About 70% of women in the United States will choose an epidural for their labor pain relief. Many of them will be completely satisfied, while there are also a portion of women who receive no benefits of the epidural. Here is what you need to know to have the best experience possible with an epidural:
- Learn about epidurals. Knowing what happens when you get an epidural will make you less fearful of the process. You should also know about the added monitoring of mom and baby so that this prospect does not frighten you when they bring it in.
- Be realistic. Epidurals are not simply a medication that provides the same relief for everyone. Some women report feeling nothing in their legs, while other women have some sensation of the contractions but no pain. The epidural and how it works will be partially based on your body, your medications used and your anesthetist’s technique.
- Try to relax. While getting the epidural, try to relax. If you are tense or fearful, it can make getting the epidural a more difficult experience for you and the anesthetist.
- Know your hospital’s policies. Every hospital has a slightly different policy about when you can get an epidural, what procedures need to be done before an epidural (IV fluids, blood work, etc.) and what needs to happen immediately after getting an epidural. Know what these are to prevent surprises in labor.
- Use the epidural wisely. For awhile some women were trying to turn off the epidural in order to feel the pushing phase. Because of the disruption of the body’s endorphins to help prevent pain once the epidural is in place, turning it off removes all pain relief including that from the body, making it more painful for mom.
- Know how to push with an epidural. The best practice for pushing with an epidural is called laboring down. This means that you won’t push, even when you are completely dilated, until your baby is very low in your pelvis. This can help lower the cesarean rate and also saves you from maternal exhaustion. Let your body do the work, you can help at the end.
More on pushing with an epidural.
- Epidurals have limits. While an epidural may take away your physical pain, some mothers find that they become more anxious after the pain is gone. You can still use things you learned in class to ease this anxiety, like visualization and relaxation.