Doula Chats: Epidural Potential Risks and Benefits

May 31, 2022

Possibly one of the hottest topics between mothers who are expecting is Epidurals. Before we talk about whether or not an epidural will help you to have the birth experience that you want, let’s talk about what an epidural is beyond the basic, “I get it, and I don’t feel contractions anymore.”

An epidural is a kind of anesthetic that is used especially in childbirth to produce loss of sensation below the waist (Oxford Languages). It is accomplished by an anesthesiologist who inserts a small tube (epidural catheter) via a needle into a space in your spinal column near the nerves that carry pain messages to your brain. Anesthesia medicine then flows through to tube into that space. Administering the epidural is typically not painful and works with great effectiveness in eliminating feeling from the waist down. Ideally, the anesthesiologist will administer just enough anesthesia to remove the feeling of painful contractions but still allow you to feel pressure and be able to move your legs in slow, small movements.

My Opinion:

Our bodies were divinely designed to create, carry, birth, and sustain life. An epidural can be a wonderful tool for those mothers who are exhausted and need rest and/or want help relaxing, but it is not a necessity for physiological childbirth, and it is not something that mothers should request immediately upon admittance to the hospital. It is important that mothers understand the benefits and potential risks of the epidural and know that their best chance of avoiding a c-section and additional interventions is by putting it off for as long as they possibly can. 

When I was pregnant with my first child, I believed that I would go into the hospital and walk out with a baby. I thought it would be nice to try having the baby without an epidural and went as long as I felt like I could. I got the epidural as soon as I reached that point, and had my baby a little while later. It was a sweet experience, but I didn’t feel that immediate bonding or connection that I had expected to feel. That I did feel with the next three births that I had without the epidural.

Allowing our bodies to experience childbirth unhindered is an incredibly empowering thing. After each of my epidural-less births, I felt what I describe as the best runner’s high you’ll ever have. I had transformed and grown and accomplished something incredible, and my relationship with my husband had grown. I had depended on him to hold my hand, tell me I was strong, and encourage me to do “just one more.” He became my coach, my teammate, and my cheerleader. Those moments are foundational in our marriage.

Choosing to birth without the epidural may not be the right choice for you, and I would say that you’re very likely to have an uncomplicated and beautiful birth experience with one. I am not totally against medicalized childbirth. I believe that God has inspired men and women to discover these methods for the purpose of helping others, and that when these tools are used wisely AND INTENTIONALLY, with full understanding of the attached risks and benefits, they truly are a blessing.

I encourage each expectant mother to study her birth options, including the benefits and potential risks associated with that option and decide what feels right to them.

Remember that you are doing the best you can under the current circumstances and that you can do this.



*Susan Joy is a Doula and Birth Documenter serving the families of Mesa, Gilbert, Chandler, Scottsdale, Queen Creek, San Tan, and other cities in the East Valley. The information presented here is not medical advice. All medical decisions should be made after discussion with your medical provider.*

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