why many moms choose to go the natural route as opposed to having an epidural because they can be sure that nothing is entering their baby's system. There's no right or wrong choice, just like no birth is more 'natural' than another.
14 A Spinal Injection Isn't The Most Pleasant Thing To Think About
We get it... it's kind of unnerving. A spinal injection is definitely not on our list of favorite things and even the thought of it is enough to make us want to avoid it. This is a big decision that moms need to make — a small (somewhat) injection in her back for hours of pain-free labor seems like an even tradeoff, but it's not that way for every mom. Some moms would rather endure the pain of labor in order to avoid being stuck in the back, and neither way is right or wrong. To each their own, as long as their baby is happy and healthy.
13 Some Women Don't Know The Alternatives Before Saying Yes
Especially during an emergency epidural or during labors that are particularly painful, many moms aren't thinking about the alternatives before they're already in labor. While this might not sway their decision, it's still a good idea to go over every other option with a doctor. She might decide that another option is more suited to how she wants to feel during her labor because, when it comes down to it, if mom isn't comfortable, then it won't be a pleasant experience -- and no mom wants that. It's worth a conversation, especially for a mom who is already hesitant about an epidural.
12 Prior Negative Reactions To Meds Are Indicative Of Future Reactions
Some people are just more prone to having negative reactions when it comes to meds than others. This does not, by any means, mean that an epidural will spark a negative—or any type—reaction. It is to say that a woman may, understandably, be quite nervous about having one administered based on her past experiences.
According to Very Well Family, one mom explained that itching was a side effect of hers. While it wasn't detrimental to her labor, it was rather annoying and would have required more meds to decrease the sensation. Something as simple as this might be the only reason a woman has to avoid an epidural, and that's perfectly okay.
11 Not Being Able To Feel What's Going On Down There Can Be Unnerving
You're in labor! The goal is to push, but how do you go about that when you can't feel one ounce of feeling thing down there? Some moms have absolutely no problem with being fully numb and being able to feel nothing but a bit of pressure, but others don't like the feeling. This is more of a personal preference than anything, as some moms just want to be able to feel their labor. This is usually more so for the moms who go into their labor knowing natural techniques to get them through the pain, such as breathing and relaxation techniques. Moms who follow these techniques have often done the research and made the decision to go with natural birth.
10 A Drop In BP Is Possible
Even up to labor, the condition of mom can have drastic effects on her baby. Although her baby is on his or her way out, they're still quite connected to mom's vitals up until the umbilical cord is cut.
An epidural has been known to lower BP which is why, according to metropolitanmama.net, it's measured before, during, and even after a woman has given birth. If her BP does happen to drop, that can lead to decreased oxygen levels for her baby, which obviously wouldn't be good. This puts stress on her, her child, and the doctors to get the baby out sooner rather than later.
9 Movement Is Restricted Quite A Bit
Obviously, if a woman is numb from her midsection down, she's probably not going to have much mobility to do anything. This is why moms are cautioned to remain in bed after giving birth (along with the fact that it is exhausting) and don't have much say in the assistance they receive when needing to use the bathroom.
According to metropolitanmama.net, restricted movement during labor can cause its complications, too. These can arise when a doctor needs to move or shift her baby a certain way, which can be complicated even further by a mother's inability to move around herself.
8 A Headache Is Another Outcome Of An Epideral
A headache resulting from an epidural is normal but can be a bit of an annoyance. This can happen when spinal fluid leaks from the membrane and into the brain and/or spinal cord, causing a headache that throbs, but is usually quite dull. However, this headache can also last anywhere from several days to a week, according to self.com, which is obviously undesirable.
In extremely rare circumstances, a spinal infection (meningitis) can occur, or, even more rare, a hematoma. It's estimated that roughly one out of 200,000 women will have one due to an epidural. These odds are pretty good, but the risk is still there.
7 Pushing Becomes A Bit Of A Gray Area
We touched on it vaguely before, but when a woman is numb from the waist down, it can be a bit of a challenge figuring out when to push. Even more so, how hard to push can be a bit of a question mark, as she can barely feel anything, to begin with. A mom who chooses an epidural is at the mercy of her doctor(s) when it comes to pushing directions. This isn't the hardest thing in the world and many moms might not even mind it (especially if they have a low pain tolerance), but some moms do care. It's more of a control issue at that point, which is why many choose to refuse an epidural.
6 There's Always A Chance A Doctor Will Recommend An Emergency Epidural
Some moms might go into their birth plan with the intention of having a fully natural birth, but this doesn't always remain the case. In the event that an emergency epidural is needed, a mom might not have a choice but to agree with the doctor and allow them to help control her pain level. Bearing this in mind, some women still choose to go into labor by following their natural birth plan, so in the event that they don't need an emergency epidural, they can follow through with what they'd originally had in place. There's no law stating that you can't have an epidural later on.
5 Long-Term Effects Are Wholey Unknown
Similar to how there are no definitive studies that show anything adverse from the effects of an epidural on a baby, there are no studies that show research pointing one direction or another for any long-term effects. The epidural itself usually wears off shortly after labor, but many moms do wonder what happens to them in the long-term after having one. It's confirmed that an epidural can be responsible for headaches and very rarely infection, but what happens outside of that, years down the line? The effects are unknown for the most part and though nothing has been reported otherwise, some moms just aren't comfortable in not knowing.
4 There's A Chance It Can Slow Down The Breastfeeding Process
According to the International Breastfeeding Journal, studies have shown that there is a chance that a woman might have more of a challenge feeding her baby shortly after having an epidural, as opposed to those who don't. The study's conclusion states that women who chose to have an epidural were not as likely to fully breastfeed within the first 24 hours and, even further, were likely to cease breastfeeding within the first 24 weeks postpartum. This obviously will not be the case for every mother, but it is a pretty thorough statistic that many moms take into account before committing to pain management.
3 On A Personal Level, It Can Make Moms Feel As Though Their Birth Wasn't 'Natural'
It wouldn't be right for us to talk about the medical reasons why women choose to refuse an epidural if we didn't talk about the personal reasons, too. For some moms, especially first-time moms, the notion of having a completely 'natural' birth is one that strikes a chord with them... and that's okay. It's the reason many women are choosing to go the home birth route and why epidurals are slowly becoming more of a freedom for those who want it. It's very possible that a woman could feel disappointed after the fact if she chooses to forgo a natural birth for the sake of pain management, but we're here to tell you that it's okay either way. A mom is a warrior no matter how she chooses to give birth.
2 There Is Freedom In The Choice To Have One, But Sometimes It's A Necessary Process
There will be circumstances when a mom does not have the right to fully refuse an epidural or some type of pain management. In the event of an emergency C-section or a breach, for instance, pain management is completely necessary. Things happen that we don't always account for and while a woman might be fully ready to take on birth in the most natural way possible, this doesn't always happen the way that we want it to. The best thing to do is to plan on natural birth while understanding that an epidural might just be part of the journey. No matter what, a mom is always a mom. You fight hard to have that right and no matter how labor goes, what matters is the rest of your child's life.
1 Some Women Are Simply Just Nervous About It
It's more likely that a woman will be a ball of nerves during her labor rather than not, and anyone who isn't, well... consider yourself lucky! It's a nerve-wracking thing and being anxious and eager are two things that go hand in hand during the process. It's okay to feel all of these things and even more so, it's okay to refuse an epidural because of them. It can always be given later on but if a woman is nervous about it in the first place, administering an epidural is only going to increase those nerves. You have the right to say "no."