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Epidural - thoughts both pro and con

(24 Posts)
MiniLlace Mon 24-Aug-09 13:47:52

Hi - at my last midwife appointment she asked me to start considering my birthplan. One thing I am considering is an epidural. Im not great with pain and part of me doesnt see the point in going through hours of pain if there is something (ie the epi) that can take it away ... however, I would be very interesting in hearing from those who have had an epidural as to the pros and cons of doing so as I want to make as an informed decision as possible. Many thanks in advance for all your viewpoints!!

crokky Mon 24-Aug-09 13:55:30

I had an epidural and forceps with DS (no 1) and nothing (as in no pain relief unless you count a few minutes of G&Am, no instruments) with DD (no 2).

I'm not having any more, but if I did, I'd get the epidural again. I wanted one with DD, but there was a major staff shortage so I got nothing.

The downside of having a epi IMO is the recovery from the birth. After I had DD (with nothing), I was recovered that day (apart from bleeding obv!). However, with DS, my legs felt a bit shaky for a week after the birth. Also, my back felt a bit sore from where the epi went in for a few days.

Overall I healed far more quickly and easily from DD's birth, but I much preferred the experience of DS's birth where I was very calm due to the epidural.

crokky Mon 24-Aug-09 13:56:24

Oh and not forgetting the hurting hand where the drip went in for the epi. My right hand hurt for a few days.

craftynclothy Mon 24-Aug-09 13:59:38

Personally I tend to think you should go with the flow. See how things are and if you need the pain relief then have it. I always think that labour pain is very different from normal pain. In a lot of ways it is easier to cope with (I think because you know you'll be getting a baby soon!).

There are risks to having an epidural that are worth looking into (I think there's higher risk of an assisted delivery or c-section but don't know any figures) and possible side effects - your bp can drop and you can get headaches (I know I was warned of both these before having one)

I ended up having an epidural this time around and tbh it was needed - it allowed my baby to move from back-to-back to the right way round (my contractions were too strong and were overpowering everything). What I will say though is that I still felt every contraction and had to use g&a as well. I was rather suprised as I'd always assumed an epi just took all the pain away! It was good though because it meant I could still feel everything I needed to.

craftynclothy Mon 24-Aug-09 14:00:58

Oh yes, the canula in your hand is more painful than the epidural! My wrist bruised from that.

Stopfordian Mon 24-Aug-09 14:01:34

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

MrsMattie Mon 24-Aug-09 14:01:42

You don't have to make your mind up before you go into labour. As long as you're aware of the pros and cons and can make an informed decision, that's the main thing.

Obviously the big pro is that you dont feel any pain!

In general, the main con of epidural is the increased likelihood of a 'cascade of intervention' - ie. you can't feel your contractions as strongly so are unable to push as effectively; which can make labour longer; which can mean episiotomy and the use of forceps/ventouse are more likely, or even that the likelihood of a c-section increases.

Only you can judge the level of pain and how your body is feeling, though. There is no right or wrong way to do it smile.

jabberwocky Mon 24-Aug-09 14:01:57

I had one with both births (ds1 wound up being crash section b/c of breech position, ds2 was elective section).

With ds1 I had worked myself up into a state about the whole idea but it really wasn't bad having the needle go in. I recovered really quickly as far as leg function so that was a relief. And the pain relief was blissful

AngryWasp Mon 24-Aug-09 17:18:48

The problem with planning for an epidural is that you have no plan if you can't access one.

Just because you want one and put it in your birth plan, doesn't mean you'll get one. What would you do then?

violethill Mon 24-Aug-09 17:29:46

I've had an epidural for csection, and two natural vaginal births.

Pros - an epidural stops the pain!

Cons - increased risk of intervention and thereby increased risks to baby and mother

I needed a csection for medical reasons, and found the epi fine, but wouldn't be keen if its not a medical necessity tbh for reasons above

NorkyButNice Mon 24-Aug-09 17:32:24

I had one with DS when I gave birth in New York (more people have an epidural over there I think as they don't have gas and air as an option).

Pro : I had no pain at all during the "ring of fire" moments, but was still able to move legs etc.

Cons : They didn't manage to actually give me enough anaesthetic until just before DS arrived, so I still felt every contraction quite painfully. Not being able to feel DS whilst pushing meant I ended up with lots if tearing.

Worst of all, I ended up with a spinal headache (where your spinal fluid leaks out of the hole made) and I couldn't sit up for a week after giving birth. There is a treatment for it which requires a second injection to the spine, but that failed too.

Celery Mon 24-Aug-09 17:41:08

Whilst an epidural does take away the pain, it's not guaranteed, and it's not a pleasant experience either.

The epidural only worked down one side for me, so I was still in a lot of pain. The canular was also very painful, as was the cathetar I had put in afterwards because I couldn't stand up for hours. I also started vomiting constantly as soon as the epidural was put in.

I went on to have two homebirths with gas and air, and whilst I remember thinking during my second birth how great the epidural had been ( when the reality of childbirth was really hitting home! ) I chose to have another homebirth the third time, rather than return for another epidural.

Depends how clued up and comfortable you are with hospital procedures you are really, because that's what an epidural is, and not a particularly nice one.

Celery Mon 24-Aug-09 17:41:09

Whilst an epidural does take away the pain, it's not guaranteed, and it's not a pleasant experience either.

