I always wanted to have children of my own some day. However, there was one thing that scared me to death – childbirth. I mean, how was I going to survive this? I cry and complain about paper cuts for God’s sake! There is no way I am cut out to endure this kind of pain! During my pregnancy, I’ll admit that I even envied my friends who (for health reasons) were scheduled for a c-section; at least, that way I’d have an excuse for not being brave enough to go through labor.
At my week 37 appointment, the doctor handed me a “birth plan” to fill out. She said “labor could be anytime now, but if nothing happened by week 42, we’ll induce you”. Did she just say week 42? I felt like I was hearing a life in prison sentence. I was supposed to deliver early (at least that’s what I had singlehandedly decided to believe)! Because the longer the pregnancy, the bigger this baby was going to get and based on the latest ultrasound, he is already BIG! As in, he is in the 90th percentile, Big… So this news pretty much meant that A. I won’t need a C-section and B. going past my due date is actually POSSIBLE!?! As soon as I got home, I started to fill out the birth plan, but really, I didn’t care about this damn birth plan, all I was looking for is the section where they ask me if I want drugs? And oh boy, was I eager for some drugs!
This post is dedicated to the first-time expectant mamas who are determined, as I was, to get the one and only Holy Grail of labor pain relief drugs – the epidural. I want to share a few facts that aren’t necessarily explained to you by health professionals – unless you ASK! This is in no way an attempt at giving you an exhaustive list of the health watch outs but it covers the most frequent ones along with what actually went wrong in my very own experience. (If you want full health facts about the epidural, visit www.fitpregnancy.com. This pregnancy health website is very thorough!)
Meanwhile, here are some pointers from mama to mama:
#1 – The epidural is not a one-time shot. Prior to labor, I thought the epidural was just a one-time shot in the spine, that would miraculously suppress the pain. Well, not exactly! A catheter is connected to your back and if you feel any pain, you just press a button to get an additional dose. This means you can gage how much of the drug you need (don’t worry, you can’t overdose, they will set a limit to how much you can add). In my case, however, the contractions grew stronger and stronger for hours and yet, it seemed that all the button pushing didn’t bring me any relief! This takes me to my second point…
#2 – The epidural doesn’t always work! As you can imagine, this was quite the disappointing news to me! Apparently, 3% of women will only get a brief or no break from labor pain even with the epidural. Never in a million years would I have thought that this could happen to me! Everyone I know said the epidural was a lifesaver. My two cents? If you get the epidural and it doesn’t work, don’t be like me and ask for a second one. It’ll probably do you more harm than good!
#3 – The epidural slows down the natural process of labor. In my case, what seemed to be a super fast labor in the beginning, turned into a never-ending process by the time I got my second epidural. So even though it didn’t work, it still slowed down the process!
#4 It’s a package deal! You may not know that when they administer the epidural, you will also likely get pitocin along with it. Pitocin will help speed up labor. And since the epidural tends to lower your blood pressure, which is dangerous for you and the baby, you will also get IV fluids to help keep your blood pressure at acceptable levels. So if like me, you get enough doses of the drug to sedate a horse, it’s a double loss – not only do you still feel the pain, but on top of it, you’ll stay in labor for longer, and get more of the other drugs, and fluids, and so on and so forth…
#5 – You can get Post labor edema! Well, it’s not exactly the epidural that causes this, but the IV fluids they inject you due to the epidural. A few hours postpartum, I looked down at my legs, and realized the horror… Oh my God! What happened to my legs? Is there an elephant lying here in this bed? Panicked, I tried to move my toes. Yep they’re mine! Nurse!? And what did the nurse have the audacity to tell me? That it was normal and that I would just pee it out. Like that just made perfect sense. I had to research this one! My friend Google got me the answer. So, because they inject you with IV fluids (contain sodium) for long hours, the liquid gets trapped in different parts of your body. Drinking water will help eliminate the excess fluids because water helps flush out the sodium/fluids from your system.
Anyway, I hope this helps and good luck on your D-Day, and remember, when in doubt, ask questions!