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Does epidural take away most of the pain?

(28 Posts)
Marabou Sat 08-Jan-11 17:33:06

Hey everyone!

I'm a first time mom and due in mid-May. So far I haven't really given much thought to labour, but having now spent the whole day watching birthing videos on youtube, I'm a bit freaked at what to expect confused...

I just wanted to know how realistic it is to expect the epidural to take away most of the pain..? I understand that you can only have this after having been in labour for a while, but when you do have it, does it really make it easier? What are your experiences?

Porcelain Sat 08-Jan-11 17:49:37

A correctly administered epidural working correctly will take away the pain, but leave you with the sensation of a contraction happening so when it comes to pushing time, you know when to push.

Not all epidurals end up like that though, some don't work correctly, there are risks and side effects, you are immobilised and more likely to end up needing other interventions (forceps c-section). It's also not very comfortable to have done.

So in answer to your question, yes, it does take away all the pain, but it's not a simple, lovely magic bullet, there are other things to consider.

IF you are frightened I would suggest you start with a Natal Hypnotherapy CD, so some research into all the types of pain relief available to you, and see how it goes on the day, it might be better than you think.

Violethill Sat 08-Jan-11 18:06:30

I had one for my CSection, and yes, it definitely takes away all the pain! However you still feel pressure, pulling etc.

Totally agree with Porcelain though about risks and side effects - I didn't have one for my vb's.

winnybella Sat 08-Jan-11 18:11:19

I didn't feel it being administrated- had it for both births- takes pain away. For the actual pushing stage they take it off/ give you less so you can push, so then you will probably feel the pain more.

I loved it, tbh.

TuttiFrutti Sat 08-Jan-11 18:13:03

Marabou, I actually think epidurals are magic bullets. They are the only thing that really takes away all the pain, totally. Basically they are an anaesthetic, so once you have had one you will change from a screaming banshee to a calm, collected woman reading a magazine. Well, that's what happened to me anyway.

I tried everything else and nothing really worked for me. Everyone is different, so go in with an open mind though.

There are risks to all medical procedures, but epidurals have been around for decades and are statistically very safe.

Marabou Sat 08-Jan-11 18:19:13

Hi Porcelain and thanks for your reply!

Hm, I'm not really frightened I guess, but more unsure of how well I can handle pain.. My mom keeps telling me that the best birthing experience she had was when she went all natural. She says the epidural didn't really work for her when she was having me (and my brother as well) and they had to use forceps, which she says felt like she was being gutted shock.. She says the epidural did numb her, but that she felt like the lower part of her body was being pulled off. But I'm thinking that was 30 years back and things must have changed by now..

I must look into the hypnobirthing CDs more though. I saw that this particular one had got great reviews on amazon: n-Hospital-Centre/dp/1905220502/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8 &qid=1294509736&sr=8-1

Marabou Sat 08-Jan-11 18:22:50

Phew! Thanks so much for your answers!

I knew there had to be some positive experiences out there, as epidurals have been around for so long. It's not like my mom's trying to scare me, but I think for her it just wasn't a nice experience..

CarGirl Sat 08-Jan-11 18:24:41

I've had 3 epidurals and none of them were fully effective but they did make the pain managable. The fact I was still in some pain made it easier to push them out IMHO as I could tell what my body was trying to do.

My best birth was the one that went all natural but it was my 4th birth and I was completely chilled about being induced and had 7-8 hours of induction pain before the contractions started so natural endorphins and tens machine were well in use at that point, just had gas and air and it was a breexe grin

I was completely stressed with my previous 3 inductions.......

CarGirl Sat 08-Jan-11 18:25:47

When you're in a lot of pain and not coping even a partially effective epidural is most welcome grin

thirtysomething Sat 08-Jan-11 18:27:38

I had two epidurals with differing results - first was a nightmare to insert as my back/spine was swolen through eclampsia - at the third attempt it worked and stopped all pain, so much so that I was calmly reading my book when the midwife announced it was time to push DS out. i was shocked as I'd forgotten I had to do anything. However I couldn't feel any contractions so the pushing was exhausting..

Second time around the needle went in first time and painlessly and the pain was numbed a lot but I could still feel to push etc.

It does mean you aren't very mobile for a while afterwards though and both times I had to have a catheter for 3 days as my bladder seemed frozen too!

