My Childbirth Class Made Me Totally Question Getting an Epidural

The last thing I expected my childbirth class to freak me out about was pain management. I thought it would be more like, the education on just how much PAIN would be involved would make me run for the hills. The thing is, I knew already that this is going to hurt. A lot. Beyond a lot. But I think I was a little in the dark about just how much intervention could be involved once I get that epidural placed.

For one, they would show us all these positions we can get into while laboring, to push more effectively and move the baby past your tailbone, etc. But then they’d say, “Having an epidural significantly limits your options here.”

Image via

Then they started passing around the various intervention tools: vacuum, internal fetal heartrate monitor, internal contraction monitor, water breaker… and I started to picture all these tubes and wires running in and out of me while I’m birthing my child, and I got REALLY nervous. After the instructor described each one, she’d say, “These might be used in an unmedicated birth, but you increase your odds of them being used in a medicated birth.”

Image via Kentec Medical. You’re going to stick what inside of me?

Then all the talk about what an epidural can do, like slow down your contractions or make it harder for you to push. I kind of pictured it like a runaway train, where I would get an epidural to manage my pain and all of a sudden have 50 million things stuck in me, require Pitocin from slowed-down labor, and eventually need a c-section because I couldn’t push.

Now, I’m well aware that every experience is different. I’ve heard women say they received an epidural and went from 5 to 10 cm in an hour and a half whereas they’d been slowed down for hours before the meds arrived. I’ve heard others say that they really regret receiving an epidural and want to try for a natural birth next time. I have a friend who has had two c-sections and pretty much berates me every time I bring up my fears and hesitations about getting an epidural, telling me not to be a martyr and exclaiming that she has no idea why anybody would ever consider an unmedicated birth. I have others comment that they don’t understand why, in this day and age with all the research and information available, anybody would consider a medicated birth.

I also know that I have no idea what my labor pain will be like once I’m in it. I’ve gone through two medical issues that are frequently compared to labor-level pain by other women who have done both — a kidney stone, and a Bartholin’s abscess (I’m not going to link you, Google it if you’re really curious, but you have my warning: You might regret it). I’ve even had the Bartholin’s twice. The second time I had it, I was prescribed pain medication because of what was done to relieve the issue. I was adamant that I wouldn’t take a narcotic, until the anesthesia wore off and I was begging poor Mister Mister to run to the pharmacy — no really, RUN — and just grab the closest narcotic off the shelf.

Seriously, my pain tolerance is ridiculous. My kidney stone made me puke. I stub my toe and it’s World War III. A paper cut makes me despondent for days. So why do I think I can do this without medication?

I’ll be talking with my OB about his thoughts on delaying the epidural as long as possible. I know the hospital where we’re delivering is open to alternatives and options, and I’m hoping they can show me some effective pushing positions in the event that I do need an epidural OMGRIGHTTHISVERYMINUTE. My current plan is to wait as long as possible before requesting one, but I know that could very well be before I’ve even dilated at all. I’m trying to withhold judgment and planning of my birth experience and just let it happen.

Which, for a judger and a planner, is not very easy at all.

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3 thoughts on “My Childbirth Class Made Me Totally Question Getting an Epidural

  1. Megan Cannon says:

    Did you take your childbirth class at your hospital? I’m just curious because some of the things that you mentioned as interventions are standard at some hospitals, so you might get them whether you medicate or not. (Sometimes it’s standard to internally monitor the baby. You have to have an IV if you test positive on your group b strep.)

    You might want to ask about it on your hospital tour if you haven’t taken one yet. I think it’s always helpful to at least know what to expect, especially in something in which you have so little control (like giving birth!) Anyway, I think everyone gets nervous about this. It’s easy to look back and think, “I should have just done THIS and then THAT wouldn’t have happened” but really, hindsight is 20/20 and no one knows how a birth is going to go until it happens.

    Anyway, I think you have an awesome attitude about it!

    • capellett says:

      Yes, we did get the class at the hospital. Internal monitoring is not routine at our hospital, neither is an IV for fluid if you don’t have an epi, you can request a heplock instead (unless, like you said, you require it for other reasons). A catheter is not routine either until an epi is administered. Good point though!

  2. Gretchen says:

    I’ve done two with epidurals and one without. Last one was a heavenly (well, relatively. Until the last couple of hours anyway) waterbirth. If I get THAT labor again, I will totally skip the epidural. I’m going into it planning on another waterbirth, but also recognizing that, well….stuff happens. For me, knowing the epidural is there if I need it makes me less likely to get panicky. And panicky isn’t a good place to be when you’re trying to have a baby. So, you know….I think trying to hold off as long as possible is a good plan (I waited 17 hours into my 24 hour first labor; didn’t slow me down, didn’t have any trouble with delivery), as is keeping your options open and accepting that, when it comes to labor, there’s no way to know what to expect until you’re in it.

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