Seeking relief from labor pain without drugs protects your baby and your body from injury, helps labor progress, and facilitates breastfeeding, bonding, and other postpartum adjustments.
Epidural use necessitates an IV, continuous EFM, and restricted mobility, and it relaxes vaginal muscles. All of these factors can prolong labor.
Epidural use increases the risk of instrument delivery and may increase the risk of cesarean.
Epidural use raises the risk of fever and postpartum separation to rule out infection.
Epidural drugs do reach your baby. Both of these factors can make breastfeeding initiation harder.
You May Need an Epidural if:
Your labor is very long and difficult and you need to rest.
You have a cesarean.
Your blood pressure is very high.
You don’t have good labor support.
Your birth site restricts your ability to find comfort in other ways.
You can’t move beyond your fear of labor pain.
How to Avoid Unnecessary Use:
Labor at home as long as possible.
Choose your caregiver and birth site carefully.
Discuss your desires with your caregiver.
Make sure you have excellent labor support.
Use all the non-drug comfort measures you can.
Be patient and remember that your body knows how to give birth.
How to Keep Labor as Normal as Possible if You Have an Epidural:
Use a wide variety of other comfort measures for as long as possible, so you don’t need an epidural for your entire labor.
Let your epidural wear off before pushing (“labor down”).
Ask your helpers to massage your hands and feet and help you stay as active as possible.
Be patient with your breastfeeding baby and spend as much skin-to-skin time together as possible.
If your baby doesn’t latch well at first or you have other breastfeeding problems because of your epidural, ask hospital staff (preferably a lactation consultant) to help you express colostrum and feed it with a small cup or eyedropper.
To avoid aggravating breastfeeding problems, tell the hospital staff not to feed your baby formula or use bottles or pacifiers.
It’s a day you’ll mark with cake and candles in the coming years—the day that you finally get to meet your new baby! You’ve waited many months for this moment, and spent considerable time thinking about how it will unfold.