I'm not sure of exactly when all these birthing competitions started, but I'm really not a fan of the debate. Personally, I'm an advocate of all that western medicine has to offer, and happily and confidently opted for epidurals during both my labors. I'm hardly alone in my decision, either. Many, if not most, of my friends had epidurals and recently, for the sake of debate, these women opened up about why they'll never regret getting an epidural, sharing the reason why using medication was not only beneficial, but worthwhile.
According to the CDC, more than 60 percent of women opt for epidurals during child birth, yet many women still debate their safety and necessity. I say to each her own, but I don't think the collective "we" should be telling women that their birth wasn't "natural" just because they used pain-relieving medication to get through it. I have friends who have had unmedicated births that went perfectly, but I also have friends who tried to forgo medications only to end up eventually begging for some sort of relief when their labors didn't go as smoothly as planned.
While the women I've spoken with about their own epidurals are in full support of other women who opted out of the needle, they also felt like they deserved that same support from others, too. Some of them have given birth in more than one way, and have real life comparisons; some of them are first timers who don't know any different, but they're all happy that they decided to get an epidural at some point. In the end, our experiences are our own and on one should have the right to debunk them, shame them, judge them or think less of us because of them.
"My pitocin contractions compared to my natural ones weren't at all alike. Not even close. My natural contractions were mild and tolerable, but my labor wasn't progressing, so I was given pitocin. The contractions came hard and fast after that, and the pain was unbearable. My epidural was my super hero after I got the pitocin."
If a labor is progressing like it should, and there is a risk to either a mother or a baby, Pitocin,or Oxytocin, is sometimes used to help speed up the process. Pitocin is a man-made version of oxytocin used for stimulating contraction of the uterus, which helps to progress a labor. Though its use is quite common and very effective, it doesn't come without its drawbacks.
"My epidural helped me to rest so that I could push later."
Labor is exhausting, especially if it's not progressing very quickly. Being in pain and uncomfortable for sometimes days at a time can take a tole on a soon-to-be mother, but getting an epidural can help them to relax a bit (and even sleep) before they start pushing.
"I was so worried about how much labor was going to hurt. You see all these movies and shows that make women look like they're literally dying, and it made my anxiety about the potential pain overwhelming. My epidural put my mind and my body at ease."
Pain is a relative term, since not everyone experiences it in the same way. Sometimes, just the thought of extreme pain is worse for some people than the actual pain itself. In that instance, an epidural can help to not only ease a person's physical pain during labor, but their anxiety, too.
"As soon as I read about episiotomies, I knew that I didn't want to feel anything from the waste down. I ended up having to have one, but thanks to my epidural, I didn't feel a thing during it."
An episiotomy is an incision made between the vagina and the anus that is sometimes necessary to make room for a baby to come through the birth canal. Sounds awesome, right? Yeah, not so much.
"For me, I didn't want to be in so much pain that I couldn't enjoy the experience of birth. My epidural helped me to relax, and I never felt stressed throughout the entire process afterwards."
"I get that people have their own birth experiences, and some girls want to have a 'natural' birth without medication. That's fine for them, but I don't personally feel like you have to be in extreme pain to be able to get the full birth experience. Call me crazy, but pain isn't an experience that I want to remember. I used epidurals with all of my children."
"I made the mistake of watching videos of women giving birth. I obviously knew what was going to happen down there, but after I saw what was going to happen, I decided that I wanted no part of an unmedicated birth."
"I was in active labor for over 30 hours. At first, I didn't get an epidural. After 24 hours had passed, I was so exhausted that I could barely keep my head up, and knew that if something didn't change that I would end up being too weak to push a human out of my body. I got an epidural during my second day of labor, and was able to deliver my son a few hours later."
Sometimes the pushing part of labor takes hours and hours. For some women, it only lasts about 45 minutes, but for others it takes much longer, and being in too much pain for too long can contribute to a woman losing the strength and focus it requires to see her labor through.
"I could handle the contractions and labor of my first birth, but I went into back labor with my second. It was the worst pain I've ever felt. My epidural didn't take away the pain completely, but it made it much less miserable."
"I went into labor at 32 weeks pregnant. For two months my doctors tried to stall my labor so that my baby could develop more. When it was finally safe to deliver her, my labor ended up taking forever. Go figure. I actually had to get two epidurals because by the time the first one started to wear off, I still hadn't started pushing. The epidurals definitely helped because I was in a lot of pain."
"I had my first child without medication completely by accident. It wasn't what I would call a good experience, so with my second one I got the epidural as soon as it was offered to me. My first birth just scarred me too much to attempt going unmedicated again."
"I'm just really afraid of any kind of pain. My epidural took that worry away, and I didn't feel a thing the entire time. I really enjoyed it."
"My epidural made my entire birthing experience more enjoyable. I was able to be present and focused the entire time, and I loved every minute of bringing my son into the world."
So there you have it. Epidurals are extremely common and extremely helpful for a lot of different reasons. If you don't want one, that's totally fine, but if you do, don't feel like it somehow makes you weak. It doesn't.