PorkChopSter Sat 08-Jan-11 18:34:31

An epidural will greatly increase the likelihood of an instrumental birth or Csection.

Some epidurals contain opiates and would have the same effect as a shot of pethidine on the baby.

They are not all good. Please research the pitfalls too.

I had one, it took 45 minutes to put in. For those 45 minutes I was pinned down by 3 people so I was still. I could feel everything & was in agony but could not move to get comfortable or birth without aid. My spd was made worse. And then I was left on the postnatal ward 2 hours after birth, alone, no catheter and no way of getting to the toilet without crawling.

I had next two births without even G&A but with much better support.

Marabou Sat 08-Jan-11 18:35:32

I don't think I would be brave enough to try it the all natural way first time around!

Reading a book waiting to be told to push sure sounds good to me grin!

Pesha Sat 08-Jan-11 18:37:09

Hmm, well my epidural didn't do much for me at all except cause me a lot of pain when they put it in! But then I don't have a lot of luck with anaesthetic injections either so perhaps its just me!
My 2nd birth was a lot easier and I managed with just G&A and 3rd birth I didn't even want that much.
Reading a lot and knowing what was happening and feeling in control made the biggest difference to me. Obviously wouldn't have had I not had a straightforward birth so I'm not saying its all down to your mental state but I did find it made a big difference in how I able I was to deal with the pain I was experiencing.

Porcelain Sat 08-Jan-11 18:46:42

I think as long as the choice you make is informed, it's all good.

I didn't want one, but I didn't want syntocinon either, my baby wasn't shifting, and after a few hours of synto (and 2 days in labour) I was exhausted,struggling to manage the pain, and it became the best option. It was a bit cringey going in (not pain, I could feel it kind of scraping) but then I was sat up feeling warm and smug. Then my blood pressure bottomed and I needed a crash team, my baby got into distress. It was still the best option though.

If you know the risks, can weigh it up, and decide it is the option for you, that's great. On the other hand I know some women assume that it is going to take out the pain and have no other effect on them or their baby, and it's important that they know what they are consenting to.

togarama Sat 08-Jan-11 19:03:43

They work very well for most people but not for everyone. I think the figures are that about 3% fail entirely and ~12% work only partially. This still means that the vast majority of epidurals work very well indeed but it's as well to know that it might not be your "magic bullet". If you do want the epidural, have some back-up strategies for coping in case it doesn't work for you.

As a real life illustration, my mother had an epidural with all of her 4 births and none of them worked. (If it fails for you once, it's apparently more likely to fail again in future but this wasn't established then.) There were no other negative side-effects but the epidurals didn't give any pain relief for her. It just meant that she was stuck in a bed on her back in pain instead of any other position (no mobile epidurals in the late 70s and 80s...).

Her experience did influence me in regarding the epidural as the pain relief choice of last resort. I was glad to have a straightforward birth at home with DD and not to have to make the decision.

Cakemuncher Sat 08-Jan-11 19:11:51

I am not going to bash epidurals because it isn't helpful and most women who opt for them have great experiences with them. I think for long labours, they are probably the way to go. I know a couple of women who, like one of the posters, had very long labours and found the epidural to be a blessed relief.

All I want to add is that IF you decide not to have one, or IF you have one and it doesn't work (which is very rare I think), then don't be too scared of the pain - you'll amaze yourself with what you have to cope with when you are faced with it! I promise! I was put on a syntocin drip and I requested an epidural after a shot while (I was a wimp ;))The aneasthesist (God knows if I spelled that right) couldn't get the needle in and kept hitting a vein. She had to abandon it so it wasn't an option for me. After a few minutes of "oh my god, how will I cope", I requested diamorphine (which I hadn't wanted) and it took enough edge of the pain to let me cope with it.

As I say, I think they are a great invention and I think that they are the best option in many, many cases. I was a first timer too in October. Childbirth is not easy, but don't be too scared, whether you go for an epidural or not! I had to have a section in the end and even it wasn't that bad!

Porcelain Sat 08-Jan-11 19:25:42

"Childbirth is not easy, but don't be too scared, whether you go for an epidural or not! I had to have a section in the end and even it wasn't that bad!"

