The decision about whether or not to get an Epidural is a personal decision that every woman must make. Using or not using an epidural does not make you a better or a worse person. Having said that, there are compelling reasons not to have an epidural, even if this will be your first baby. By knowing all of the facts, you can better make the decision about whether you should get an epidural.
First, it is important to understand how an epidural is administered. An epidural is given through an extremely thin tube between the spinal cord and outer membranes. When used for labor, an epidural dulls feeling from your stomach to your feet.
An epidural is usually not given until you are 4 cm or more dilated and you are having contractions that are regular and strong. While the epidural is being placed and right afterwards, your our blood pressure is checked every 1-5 minutes. You may be given extra fluids can be given through IV to keep blood pressure normal.
Having an epidural will still allow you to feel contractions enabling you push your baby out after your cervix is completely dilated. At times the epidural is turned down, or off, so that you can push well at the end of your labor. After your baby arrives, the epidural medication will be stopped. The anesthesiologist will come by a short time later and remove the epidural catheter from your back. The effects of the epidural wear off gradually over a 1-2 hour period.
There are some possible side effects of an epidural. An epidural may cause headache or backache. It may increase the need for pitocin to help induce contractions. It may cause you to shiver. In some cases, the use of an epidural increases the risk of needing a forceps delivery. With your first baby, if an epidural is given too soon, it may even increase the chances that you will need a c-section.
You should discuss the need for an epidural with your health care provider and whether or not you wish to have one, before labor if possible.