All my friends say I just won’t be able to manage without an epidural, is that true?
The pain of labour is real, but each woman experiences it in their own way. Some women have a high pain threshold, some experience very quick labours and others have practiced breathing and relaxation techniques, that allow them to manage the sensations they are feeling and birth their baby with zero medical pain relief. This is known as an unmedicated birth. These scenarios seem like myths to most of us, but the third scenario is actually attainable for all of us: we just need enough preparation and mindset building during our pregnancy.
Most women who are unable to manage labour “Pains” are afraid. We are taught that labour is a fearful thing, so it is not surprising that we all believe it is terrifying. But it is a physiological reaction in our body that makes this self-fulfilling prophecy come true. If you believe you are in danger, your body will go into fight or flight mode. This means that your adrenal hormones activate, your body tenses up and the blood flow will move away from the uterus where it is needed to the limbs, because your system thinks you are about to fight or run away. If we are relaxed our body responds by releasing our “happy hormones” which are natural pain relievers, relaxants and stimulate feelings of love. It sends blood flow to the right places and we physically relax. For childbirth to run smoothly we need to be relaxed, and to be relaxed we need to feel prepared and in control.
An epidural will of course provide pain relief in most cases and for some, it may feel like the only option, but weighing up the advantages and disadvantages and making an informed decision, should be part of our process when we are preparing to welcome our babies into the world. We should not just opt for the epidural because all our friends did.
The advantages of a non-medicated birth include:
• A shorter labour because you can be up and active, work with the natural rhythms of your body and will feel the urge to push at the correct time.
• Breastfeeding is facilitated more easily, because your baby is more alert and interested in feeding, this has proven better for long-term breastfeeding, which is best for baby.
• A faster recovery time, because your natural hormones when unmedicated will help you. You are also less likely to suffer a perineal tear and won’t have to recover from possible side effects of an epidural like back pain, injection site reactions and itching from medication
• Increased connection with the birth experience which allows you increased connection with your baby and also with your body
• Feeing empowered and confident, the ability to give birth naturally and conquer the harsh demands of labor often causes women to feel stronger and less fearful about facing other challenges in life.
The choice is a very personal one so I would ask myself these questions:
1. How important is it to me to feel actively involved in my labour?
2. Do I know what actually happens to give me the Epidural?
3. Do I mind having an assisted delivery (forceps or vacuum) if I need one because of the epidural?
4. How do I feel about drugs in mine and my baby’s systems?
5. Do I have other tools and comfort measures I could use instead?
Then you can make the decision that feels right for you.