Is an Epidural My Only Option?

From The Official Lamaze Guide: Giving Birth with Confidence.

Click on the image to see the full infographic or Download a printable PDF of the infographic

What to Know

  • 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.
  • Lamaze_EpiduralInfographic-01.jpgEpidural 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.


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