Epidurals are the most commonly requested form of pregnancy pain relief, given to more than 50% of women during labor and delivery. Whether or not to have epidural anesthesia is a purely personal decision. In fact, women have a number of pain relief options and may decide to use one or more or none at all. The important thing is to choose a hospital that offers a variety of labor and delivery amenities and can support the choices you make. Here, our experts answer your most-asked questions about epidurals.
Are epidurals safe?
“Epidurals are a great option for women looking to have pain control in pregnancy,” Dr. Evans said. “In general, women that are choosing IV medication for their pain control can’t use that medication beyond a certain point. Epidurals can be used safely at any point in the labor process and are generally recommended by obstetricians.”
Epidurals use regional medications that block pain in a particular area of the body and provide an analgesic, or pain reliving, effect rather than a complete lack of feeling. This allows an epidural to produce pain relief with minimal effects. According to the National Institutes of Health, epidurals have no long-term disadvantages for mother or baby. Talk to your doctor to see if an epidural might be a good choice for you.
Should you get an epidural?
“On the flip side, however,” Dr. Seligman said, “not every patient needs an epidural to have a baby.”
He encourages his patients to go into labor with an open mind for two reasons:
- A medical situation may come up that prevents you from having an epidural
- Some patients sail through labor without needing pain relief
Should you feel guilty for having an epidural?
“Would you feel guilty if you took anesthesia for an appendectomy?” said Malathi Ellis, MD, a board-certified OB-GYN at Medical City Las Colinas. “No, of course not. Nobody expects to have an appendectomy without anesthesia. This is a procedure that hurts the same, so why would you not take anesthesia? Obviously, it’s every woman’s choice to have an epidural or not and I respect and support the choice to have a natural delivery. But for someone who wants an epidural, it is absolutely their right to have pain control in their delivery.”
If you’ve created a birth plan with or without pain relief options, keep in mind that circumstances may change during labor and you may want or need to tweak your expectations. Every labor and delivery, just like every baby, is unique.
For more healthy pregnancy tips, check out Stages of Labor: How to Know When True Labor Starts and our other We Deliver Dreams childbirth and parenting blogs.