When it comes to labor and delivery, few things are more welcome – or more controversial – than an epidural. Thanks to advances in modern medical technology, women can have pain-relieving drugs injected directly into their spines, numbing them from the waist down and easing those famously heinous labor pains. But before you opt for an epidural, make sure that you understand the pros and cons of this medication.
Epidurals relieve the pain of labor, which is enough of a pro for many women to start screaming for the medication as soon as they're able to receive it. They're extremely safe, with millions of pregnant women opting for them every year with no adverse side effects. Plus, they give expectant moms a little time to rest so they're ready to give it their all when it comes time to push.
For some women, receiving an epidural can actually make the labor process longer because it slows down the body's ability to progress naturally – which leads to an increased incidence of Cesarean sections. Additionally, if women can't feel their contractions, knowing when to push – and how hard to push – becomes much more difficult. Finally, many women like to get up and walk around during labor, which is impossible once you're numb from the waist down. An epidural also limits you to the lying-down position while you're pushing, which is one of the most inefficient positions for pregnant women to labor in. (Squatting is much more natural and helps to open the birth canal, making it easier for your baby to join the world).
Before you decide whether or not to receive an epidural, speak with your doctor about the advantages, the drawbacks and your own unique risk factors.