When I was pregnant with my first child, I read every book, took all the prenatal classes, and watched hours upon hours of A Baby Story. I considered myself a studied, if not yet practical, expert on labor and delivery. I educated myself on the benefits of unmedicated childbirth, and learned about the pros and cons of using anesthesia. I knew that I wanted an epidural, but I was surrounded by people who put so much value on giving birth "naturally." There were still so many myths about epidurals floating around, and I felt ashamed to admit to anyone that I was all in.
My friends who had gotten epidurals confessed to it guiltily. They made sure to tell me how far they had dilated, how many hours they'd suffered, and the number of laps they'd walked around the hospital before reluctantly calling in the anesthesiologist. It was clear that getting an epidural made you seem weak or lazy, and took some of the accomplishment away from giving birth. I could only imagine how my C-section friends felt.
On the day I went into labor, I stuck it out for a couple of hours. "This isn't so bad," I thought to myself. But the moment my water broke in the delivery room and my body felt as though it was being turned inside out, I got that epidural. A few minutes later, after I was sitting comfortably again, I called a friend of mine who was due at any moment, and I gave her my one personal piece of advice, "Get the epidural."
Recently, I came across a humorous essay by a writer named Jessi Klein titled "Get The Epidural," and since then, I've shared it with all of my pregnant girlfriends. Don't be shamed into decisions based on what others feel you should or shouldn't do. Don't let anyone tell you how much pain you can or can't handle. And, most importantly, educate yourself.
Here are some myths about epidurals that you may have heard, and can now put to rest.
Myth #1: Epidurals Increase The Risk Of Needing A C-Section
A study by Dr. Cynthia A. Wong, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that women who were given an epidural were not at any increased risk for C-section than women who did not get an epidural. The study also found that an epidural does not slow down labor. According to the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) there is evidence that epidurals may even speed up the first stage of labor for some women.
Myth #2: Moving While Getting An Epidural Will Cause Paralysis
There is a long-held myth that if you move while you're getting an epidural you can become paralyzed. According to Northstar Anesthesia, "there has been no report of someone becoming paralyzed because they moved while getting an epidural."
Myth #3: Epidurals Cause Chronic Back Pain
According to Northstar Anesthesia, studies have shown that the chance of a woman who's delivered a baby developing a back pain is identical regardless of whether or not she had an epidural. The stress the weight of the baby puts on the muscles and ligaments of the spine, is related to chronic back pain, but not the epidural.
Myth #4: An Epidural Can Hurt Your Baby
According a study by assistant professor of anesthesiology Dr. Paloma Toledo, published in the International Journal of Obstetric Anesthesia found that there was no evidence that an epidural could cause cerebral palsy or be harmful to the baby. The medication in an epidural does not readily get into the bloodstream, and so the amount that reaches your baby is so small it doesn't cause harm.
Myth #5: You Have To Get An Epidural Within A Certain Window Of Time
You can get an epidural at any point in your labor – beginning, middle, or end, according to the ASA. You don't have to be a minimum number of centimeters dilated. Because it takes 10 to 20 minutes for the epidural to work, you don't want to wait until you are pushing to get one, but Northstar Anesthesia noted that with recent advances in epidural techniques, there are ways to provide faster pain relief such as a combined spinal epidural.
Myth #6: You Can't Get An Epidural If You Have A Back Tattoo
The concern has been that the pigment from your tattoo might be trapped in the epidural needle and inserted into deeper tissue. But according to Mayo Clinic, the anesthesiologist will insert the needle through skin that isn't tattooed, such as an open area in the tattoo design or a different space along your lower back. If that isn't possible, the anesthesiologist might nick your skin to prevent trapping the tattoo pigment into the needle. This may result in a scar on your tattoo.
Myth #7: You Should Only Get An Epidural As A Last Resort
This is a completely personal decision. Only you know how you would like your childbirth to be. If you truly want to experience every sensation and each ounce of pain during your labor and delivery, that is your right. But, it is also your right to accept pain relief at any point in your labor. It is your right to have a baby in your home, on your bed, or in your bathtub, or in a kiddie pool. You also have the right to have a medicated birth, in a hospital, with your hair done and eyeliner applied. You do you, my friend.