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Epidural or "Natural" Birth? How to Decide

Updated: Jan 1, 2023

As your due date approaches, you may be presented with questions regarding your birth plan. For many women, the decision regarding whether to request an epidural during labor is a difficult one. We will be discussing the main pros and cons of proceeding with an epidural.

What Is an Epidural?

An epidural is a type of anesthetic used to decrease pain during childbirth. An epidural involves administration of an anesthetic via injection in the back. This stops pain signals from traveling from the spine to the brain.

How Common Are Epidurals?

An epidural is one of the most effective and widely used forms of pain management. In the United States, more than 60% of women in labor use an epidural or spinal anesthesia.

What Are the Risks of an Epidural?

Although an epidural is generally safe, there are some risks that women should consider. One potential issue is experiencing a severe headache caused by spinal fluid leakage. This occurs in less than 1% of patients. Another potential issue is having low blood pressure. Additional risks include infection, a reaction to the medications, damage to the nerves at the injection site, and temporary loss of control of the bladder and bowels. On very rare occasion, an epidural can cause permanent neurologic deficit or permanent paralysis.

What Are the Benefits of an Epidural?

There are several advantages to proceeding with an epidural. These include significant decrease of pain. If labor is prolonged, having an epidural may allow the woman to sleep and recover her strength.

Takeaway Message:

An epidural is a common procedure used to decrease pain during labor and delivery. Epidurals are generally safe and effective, although there are some risks involved with this procedure. It is important for patients to thoroughly discuss their options with their physician.

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Have you faced the decision regarding an epidural? How did you decide? Please share in the comments below!

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