Every woman is different as is every labor and delivery and every epidural. There is a reason women who have previously had a baby will laugh at first-time moms attempting to put together an elaborate birth plan.
Not only can things change course minute-by-minute, but the level of pain, ease of which an epidural is administered, and the effectiveness of that epidural can also change things.
One great example of this is the risk of epidurals stalling labor. When I was taking birth classes to prepare for my first baby, I heard all about waiting until active labor to have an epidural because it could stop contractions altogether.
As it turned out, however, epidurals speed up labor for me. Each time I received an epidural, the relaxing effect of the medication dilated me from three or four to 10 in under two hours. I’ve heard from other women that this was the case for them too. While you can find some accounts of this, hard evidence will point to the contrary.
Other benefits of epidurals include:
- The ability to rest during labor. The pushing process can be long, tedious, and exhausting, especially if it is your first baby. Getting in a nap before that process is a great benefit to have.
- Pain management. Obviously.
- More enjoyment of the delivery process. I genuinely enjoyed delivering my first baby, which was unexpected.
The Big Decision
You don’t have to make your decision now, but the practices and procedures around administering an epidural will vary by hospital. Some give epidurals through injection into the catheter while others give medication using a pump. The time frame around giving an epidural will also vary.
Talking to your doctor ahead of time about those parameters is an important part of your birth plan so you can be as informed as possible in the heat of the moment.