It's no secret that labor and delivery are pretty painful experiences. Some women plan on getting epidurals early on in their pregnancy and others decide once they're actually in labor that they'd like one. After all, it's hard to anticipate how you're going to feel during labor and, luckily you can change your mind. There are a great many things you feel when you get one (like nothing), but there are also some really weird things that happen when you get an epidural.
According to the American Pregnancy website epidurals are one of the most popular methods of pain relief during labor. More than 50 percent of women opt to go the epidural route, as it's a fairly easy process. The needle is inserted in the lower back and the pain relieving medicines are delivered through a catheter. It numbs the lower part of the stomach and sometimes legs while you are awake.
In theory I wanted an epidural with my first baby. I told everyone that I was getting one as soon as it was possible. But like so many women my labor didn't go quite as planned. I had an emergency C-section and got a spinal block instead. Spinals and epidurals both make you numb and are really great to have when you're going through labor and childbirth. Besides not being able to feel your legs or when you have to go to the bathroom, there are nine other weird things that happen when you get an epidural.
1. You Can Sit Insanely Still
An epidural is administered by having a woman hunch over or lay down on her side to make her torso in the shape of a "C." Fit Pregnancy noted that cleaning solution is rubbed on a woman's back, numbing medicine is injected, and the epidural is inserted through the numb area.
Somehow during this process, you force yourself to sit perfectly still while going through contractions. You irrationally think one sudden movement could cause you to screw up the whole epidural procedure and cause you to be paralyzed forever. You can be rest assured that paralysis from an epidural is extremely rare, as the All About Epidurals website noted.
2. You Watch Contractions Without Feeling Them
If the epidural is done right and your body responds well to it you will be watching your body contract on a screen without actually feeling a thing. According to the Kids Health website you might feel the pressure from the contractions but not the pain. So you can watch those squiggly lines go up and down on the hospital monitor, praise modern medicine, and laugh about how much pain you're not in all at the same time.
3. You Take A Nap During Labor
Instead of watching the lines dance on the monitor without any direct feeling of them, you can try to catch some Zs before the big show. According to Web MD an epidural is a regional anesthesia used to block pain in a certain area of your body while you stay awake. It won't necessarily make you sleepy, but if your pain is reduced to the point that you can fall asleep, you should rest and save up all of your energy for childbirth.
4. You Might Get An Electric Shock In Your Legs
It sounds scarier than it actually is. But it is possible that you might feel a little jolt after the epidural is inserted into the proper position. The Dr. Sears website noted that some women might feel a shooting sensation down one leg like an electric shock. Thankfully, it only lasts a second and within minutes you should be on your way to tingly heaven.
5. You Might Get Itchy
According to an article on the National Center for Biotechnology Information website some people who get epidurals can start to itch. The article noted that it depends on what type of opiate that is injected into the epidural. The itching is usually not severe and can be relieved with other medications.
6. You May Need A Top Off
Just like an oil top off before a road trip, you might need one before childbirth. The Kids Health website said that the amount of medication delivered through the epidural will depend on your personal needs. The anesthesiologist can adjust and administer the medication as you progress through labor. All you have to say is give me more, and you shall receive.
7. Sometimes They Fail
Your epidural might not work or you might have to get a new one. It happens, but not often. According to an article on the National Center for Biotechnology Information website, the reason some epidurals fail is because the epidural needle wasn't placed in the best spot, the catheter moves somehow during labor, or the woman just has really fast labor.
8. You Can Get A Wicked Headache Afterwards
This is probably one of the worst feelings ever. Sometimes with epidurals or spinals people can develop what's called a post dural puncture headache, according to the Patient Info website. It usually starts about one day to one week after the procedure.
The spinal for my emergency C-section left me with the worst headache after delivery I've had in my entire life. The most hideous part about it was that no amount of medicine relieved it. You just have to wait it out. My headache started the day I went home from the hospital and stayed with me for an entire week.
9. It May Be The Best Thing About Your Birthing Experience
Epidurals are hailed by many women that use them for labor as the greatest thing about childbirth, aside from the obvious gift of course, a newborn baby. If you want one there should be no shame or guilt. An epidural could really turn what might be a really painful experience into a much more comfortable one.
Deciding to get an epidural is a very personal choice and one that might not be made entirely ahead of time. You may decide in the thick of labor you want one, even if you hadn't planned on it. It might turn out to be one the best decisions you make for you and your baby.