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Natural Versus Epidural?

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Major decisions come with a long list of pros and cons and childbirth is no exception. Should you get an epidural or go drug free? The key is to do your homework – figure out what you want, talk to your partner, OBGYN, family members, friends, and always do your own research.

How many times have you heard new moms talking about their childbirth experience and how the epidural was not what they expected? To start talking about the risks and benefits of these two types of childbirth methods, it’s important to understand what each entails.

An epidural is a local anesthetic that is guided by an anesthesiologist into the epidural space around what protects the spinal cord via a guide needle and small tube called an epidural catheter. The guide needle will later be removed leaving the small tube/catheter behind. It is typically placed at or below the waist and will be hooked up to a machine that will deliver the medication. The purpose of an epidural is to block sensory nerves, which provides pain relief.

The benefits of an epidural are pain reduction and pain management. A common side effect is limited mobility on the lower half of the body, but a new kind of epidural has been developed in the past few years that limits the effect on those nerves and allows for some mobility. Similar to epidurals are ‘spinals’ which are also used for pain relief during labor but allow for more mobility than epidurals. You can also expect to be hooked up to an IV and fetal monitor if you choose an epidural. Other than limited mobility, other side effects of epidurals include lowering of the mother’s blood pressure, headache, fever, prolonged labor, trouble walking or urinating after delivery and seizure has been reported in rare cases.

A natural birth also comes with a list of benefits and risks. Choosing this route leads to the potential for a wide range of pain and discomfort. Advantages include less potential for side effects, no loss of sensation or alertness, maintained mobility and lessens the likelihood of required interventions like oxytocin, catheterization or the need for vacuum/forceps for extraction. Natural pain reduction techniques will not eliminate pain, so if you are not interested in dealing with the pain, an epidural might be the best option for you. If you experience prolonged labor or complications that require intervention, a natural approach may not offer adequate pain management.

At the end of the day, the most important thing is the safety and health of mom and baby, not the method by which the baby was born. Do you have questions about your birthing options? We’re happy to help.


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