Epidurals can dramatically transform your birthing experience. For a woman wishing to be as comfortable as possible during the labor and delivery process, an epidural will no doubt be part of the conversation and possibly part of the birth plan. Some women who initially say they want an unmedicated birth, might decide during their labor that the want one. In either case, there are signs it's time to get an epidural once you've reached the hospital.
Epidurals are safely and easily done, which is probably why about 50 percent of women giving birth at hospitals use an epidural in the United States according to the American Pregnancy Association. The anesthesiologist injects numbing medicine and, while you sit hunched over, they insert the catheter into the membrane around your spine. Whatever medicine they decide to use, either steroids or opioids (or both), will be delivered into the catheter. If the procedure is done right and there are no complications a woman's whole lower body should be pretty tingly and contractions should only feel like slight pressure.
In the movies, a lot of pregnant women arrive at the hospital breathless, sweaty, and screaming for an epidural, only to be told it's too late. If you want to avoid being too late for numbing nirvana here are nine signs you're ready for an epidural.
1. You Are In Pain
Seriously, if you're in pain at whatever level you deem unacceptable get that epidural. According to the What To Expect website you can get an epidural whenever you are ready.
And you shouldn't feel guilty about it. No one should judge your pain, including yourself. No one knows your pain but you. If you're in pain and don't want to be anymore go ahead and order that epidural stat.
It certainly doesn't get any less painful as you progress through labor so there is not much advantage in waiting. Unless of course you'd like to still be able to feel your legs and walk around, then maybe you should consider waiting. But if you don't care about not feeling your legs go ahead and order up that bliss in a needle that puts your lower body on trip to la-la land.
2. You Are Dilated (Even If It's A Little)
You can be dilated a lot or a little — it really doesn't matter. The Baby Center website noted that most doctors will want to wait until a woman is four to five centimeters dilated before administering an epidural, because it's believed that epidurals can slow labor down. But as long as you're actually in labor and the head of your baby isn't crowning you're not too early and not too late, you're just right.
3. Your Water Is (Or Is Not) Broken
It doesn't matter if your water has broken or not, you can get an epidural. The Kid Center website suggested pregnant women consider getting an epidural before their doctor breaks it, as it can be a pretty uncomfortable procedure and labor tends to speed up rapidly after it's done.
I did not have an epidural before my water was manually broken in the hospital and let's just say I found it to be extremely uncomfortable (i.e. painful). I wish I had numbed that whole area before it happened. Let's just say this - my husband is still traumatized by it and it didn't even happen to him.
4. You Feel Like You Want To Rest Before Childbirth
The epidural itself won't make you sleepy because ,as Web MD pointed our, an epidural is a regional anesthesia used to block pain in a certain area of your body while you stay awake. But, if you feel like you want or need to rest up a bit before childbirth an epidural might numb you enough to relax. And who knows you might even catch a little nap.
5. Changing Positions Isn't Working
Women in labor can try all sorts of methods to relieve the pain. Fit Pregnancy touted yoga poses, massage, walks, and showers or baths as good ways to possibly decrease the pain during labor. But if changing positions isn't working, it might be time to consider an epidural.
6. Breathing Exercises Aren't Working
You know all that lamaze breathing you learned? Or those meditations? Maybe even self-hypnosis techniques? Fit Pregnancy noted all of those methods can possibly help calm the mind and loosen the muscles during labor. But, if they're not working it's time to look at your other options like perhaps the breath of fresh air an epidural provides.
7. The Anesthesiologist Is Available
Considering how much relief an epidural can provide it's no secret that anesthesiologists are the rock stars on maternity ward floors. If one is in the vicinity you might want to snag them before another laboring pregnant lady does. The epidural procedure is done pretty quickly, usually anywhere from five to 10 minutes according to the Med Central website. But if the anesthesiologist has to perform multiple injections, it might be awhile before they get to you. It's best to discuss an epidural as soon as possible with your doctor and nurses.
8. You'r Want A Pain-Free Delivery
Not only will an epidural help you during labor but it can last all the way through childbirth. It's completely up to you how much you want to be numb and for how long. The Kids Health website said the amount of medication delivered through the epidural can be adjusted as you progress through labor. You might need a little top off to get your through delivery and that's OK.
9. You Want To Make This As Pleasant As Possible
However you go through labor is completely up to you and everyone's experience is completely different. Some women wish to feel everything or they have certain convictions about being medicine-free during labor and delivery. Others wish to avoid what they perceive as a total train wreck experience. Many moms claim that their epidural was the best thing about their labor besides getting their bundle of joy in the end. If you feel like you want to be as comfortable as possible you should feel no shame or guilt about getting an epidural.
In the end the only real sign you need to tell you it's time to get an epidural is your desire to get one in the first place.