How to Have a Great Birth with an Epidural

You may be surprised to be reading this coming from the owner of the largest doula agency in Middle Tennessee, but today we’re going to talk a little bit about how you can have a wonderful birth experience with an epidural.

I have clients who have all kinds of preferences, including walking in the door backwards to get that epidural. I support all of it and I’m with them every step of the way, no matter what they choose. Many people don’t know what they will want until they get there- and that’s totally understandable. Sometimes plans also change, and I am there to support parents who were set on a natural birth but then must make choices they didn’t expect to. No matter how you deliver your baby, it’s intense. So let’s look at some scenarios that involve an epidural and talk about your options and what you can expect.

You’ve decided you want an epidural.

Awesome! You are probably hoping for some instant relief… But you’re going to have to wait a minute. Depending on how many other babies are being delivered at the time and where the anesthesiologist is, you could have to wait up to an hour or so to have it administered. Your labor doula will help you get through the waiting period with all her knowledge of position changes, counterpressure during contractions, massage, and relaxation techniques.  If you’re nervous about the procedure, she and your nurse can talk you through what will happen, and of course when your anesthesiologist arrives, you will hear a full run-down of how your epidural works, the risks, and what to expect moving forward. Once it is administered, your doula will help you get comfortable and facilitate a restful environment.

You want an epidural but you also want a vaginal birth.

You may have heard that an epidural increases your risk of cesarean, or heard the phrase, “cascade of interventions.” If you are worried about how to achieve an epidural and a vaginal birth, it can be helpful to note that the longer you have an epidural placed, the more likely it is to interfere with your ability to access the muscles necessary for pushing. Are you absolutely going to have a cesarean birth if you get an epidural early on? No. But the longer you can hold off, the more likely you are to be able to push with ease. Your doula will help you cope with the sensations of labor beforehand and remind you what a rockstar you are, and that you can do it. Another option you have that she can help you with is nitrous oxide. This tool can be used to take the edge off until you decide it’s time for the epidural.  

You are having a long, difficult labor and you are exhausted.

Sometimes, progress is slower than you would prefer. I have so much respect and admiration for the strength my clients dig deep to find in these situations. You may be working so hard to get through your contractions, and yet a dozen hours or a day has passed and little dilation or effacement is happening. Even if you were hoping to avoid an epidural, this is a scenario where I see parents ultimately choose it even though it was not in their original plan. Why? Because sometimes rest and recuperation become a top priority in order for your body to relax and open up. And the thing is, I’ve seen it work many times. All of a sudden a client goes from a 4 to a 10 in a matter of hours, and we have a baby. They are able to rest and even sleep to reserve some strength for the pushing stage. I’m there to talk clients through these kinds of choices, which often are emotional and difficult. No matter what you choose, I’m there as a safe person who brings no judgment to the table, just my knowledge of birth, your options, and my physical and emotional support.

Are you planning to use an epidural for your upcoming birth? Have you used one in the past? Tell us why, and how you felt about it!

This post was contributed by Arielle Fears, one of the amazing owners of Music City Doulas. She is a Labor Doula, Postpartum Doula and Postpartum Placenta Specialist. Arielle is also a Childbirth Educator and a Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga Instructor. She has extensive experience leading discussion and support groups for new mothers. She believes fiercely in the ability of parents to make the best decisions for themselves, and holds their confidence and comfort through pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum in the highest regard. Her background in music and childcare as well as her individual path through parenthood has blessed her with a sense of confidence in the unknown, a dose of realness, and an appreciating sense of humor.


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