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to wonder, where the move towards 'epidurals are wimping out' ideas come from?

(215 Posts)
Thurlow Fri 23-Aug-13 21:30:57

I very strongly believe that every woman should be encouraged and supported to have the birth that they want, whatever they want to do.

But I've noticed over the past few years - anecdotally, on places like MN - that there is this background belief from some women that other women who have an epidural are somehow 'giving up' or 'not woman enough to cope' or 'not embracing a natural pain'.

Now I really don't care how people give birth, as long as they've been supported by their healthcare professionals to achieve what they want, because all that matters is that the mum and baby are both well. I understand the cascade of intervention that an epidural may bring, and that a pain relief free vaginal birth is probably, on the balance of things, better for both the mum and the baby as long as everything is going well.

But I can't help but wonder how or where the natural birth push has morphed into some people being so anti-epidural for other women, into the sort of judgement that someone women seem to embrace at the moment?

VodkaJelly Fri 23-Aug-13 21:36:36

I had 3 sons and didnt have an epidural with any of them. And they all bloody hurt.

DD was born in January and the birth didnt go well. I fucking BEGGED for an epidural, begged. I was off my head with the pain. And fuck me, it was brilliant. No pain, nothing. Cant believe I never had one before.

I was that delirious with the pain at the time I never even felt the needle.

Epidurals rock.

TheProjectManager Fri 23-Aug-13 21:36:55

It's the NCT conspiracy .... Out of 6 in my NCT group we all had epidurals and one had an EMCS - we all felt a nagging sense of failure even though we all were lucky enough to have had perfectly healthy babies .... Go figure .... Women in other countries would give anything to have them on hand like we do but we're made to feel guilty - it's nuts

propertyNIGHTmareBEFOREXMAS Fri 23-Aug-13 21:37:42

I think whether or not you have an epidural depends on lots of factors. I did not have one because I viewed it too risky. No way would I let someone near my spine plus I really did not want to increase my chances of an assisted delivery. Lots of people would consider me a worried when it comes to medical things though and are far more relaxed than me. It is each to their own. It is ridiculous to view an epidural as wimping out. I am scared of them! That makes me more of a wimp.

gordyslovesheep Fri 23-Aug-13 21:38:18

I had no epidural with DD1 - 36 hrs and a section in the end - they wouldn't let me have one because I had an infection ? never worked that out

damn right I had one with the other two grin

it's not wimping out - I don't see the need to be in constant pain for over 2 days - it's exhausting

meditrina Fri 23-Aug-13 21:40:08

I must read different threads on MN - the ones I recall are supportive of all types of birth.

What is sadder is the phrase "as long as the mother and baby are bight well". Because in some cases the baby is stillborn, and that phrase diminishes the birth experience of those women

Thurlow Fri 23-Aug-13 21:40:17

It is nuts. It really doesn't matter. When DD was first born and I was still in that new mum haze, talking labours with other mums, I came across a few women with very strong opinions and felt I had to justify myself for having an epidural - "no, no, it wasn't the pain, it was the long labour".

I don't know if it is entirely the NCT but... the media seems to focus on it a lot. Maybe its just that. Maybe its the proliferation of sites like MN where so many women can share their stories and experiences and beliefs that has actually encouraged it?

Thurlow Fri 23-Aug-13 21:43:40

Yes, meditrina, you're right, and apologies for saying that.

There was a thread a few weeks ago that had a lot of posters on it who were very much of the opinion that hard work and focus was all it took to get through a birth naturally, and that there was no luck involved. Which sometimes there is. If you've been in labour for 2-3 days before even getting significantly dilated then you're probably too knackered to contemplate the rest of labour without a rest. That's the kind of thing that sticks in my mind sometimes.

BaronessTeapot Fri 23-Aug-13 21:43:55

I had an epidural with DS1 and ended up with a forceps delivery and was needed that many stitches later that the nurse described me as a "patchworth quilt". I had to spend over a week in hospital recovering.

No epidural for DS2 (not out of choice as it happens but I was told I was not in labour) and I was home a few hours later.