I think this is the key thing, I don't think I have ever spoken to a mother, even one who has had a traumatic birth, who has not felt that it wasn't so bad after all, and it was worth it to get their baby. I'm not saying there aren't those that feel differently, but even a friend of mine who was scared out of her mind beforehand, relating her high intervention delivery, brushed it off as no big deal in the aftermath. You get through it, and afterwards you have better things to focus on.

I was supposed to be having a natural, home birth, and in the end I got to try out a whole load of fun stuff in hospital (ending in emcs), but I have a lovely baby, and it's not an issue now.

Marabou Sat 08-Jan-11 19:49:50

Thanks everyone so much for your input, it's so helpful, especially as I feel like the appointments with the MW aren't really informative and they seem to always be in a hurry to get me out of the room... Maybe when I'm a little further along and the antenatal classes start I'll feel a bit more reassured, who knows..

Hm, "no mobile epidurals in the late 70s and 80s", that might explain my mom's bad experience then as well as "If it fails for you once, it's apparently more likely to fail again in future but this wasn't established then"..

My days, you guys have all been through a lot! I just hope when it's my turn I'll be ok. I think it's true that it's best to think of it as just something to get through before you'll finally get to meet your baby..

Cakemuncher Sat 08-Jan-11 19:58:41

You will be okay Marabou! Mother Nature picked women to have the babies for a reason!

You might like to watch "One Born Every Minute" next week. I watched while preggars and I found it very positive and encouraging.

Allegrogirl Sat 08-Jan-11 20:14:41

"no mobile epidurals in the late 70s and 80s" well we must be in a time warp here because our local major teaching hospital doesn't have them.

I was induced with syntocin twice. First time I had an epidural as I was told syntocin made the pain worse. Had a very relaxed 7 hour labour but took an hour to push because I couldn't feel anything. Tore a lot and took 3 months to recover. Second time I said no thanks to the epidural. I really hurt but I tore less badly and took 3-4 weeks to recover, again an hour of pushing and much bigger baby.

I did feel like a goddess second time for coping with the pain. To put it in context had my eyebrows waxed at 37 weeks pregnant and nearly passed out with the pain. I was lucky to have short labours though.

I'd say see how it goes. You may surprise yourself.

Marabou Sat 08-Jan-11 20:25:30

Oh I used to watch One Born Every Minute a few months back, I didn't know they were showing it again, I'll have to look it up!

Hm, I'll have to check if my hospital have mobile epidurals. I'm giving birth at Chelsea & Westminster in London btw..

So you're saying that the tearing might be worse with an epidural, or? Why is that, if that's what you meant? Sorry if I misunderstood!

Ripeberry Sat 08-Jan-11 20:30:16

I had to have an epidural after giving birth as I had a 4th degree tear and needed an operation, but I was too scared to be put under.
No pain at all, but very strange for a whole day as could not use my legs, had to be cathetered and when i touched my leg, I freaked out as it felt warm and I did not realise it was my own leg!

Allegrogirl Sat 08-Jan-11 20:33:37

Sorry Marabou if my garbled post wasn't clear. Tearing much worse with epidural as I couldn't feel anything. And I had back pain from being immobile. We are in the dark ages here though. No mobile epidurals and I don't know anyone who had it 'turned down' for the pushing stage. Being in London you probably have 21st Century technology though.

notanumber Sat 08-Jan-11 20:49:00

Check with your hospital about the type they offer.

When I had DC1 I had the old style epidural which meant I could feel nothing (which was frankly the best thing ever after nothing doing for fifteen pigging hours).

DC2 was born in a different hospital and I was very unpleasantly surprised when the epidural was administered. Basically, my thoughts went: What's with this mobile shit? I can still feel here, people. I want the completely-imobilised-paralysed-from-the-waist-dow n stuff, none of this "let it wear off" bullshit, thank you.

Seriously, it's worth checking.

fifitot Sat 08-Jan-11 20:54:27

As others say - block out the pain but mean the pushing stage can be difficult. With G and A it is painful but IME loads quicker, pushed him in 5 mins. The endorphin rush afterwards was amazing - all pain went as soon as he was out, it felt amazing.

Didn't have any of that with epi but at least I didn't scream the place down like I did with the second.

pros and cons to both but glad I tried both ways and if I had to do it again would to the G and A route, perhaps with a pool too.

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