I thought I knew everything and anything there was to know about having babies. And then, of course, I had one. It didn't take long for me to realize that when it came to childbirth, I was in over my head. Everything in that labor and delivery room moved so quickly, though, so there were so many . questions I should've asked my OB-GYN before my epidural that went entirely unanswered.
I knew the basics of an epidural, to be sure. I mean, I had a general idea that a needle was going to go into my back and then I'd go numb from the waist down and I wouldn't feel those horrific contractions anymore. But there were key parts of what ended up being a necessary conversation with my OB-GYN about the entire labor and delivery process that were either lost in translation or left out entirely.
For example, after I was induced I had no idea I would have to wait to get the epidural. And not for just a little while, but for what felt like forever. In fact, I went through a large part of my labor sans pain medication, so I felt in the dark and unsure of what was going to happen when. So you better believe that in the thick of labor I wish I had asked my OB-GYN the following questions, way before "the big day."
"How Long Does It Take To Work?"
My epidural was going to numb me, completely, from the waist down. So I knew I was going to be stuck in bed, with a catheter, until the epidural wore off. And if I was going to be in one position for an extended period of time, I wanted to know how long it would take for that pain medication to kick in.
According to SheKnows, it takes an average of 10 to 30 minutes for an epidural to start working. I felt mine within 15 minutes. I just wish I knew the pain medication wasn't going to work instantly.
"Does It Hurt?"
I can't speak for every woman who has ever had an epidural. Pain is relative, to be sure. But I can tell you that, for me, having an epidural was painful. Now, compared to my contractions it was nothing, but I do wish I would have been given a slight idea of how it was going to feel so I could better manage my expectations.
"What Are The Side Effects?"
For the record, epidurals are usually extremely effective and are relatively low-risk. According to WebMD, out of 80,000 women who had epidurals during childbirth only 3 percent experienced complications.
Still, it's important to know the risk and potential complications of any procedure, no matter how safe. Some side effects of an epidural include nausea, hypotension, and a drop in maternal blood pressure that could affect the baby, according to Parents. I experienced all of those complications, and needed oxygen during and immediately after pushing as a result. I know I wouldn't have been as scared if I knew what I could potentially expect.
"Will It Affect My Labor?"
An epidural can, but not always, slow down the labor and delivery process. According to Fit Pregnancy, "Epidural medications themselves don't slow labor down, but the IV fluids [doctors] pre-load you with before you get an epidural can dilute the contraction-causing hormones circulating in your blood stream temporarily."
My labor lasted three days, and to this day I don't know if it was the induction medications, my stubborn cervix, my exponentially stubborn baby, or the epidural that prolonged the process.
"How Will I Know If It's Working?"
I honestly didn't think to ask this question because I just assumed all epidurals work right away. Turns out, that's not always the case. Sometimes the catheter isn't inserted properly, and if that's the case the epidural won't do what it's supposed to do. Unfortunately, that happened to me during my second labor and delivery.
In the end, and through some serious trial and error, I realized that when it comes to childbirth knowledge is power. Even if you don't end up relying on the information provided to you, it's better to know what may or may not occur before you hold that precious baby in your arms.