There are a lot of "rules" you're supposed to follow in order to have the safest delivery possible. For example, your doctor may suggest you lay on your left side to keep your baby's heartbeat strong, ask that you adhere to eating and drinking cut-off times, and recommend certain pain management methods. That's why there's never a bad time to mention to your doctor what you may or may not be comfortable with, or ask questions like, "Can I move when I have an epidural?" While it's totally normal to have last-minute questions and concerns when you're in the throes of labor and delivery, it doesn't hurt to be as prepared as possible before the "big show," too. So here's the deal with epidurals — and what you're allowed to do — as explained by the professionals.
More than 50 percent of women who give birth choose to have an epidural to manage labor pain, according to the American Pregnancy Association (APA). Because epidurals, by nature, are meant to reduce labor pains in the lower region of a laboring woman's body, all feeling in those lower extremities may be decreased substantially. There are, of course, a few different types of epidurals, too, so it's worth your time and energy to research each method and discuss with your doctor beforehand, in order to decide the best course of action for you and your delivery.
Parenting lists the pros and cons of each epidural option available, stating that while a traditional medicinal epidural of bupivacaine or lidocaine could relieve most (if not all) of the pain, the downsides include not being able to walk and, in some cases, not being able to feel enough to push when it comes time. Another option is a spinal block that's injected directly into the spine. There's near immediate relief, but the medicine does wear off. These are usually reserved for late labor pain and, even still, you won't be able to walk or move around.
So, what can you choose in terms of pain management if you want to move freely but still reduce labor pain? Some hospitals might offer what's called a "walking epidural," according to Parenting, which is essentially just a low-dose epidural. This is (sort of) exactly what it sounds like — a fast pain relief via a combination of narcotics and a lower dose of anesthesia. Though this option isn't available at every hospital, you'll have a little more freedom to walk around for at least a little while after you receive it. Due to the unique concoction, however, you and your baby could feel groggy as a result. Even if you're able to wander the halls through labor pains, Fit Pregnancy suggests taking it easy, because hospital staff will need to monitor the baby's progress and that's usually done bedside.
If you've chosen to undergo an epidural, no matter what type, it's probably best to plan on staying close to your hospital bed after it's administered. Even in the case of a so-called walking epidural, it's impossible to know exactly how your body, and your baby, will respond to the drugs. In the end, a safe, healthy delivery is the most important thing, so whether you get an epidural or not, you'll gain mobility (and some freedom) as soon as your baby makes their entrance into the world.