When you’re having a baby, there can be a lot of advice and judgment on your choices. Whether to have an epidural or not may feel controversial, but it shouldn’t. The important thing is having all of the information you need and people around you who support you as you make the choice that is right for you.
At NY Midtown OB/GYN in Manhattan and Westchester, New York, our expert reproductive and sexual health team can help give you all of the information you need as you plan your birth and delivery , including information about epidurals.
An epidural is an analgesic (pain-relieving) treatment administered in the epidural space (the cylindrical sleeve filled with protective fluid that surrounds your spinal cord). An epidural includes the placement of a catheter which allows medication to be administered slowly over a period of time.
Epidural medications administered for childbirth include an anesthetic that works to prevent pain signals from being sent to your brain without causing complete numbness or making you lose consciousness. Around 70-75% of women who deliver in a hospital choose to have an epidural at some point during their labor and delivery experience.
Having an epidural is a personal choice. Here are some facts you can use to help you make your decision:
Whether you have an epidural or not isn’t a question of morality, bravery, toughness, or anything else. It’s a decision only you can make, based on your comfort level during labor and delivery.
You can also make an initial choice not to have an epidural, and then change your mind later. Even if you are in active labor, you can still ask for an epidural after previously having requested not to get one.
Your medical team may discourage you from standing or walking after your epidural due to potential weakness in your legs, but you should stay fully aware and able to feel sensations like pressure and the urge to push.
You may have heard various epidural myths, such as getting an epidural might hurt their baby, make their baby “high”, or prevent it from breastfeeding. There’s no evidence to support these claims. The minuscule amount of medication that can reach the baby from an epidural during labor is so small it doesn’t cause harm.
Most risks associated with an epidural are very low—less than 1%. The most common side effect is temporary low blood pressure, which occurs in 10-20% of cases. This is typically recognized immediately since you’ll be monitored, so your doctor can treat you immediately and you won’t have any lasting adverse effects.
If you’re still unsure whether or not you want an epidural that’s okay. We are committed to supporting you no matter what you choose.