You spend 9 months eating all the right foods, taking your vitamins, getting exercise, and listening to what the doctors tell you in order to give your child the best start in life that you possibly can. Then, in the last few hours of your pregnancy, you make a decision to have an epidural or pain killers that can have severe consequences for you and your baby.
Today it has become very common to have an epidural, IV drugs, or a shot of Demerol or Nubane during labor. It is so common that people think you are crazy when you tell them you want natural childbirth. Why would you want to do that when you can have a "pain free" labor and delivery?
Now, I am not an expert, but I have given birth 5 times and hopefully will be doing so again in the next couple of weeks. 2 of my deliveries were with epidurals. This last baby will be a natural childbirth. I wish that I had known more about the decision I was making to have an epidural and that is why I am writing this.
First of all, anything (good or bad) that goes into your system also goes into the babies.' When you take Tylenol when your pregnant your baby is taking it too. That fact does not change just because you are in labor. The baby is still inside of you. This is something that should always be considered and pain medication only given when the benefits outweigh the risks such as in a necessary emergency C-section.
I had my first epidural for my second child when I was about 6 cm dilated. The nurse had come into the room and asked me for the 3rd time if I needed an epidural and that once I hit 7 cm it would be too late. I panicked and said yes I wanted one. No one ever told me that it hurts to get an epidural (a lot.) It is also very hard to sit up on the edge of a bed bent over when you are 9 months pregnant and in the middle of a contraction. Moving can be very dangerous because the needle has to go in the right spot. Immediately following the procedure my blood pressure rapidly dropped and I had to be put in oxygen. 20 minutes later I delivered. Getting out of bed for the first time was horribly painful. I couldn't stand up straight or bend over for several weeks.
I was very nervous when I went in to have Christian (baby number 5) I had had a hard pregnancy and was worried about my labor. My friends and family all told me not to be a martyr if I needed the epidural I should have it. When I was 5 cm the nurse came and checked me, asked me to rate my pain and told me that I had a very long way to go. Once again I panicked and on came the needles for the epidural. A few minutes later my blood pressure dropped, I had to be put in oxygen, and the baby's heart rate fell to a dangerously low rate. Alarms rang, the nurses came in and moved me from side to side in the bed trying to get his heart rate back up. I really believed that I was going to go for a C-section but slowly his rate came back up. 20 minutes later I delivered. After getting to hold him for a few minutes, I was told his breathing wasn't as good as it should be (even though they had already had to suction out his lungs) and he would need to go to the nursery to observe him. The nurse brought him over to me and told me to kiss my baby good-bye and he would be back later. Luckily he did OK and after a couple of hours was brought back to my room. I had a hard recovery that included pain in my back for more than 6 weeks and severe head-aches. All of these things had been caused by the epidural and could have been avoided.
I have never had any other pain killers during my labors because I have relatively short labors and these kinds of drugs depress breathing in the baby. I did have a shot of Nubane when I had my appendix out, but all it did was put the baby to sleep and it didn't touch the pain. What I have heard about these medications in labor is that it makes you nauseous (who wants to be throwing up when trying to push) and it doesn't stop the pain it just makes you not care about being in pain. These medications are relaxers which may relax the uterus and make your labor last longer. In addition to causing depressed breathing, babies born to medicated mothers have lower Apgar scores and very often have a problem with their sucking reflex making it difficult for them to nurse. They are also a lot less alert then a natural birth baby and traces of the drug has been found in their system for several days after delivery.
In the next couple of days I will be posting about Natural Childbirth and some things you can do to prepare for it. Two of the main reasons people are unsuccessful are fear and lack of preparation. If you are prepared there is no reason why you can't give your baby the best possible start in this world and make your birth experience a joyful one.