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  • Writer's pictureKaleem Joy, Licensed Midwife

Epidurals and Your Baby's Journey

Updated: May 29, 2023

If you're looking to decide whether you do or don't want to have medication, ie an Epidural, during your labor and birth, let's explore this journey to uncover what an Epidural and Your Baby's Journey really looks like.

I know, this is Natural Childbirth 101 and that already starts you feeling like I am bias. Well I am, so let me just say this and tell you why. I have attended over 1200 births and with very few exceptions, they were all unmedicated.

Why did these women choose this way of birthing? Glad you asked but let me share a little about epidurals first, since this is your main reasons for reading today.

Epidurals are a wonderful invention and intervention in birth. They are very helpful in complicated births to allow the mother/parent to be awake and have additional medical interventions such as Pitocin IV to increase contractions strength and help a mother to rest when labor has been prolonged and difficult with little to no progress. Epidurals are also very helpful for women who, because their labor was unable to complete vaginally, can be awake and aware when their baby is born by cesarean section or surgery. There are some women who have very high blood pressure and having an epidural will reduce it and allow them to continue to labor toward a vaginal birth instead of automatically having a surgical birth.

Where does an Epidural get it's name? It comes from the tiny space surrounding the spinal column called the epidural space. A needle is placed in the epidural space and a small tube is fed into it and numbing medication is administered. It causes the nerves that control the legs, abdomen, bladder, bowels to be numb to sensation. It also causes the blood pressure to drop which why an IV is placed so fluids can be given to help the blood volume be sufficient to continue to provide enough oxygen to the baby.

Due to the numbing affect, a woman must stay in bed because she would fall if she tried to get up and walk. Sometimes a catheter is placed in the bladder to keep it empty because it's not easy to know if it's full or not. Additional pitocin may be needed to help the labor progress because the strength of contractions is reduced by 40% when an epidural is used. If they can not monitor the contraction patterns well enough to maintain adequate progress, they may insert, through the cervix and into the uterus next to the baby a pressure monitor. FYI this means they will need to release your water first to do this. Because the numbing doesn't signal the mother to breath the same as she would without the epidural, the baby can get less oxygen and over time, can become tired. This tired can show up as the baby's heart tones dropping. if the birth is not progressing quick enough and baby does not tolerate the labor, a cesarean is needed.

Let's see did I cover it all. Tube in back, medication, IV, pitocin, catheter, internal monitor, blood pressure monitor on all the time and monitors for contraction and heart beat for baby,..... oh yes one more. If they are concerned how the baby is handling the labor, they will put an internal heart monitor on the baby by screwing a tiny screw into their head. There we go. So.... what do you think? Not quite as pretty as your friends made it out to be is it.

You might be asking yourself if I am just trying to scare you into not using one. No! I really just want you to know what you would be embarking on and what the risks could be. Ask anyone that has had one if they had at least 80% of these. Ask women who have had emergency c/sections if they were on one when it happened. Ask an OB or anesthesiologist and you will be surprised that this is the real deal.

Let's talk about your baby for a moment. If you did decide to get an epidural, and since they "say" that it doesn't get to the baby, then your baby IS experiencing labor and they are now being asked to experience it without your support of breathing deeply for more oxygen to them and movement to help them navigate your pelvis and looking to you for encouragement and support. If the epidural does get to the baby, it makes them even less able to tolerate labor and walla, you have a surgical delivery that is on the horizon. About 80% of women have an epidural in the US and 1 in 3 women will deliver by cesarean in the US. My desire is to help women know that labor and birth is a time to prepare and to embrace so they can experience the very best possible for themselves and their baby.

Well, that brings us in for a landing on this topic by suggesting that an epidural is a great option for women who are having a difficult and complicated births. Natural Childbirth 101 promotes the awareness that birth was meant to be normal and women are capable and strong enough to walk the journey with their baby's. My classes will teach you what to do in pregnancy to maximize your health and your baby's as well as prevent complications and promote a positive progressive birth. Believe in the truth that birth was designed to work especially when you understand how to work with it.

For more information on my Confidence Boosting online classes go to:

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