Epidurals and Medication Shaming

Just a few days ago, I heard a woman say that she had gone without medication during her delivery. Quite honestly, I thought she was completely nuts, because the contractions that I went through were sustained and NOT productive… UNTIL I had the epidural.  The epidural was a godsend for me.

My next thought though, was to be a little impressed. And then depressed.

Did it make me weaker, to have had an epidural? Was I, the one who grew up tomboy, scratched knees, broken bones, being a pansy, because I wanted an epidural? And I began to feel bad about myself, because in my brief opinion, that woman must have been made of some tougher stuff than I was.

But that’s not true.

Just because someone chooses not to have an epidural does not make them stronger than anyone else. And it doesn’t mean that you’re a pansy, either. View it like taking a pain pill: If you have a serious migraine, it’s okay to take a pain med. People would think you’re crazy if you didn’t.But if you know you’re allergic to that pain med, or it has side affects you’re not comfortable with, then stand by yourself! But please don’t try to power through it off of sheer vanity or stubbornness. It never ends well.

Epidurals and Medication Shaming
DarkoStojanovic / Pixabay

Logical Reasons to Go Epidural-Less

There are plenty of logical reasons not to get an epidural. Really, you could get spinal headaches, something could go wrong with the administration and you could get it in the wrong place, and complications from it are rare, but they can happen. I’ve also heard that it can make the baby lethargic.

If that’s why you choose not to have an epidural, kudos, you know what limits you are comfortable with and did the research.

Here’s two other reasons why you may not want (or get) an epidural:

  • It’s possible to arrive too late. I know a woman who went to the hospital too late to get an epidural. She doesn’t speak of it with horror, the pros and cons sounded about equal, she just prefers to have epidurals and so did with her next child. But she couldn’t change the fact that she got to the hospital late with that one kid. So if you get to the hospital too late, then you may not have the option. And that’s okay! You can do it! (Also they have local anesthetics if you need an episiotomy–don’t panic!)
  • Delivery is turbulent. I remember being concerned that my epidural cord would come out of my back with all the bending and pushing, so I reached around to make sure with my hand. It was very firmly taped onto me, but if it still terrifies you, be willing to work with your fear. Don’t do anything you’re uncomfortable with, just make sure to at least consider your doctor’s advice.
Epidurals and Medication Shaming
cherylholt / Pixabay

Common Illogical Reasons

If you are doing it just to prove that you’re strong, I wouldn’t suggest it.

LABOR HURTS.

Don’t go without an epidural when it’s readily available and you haven’t done any research. Don’t add extra pain to yourself just because you want people to be impressed. That’s the worst motivation for anything in the history of the world.

Perhaps your mom or your best friend went without, and you feel that it would work out just as well for you. And that may be true. But, to use my dad’s favorite advice, would you jump off a cliff just because everyone else is doing it? Labor is a veritable cliff. It is quite possibly the most difficult physical thing you will ever do. Please don’t default to how others have chosen to do it. Do your homework! I promise you will have many, many regrets if you don’t do your own research and follow it.

Additionally, I used to think that I could go without an epidural because “that’s how my ancestors did it” or “that’s how they did it in the eighteen hundreds”. And not to be trite, but people didn’t live much past 60 back then, either! Mother and baby birth fatalities also used to be much more common than they are now. Modern technology isn’t here for us to look at. It can save lives.

So I repeat:

Do. Your. Homework. Before you make any decisions.

Reasons to Use an Epidural

I have felt the worst pain in my entire life when I was in hard labor. I really wish I could have had the epidural before that started, because the pain was soo intense, I didn’t even know how to handle it. My pain was different, but it it possible for it to happen to you. Most women won’t have contractions for four minutes straight with a 30 second break. I needed the epidural to help labor progress. I couldn’t have had my baby vaginally without it. Epidurals make things feel a LOT better. When that medicine started to kick in, I sobbed with relief. It can nearly erase wrenching pain. For me, that fact alone was worth it. But in case you’re still not convinced:

Epidurals can help you relax. I know that I was able to push more effectively because I was able to sleep for a few hours after the epidural kicked in. That rest made it possible for me to have my baby vaginally.

They help your companions relax. I’ve never seen my man so stressed as when I was in so much pain. After I had the epidural, everyone calmed down, and even a few smiles erupted. Everyone was more relaxed because I was, and that made the moment of birth much more special.

I don’t like to use statistics, but the amount of risk is worth the benefit (for most people). I did my homework ahead of time, prepared myself for the possibility of complications, and decided that it was worth it.

Epidurals and Medication Shaming
Madisonllcsmith / Pixabay

Above All, Don’t Judge

Long story short, you don’t know the circumstances of some women’s birth experiences. So please be sensitive when telling your story; other people may not have been so lucky. And with all things, DO YOUR HOMEWORK. It could save yours or your child’s life, seriously. Also that way you can offer a good response to haters 😉

Thanks for reading!

Rachel M

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Epidurals and Medication Shaming

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