The epidural only worked down one side for me, so I was still in a lot of pain. The canular was also very painful, as was the cathetar I had put in afterwards because I couldn't stand up for hours. I also started vomiting constantly as soon as the epidural was put in.

I went on to have two homebirths with gas and air, and whilst I remember thinking during my second birth how great the epidural had been ( when the reality of childbirth was really hitting home! ) I chose to have another homebirth the third time, rather than return for another epidural.

Depends how clued up and comfortable you are with hospital procedures you are really, because that's what an epidural is, and not a particularly nice one.

Mybox Mon 24-Aug-09 20:00:49

I had an epidural for dc1 and it was perfect as she was back to back so back pain worse than contractions. It didn't work at first which was awful but they added more in and then it was blissful. I had a cs for dc2 and then for the others no pain relief (no gas or air) as just didn't need it and labours were fast. Between contractions I felt completely normal and during them it didn't hurt but was just a huge force and effort that I had no control over as it just happened.

I would say see how you go if you need an epidural you will know and if you don't then easier for you.

electra Mon 24-Aug-09 20:20:19

I've had one birth with an epidural and two without and I can honestly say that the two without were easier and less painful.

I think that I needed an epidural the first time because I lay down and did not breathe through the contractions. It really is possible to make it less painful for yourself by finding your own techniques. If you can, try to totally relax when you have a contraction - it makes it a lot less painful.

If after everything you still need one, they do work very well in that they remove the pain completely but there is a price to pay for this level of intervention because as soon as you have had one, everything afterwards has to be medically managed so you lose control, really - my first baby had a long second stage, probably because of the epidural and also I could not deliver upright so did not have the aid of gravity.

Having said that, if I had a really long labour and was exhausted I definitely would have one but have not really been in that situation as my labours were 12 hours, 12 hours, 3 hours respectively...

Reallytired Mon 24-Aug-09 22:19:14

I had an epidural with my first child. It was a really long labour (33 hours) and after 28 hours I had had enough. I had a mobile epidural so I could still deliver in an upright position. I did not require instruments to deliver my baby nor did I tear badly. I also recovered quite quickly. I think it helped that the hospital I was in did not top up epidurals in the second stage.

My second birth I only had TENS for pain relief. It was far quicker but part of that was being a second birth and also the position of the baby was better.

I suggest you read up on optimal fetal positioning and active birth.

mumcah Mon 24-Aug-09 22:38:21

I had a mobile epidural after being in labour for two days shock

I could still move a bit although it was topped up when I had the C section grin

Good to be openminded in your birthplan though.Good luck

heverhoney1 Mon 24-Aug-09 23:09:54

Pros and cons in my mind. The delivery of my little (well not so little) one was complicated by shoulder dystocia. Basically she got stuck half in and half out. The epi is one of the risk factors for what happened as was the ventouse. HOWEVER I do not regret it as I believe that SD would have occured anyway due to my odd labour, lack of natural progression, assisted delivery, the size of the baby and the cluster contractions which made it hard for me to move anyway. I honestly believe that without the epi I would have died. As it was I bled heavily but I was very very calm (Very unlike me) which must have kept my bp down I would not like to imagine what would have happened without it.

I think the epi was f*£%ing fantastic!!!! despite the physical trauma of what happened, mentally I was able to bond well with my little girl and I (Touch wood) seemed to have healed pretty well since. I think my anaesthetist was brilliant and would recommend and epi to anyone and everyone - But you have to know and accept the risks associated.

Heated Mon 24-Aug-09 23:21:30

Unless your hospital has a pro epi policy, ime epidurals aren't offered very often to 1st timers because it involves an anaesthetist and ties up a mw who has to permanently monitor you and they like you try without - and by the time you want one it's often too late. I was told by the mw that they 'counsel women away from having them'. You need to have a chat with mw and get a realistic idea of be able to get one.

However, I am a big fan, having had one with pg no 2. They can slow down delivery (mine still only took 5 hours) but I had no intervention whatsoever. It wasn't a mobile epi but a very well placed one and was able to walk very quickly afterwards and left the next morning.

Heated Mon 24-Aug-09 23:25:34

Oh and I had the epi topped up by anaesthetist 'direct from source' which is stronger stuff than the self administer dose. They often let the epi wear off at the crowning stage (ouch) but for pg no 2 that is exactly what they did not want to happen.

AngryWasp Mon 24-Aug-09 23:28:26

If you don't have one and have a good labour and birth, you get an amazing flood of hormones that you will never have and never will again experience (unless you do it again).

Of course, conditions have to right, but they never will be with an epi.

kitesarefun Mon 24-Aug-09 23:37:20

I would say don't decide until you're actually in labour.

You may be able to cope. You may have a very quick labour and not need one.

Or you may decide you want one.

All you need to put in your birth plan is "would like the option of epidural if requested" or some such.

MiniLlace Tue 25-Aug-09 08:39:05

Thanks ladies this is exactly what i needed to hear - all very balanced with the pros and cons - i think one thing coming through loud and clear is to stay flexible and see how it goes - im a total planner so that thought never occurred to me (as i tend to seek certainties) however you are totally right - as you say Kitesarefun if I pop something in the birthplan about keep option if requested that should cover me ... thanks again all very helpful - i love mumsnet!!

Mybox Tue 25-Aug-09 12:04:28

Good idea to put it in your birth plan & see how things go. I did this with dc3 and was told that if I wanted an epidural it was now or it would be too late. I felt fine so didn't have one but was pleased that my plan had been read and that my wishes were being followed.

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