I don't really think the epidural was "wimping out".

BabyMamaDrama Fri 23-Aug-13 21:44:26

Epidurals are amazing. And I was one of those women who before birth said 'never will I have an epidural, it's copeable pain' forward to a 36 hour induction process, a syntocinon drip to make contractions come faster and a back to back baby. After 3 nights in hospital with no sleep, I welcomed that needle in my back!! I did end up with a forceps delivery but that wouldn't put me off an epidural again.

Why is it such a concern to other women how others cope with their labour pain? Each to their own. I commend any woman who can go through labour and birth with minimal pain relief but that's not the way I could do it and I don't see why epidurals should be frowned upon.

badguider Fri 23-Aug-13 21:49:02

I've not come across that attitude to epidural at all (and i'm 39wks pregnant so around a LOT of birth stories and ante-natal discussions of birth right now)

What I HAVE come across is a lot of awareness that if there is no other reason why you can't be in active birthing positions then there are advantages to avoiding the epidural and therefore being able to move freely and use the pool.

Once you are constrained by something else though - induction, IV, anti-bs, continuous monitoring or just plain exhaustion, then you aren't fully mobile anyway and have little to lose by taking the epidural.

Obviously I haven't given birth yet, but these are the messages that I am getting and the OP is about the messages rather than the reality so hopefully I won't be jumped on for talking about something I haven't experienced yet.

FridaKarlov Fri 23-Aug-13 21:50:44

It's no-one else's business what pain relief you choose. I had ALL THE DRUGS including an epidural because it was looking likely I needed an emergency C Section. I wanted to kiss the Anaesthetist when it took effect. I'd been in labour for 40 hours by that point so anyone who suggests I wasn't trying hard enough can bore off.

Out of 6 women in my NCT class we had 1 straightforward birth with no interventions. Sometimes that's just the way the cards fall.

meganorks Fri 23-Aug-13 21:50:50


NiceTabard Fri 23-Aug-13 21:52:24

I ended up with a spinal block with DD1 as they couldn't get the epidural in and I was on the table for emcs.

It was the most wonderful thing that had ever happened to me grin

Before that I was offered NO pain relief whatsoever, not even gas and air, even though I was really really distressed (induced and it all kind of went wrong).

IME - and of course everyone's experiences are different - the midwife clearly didn't want me to have any pain relief even though I was in a terrible state. Otherwise she presumably would have given me some confused Don't know what that was all about.

I agree that some NCT groups and NHS groups as well are down on epidural and in a way that isn't just related to increasing other interventions. Got the same vibe about CS. While poor outcomes from things like forceps were hardly mentioned / glossed over. I definitely got the feeling from both groups that there was a prevailing "right" and "wrong" way of doing things which was not really related to actual risk assessments IYSWIM.

sittinginthesun Fri 23-Aug-13 21:54:20

I think that it's down to insecurity, as most things are.

I had an agonising time with ds1. When ds2 was born, the consultant went over my notes and birth plan, and wrote EPIDURAL when requested.

The fact I could give birth in relative comfort was a revelation. I actually enjoyed the experience, and I'm quite happy to shout it from the rooftops!

MoominsYonisAreScary Fri 23-Aug-13 21:54:54

i had 1 during labour with ds1 as they thought I might need a cs.
i didn't like the whole not being able to move thing and swore id never have one again.

had g&a with ds2 but still needed an epidural after for retained placenta.

Ds3 was an emcs under general

Ds4 epidural at 18 weeks to put an emergancy stitch in

Ds5 had one at 14 weeks to place another cervical stitch and had a spinal during the elcs which wore off before they even got the baby out!

im used to the things now!

Thurlow Fri 23-Aug-13 21:56:28

In an ideal world it is no one's business, but at the moment it feels like it is something that the whole world is willing to discuss in great detail. Take the interest in Kate Middleton.

Frida - yes, the night before DD's 1st birthday I raised a toast to the amazing anesthetist. Oddly, we had 4 emcs's out of 6 in our NCT group!

