I remember when I got pregnant the second time around, many people laughed or thought I was crazy for saying I wanted to attempt a VBAC, let alone an all natural, drug free VBAC. I was asked why I would want to put myself through the pain and what do I have to prove and things like well, even if you end up with an epidural doesn’t mean you aren’t strong. All these statements really bothered me because they all, in one way or another, show a lack of support. This post is not meant to shame or put down any mother who chooses to have an epidural or tried for a natural childbirth and ended up with IV drugs or an epidural. It is just me sharing my personal opinion, experiences and reasons why I prefer an all natural approach to labor and delivery.
Cascade of Interventions
If you have researched labor or seen documentaries, like Business of Being Born (which I recommend ALL pregnant mamas watch), you have probably heard of this cascade of interventions. You will also know if you have read my birth stories, I fell victim to this with my first birth. It began with me being induced, then having my water artificially ruptured, Pitocin increased leading to unbearable contractions, asking for epidural, progress stalling, end up with csection. When I found out I was pregnant the second time, I knew I wanted to avoid a repeat csection at all costs and to me this meant not being induced and no drugs of any kind because to me it increased my chances of having another cesarean. Now am I saying, if you are induced or ask for an epidural that you will end up with csection? No, of course not. I know many mothers who were induced AND had an epidural and went on to have a vaginal birth. But this is not the case for everyone, as I also know many mothers who had the same experience as myself. So this is why I encourage mothers to at least try and give themselves a chance and experience labor without thinking about an epidural and going as long as they can without it. You just may surprise yourself.
Reaction to Epidural
With my first birth, I did end up with an epidural and I also ended up having a reaction to the drug. It made me very anxious and uncontrollably itchy when I first received it. This led me to need benedryl via my IV. Then after my csection, once I was disconnected from the high dose of the epidural, my body had another reaction that caused uncontrollable shakes that made me almost look like I was seizing. It scared my husband and it scared me because I had no idea what was happening. Of course, after the fact, I was told that these reactions I experienced were all normal side affects of the epidural. No nurse or doctor told me any risks or possible reactions before I got it. And I find this interesting…
Risks of Epidural
Through my research, I have found that there are way more risks than benefits when it comes to having an epidural. Not a lot of mothers to be will know these risks, like myself, and will not even second guess their choice to have one. However, I think it is important that women educate themselves and know the risks:
- Blood pressure may drop causing a need to more IV fluids or oxygen
- You may experience shakes (like me), shivers, backache, soreness where epidural was inserted, nausea or ringing of the ears.
- Difficulty urinating or infection because a urinary catheter will need to be placed if you opt for an epidural
- Headache due to spinal fluid leaking. In very rare cases, a procedure may be needed where blood is injected where the epidural catheter was to relieve the headache.
- Rare, but possible chance permanent nerve damage.
- Sometimes they don’t work all the way or not well. Some women will say they were only numb on one side or could still feel contractions and birth.
- Drugs used with epidural can cause baby to become drowsy and may cause issues latching for breast feeding
Not Feeling in Control
I am someone who needs to feel like I am in control, especially when it comes to the birth of my children. When I had my epidural, I did not feel ANYTHING. I couldn’t feel contractions, my legs, my feet or my toes. This also meant, I couldn’t move myself in the bed. I was stuck and had no choice but to sit up or lay in bed. Because of this, I also had to be flipped from side to side and had continuous monitoring on my baby as staying in one position can cause labor to slow or cause fetal distress. To me, not feeling the pain was not worth feeling like I had no choice in how my labor progressed and not knowing what my body was doing.
I Choose to Embrace Childbirth
Now I am perfectly aware that women go everyday having a peaceful, perfect birthing experience with an epidural in place. But for me, over the years, I have learned that I choose to embrace everything about childbirth. I believe that my body knows what to do and is perfectly capable of delivering my baby without the use of drugs. To me, birth is a beautiful, raw, natural and normal event that takes place. With my VBAC, I had absolutely no drugs and it was an amazing and very healing experience. Yes transition, was a bit difficult. But for me, that was about 10 minutes out of my 8 hour labor. I thought it was amazing being able to feel my baby coming down through the birth canal and feeling the progress each push made. I was able to follow my instincts and follow my body’s natural cues and urges to push, all things I wouldn’t have been able to do with an epidural. I was able to be in a position comfortable for me and not the typical knees to chest, legs in stirrups, told when to push and for how long. I was in control and decided when to push and for how long. As far as feeling baby come out, or this “ring of fire” many women talk about, I was too much in the moment and my hormones took over and I don’t even recall experiencing this painful sensation. Having a drug free birth does not make me any stronger than any other mother. It does not prove anything and does not make me a better person. It is how I chose to birth my child because I felt it was best for me and my child.
I believe pregnancy and birth has become over- medicalized. So many women are made to believe that their bodies don’t know how to birth their babies or do so without pain meds or assistance. I think this is sad and it sets up women to not get the birthing experience they may want. Like I said before, an epidural is not the end all, be all. It does help some women relax and have a wonderful birthing experience. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come risks. I also recognize the fact that emergencies do occur and sometimes an induction, epidural or csection are the only option. But I encourage all mothers to make sure they educate themselves on all aspects of labor and birth and everything that may come with it. I am not trying to scare women out of getting an epidural, I believe in sharing both sides in this world where epidural is looked at as this glorious drug that is nothing but good things. Do your research and make an educated choice that is best for yourself and your baby. ❤