Badguider, that's such a healthy attitude to have to birth. But yes, I am talking about the messages. As I've said before, personally I don't care how women give birth as long as afterwards they feel happy with the support they had and the decisions they made. But sometimes you meet the strangest people who have strong opinions that must have come from somewhere. Particular women who haven't had children yet grin I know a few who are very much "I'm not having an epidural, I'm having a lovely water/hypnobirth, epidurals are so bad for the baby". And while I really hope they get what they would like, reality isn't always like that.

Thurlow Fri 23-Aug-13 21:59:42

NiceTabard - I definitely got the feeling from both groups that there was a prevailing "right" and "wrong" way of doing things which was not really related to actual risk assessments

That's very much what I am failing to explain! Studies and risk assessments say that an intervention free birth is generally best for both the mum and the baby, where possible. I understand this. But if you have an epidural for whatever reason, some people see that as 'wrong'.

Don't even get me started on the few looney women I have met who act as though having an emcs is because you failed somehow!

ReallyTired Fri 23-Aug-13 22:00:44

The NCT are anti epidurals because they are mad on active birth. Middle class mothers are often insecure that that makes a minority bitch at each other. (Ie. breast v bottle, Gina Ford v Attachment pareting, consultant led unit v homebirth.) Some of these mothers may have postnatal depression and only see these issues in black and white.

Every labour is different and the pain threshold varies considerably between different women. It is far easier to cope with pain if you have a 3 hour labour than if you have a 33 hour labour. There is a lot of luck when it comes to childbirth. Getting good pain relief should not be luck in a first world country.

I had an epidural with my first child, but I didn't even need gas an air with my second child. So much depends on the positioning of the baby. A long back to back labour is hell for a first time mum. I feel its inhumane to refuse a woman the best pain relief when she has suffered for hours.

I feel that an epidural should be available to all women who want one. Also every woman should have one to one midwifery care in labour. Having good emotional support helps reduce fear and labour pain considerably.

I don't undertand why mobile epidurals are not used more in hospitals. We need research to design a bed/ chair that will help a woman with an epidural to get into a good birthing position and monitor her without being instrustive.

Finickynotfussy Fri 23-Aug-13 22:00:54

My experience was like Frida's and after a long day at home with no pain relief the gas & air and spinal block in hospital were absolutely brilliant -- I was very much of the 'Now I am in hospital I will have ALL THE DRUGS' view.

I do think it is weird that some people seem to equate birth with doing an Iron (wo)Man or something.

plummyjam Fri 23-Aug-13 22:02:27

I'll freely admit that I was a complete wimp when it came to labour. It was absolute fucking agony from the moment it started.
Getting the spinal anaesthetic for my EMCS was one of the best moments of my life. Before I had DD I always said I'd only have an epidural for a back to back presentation or induction but now I think I'd go for it early doors regardless (or ELCS) next time.

Must be said though that in my experience the only "epidurals are for wimps" attitude seemed to emanate from the midwives I met rather than other mums.

Finickynotfussy Fri 23-Aug-13 22:03:25

I think mobile epidurals aren't used more as hospitals never have any money and also I think I read somewhere that they need wifi to work (or is that mobile monitoring?) -- having worked in the NHS I thought when I read that 'oh great, an IT issue, that'll help...' hmm

throughgrittedteeth Fri 23-Aug-13 22:05:00

I was certainly more scared of an epidural than the actual labour. I hate the feeling of not being in control and I didn't want to lose feeling in my legs.
I'll admit that to start with I felt very proud of myself for doing it without much help, but after speaking to my NCT friends very quickly I realised that I was lucky to get through it all without any drama. Also if I'm lucky enough to have another, next time might not be so easy

Thurlow Fri 23-Aug-13 22:05:59

Is it purely the NCT? Or is it the media and online forums that have helped?

NorksAreMessy Fri 23-Aug-13 22:08:18

'middle class mothers are often insecure' hmm. I think I would like some data on that one.

I loved my epidurals, no feeling of guilt, I didn't know I was supposed to feel guilty. I just felt grateful.

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