Why not use epidural anesthesia?
"Just get the epidural!"
"Don't be a hero!"
"It's not a competition!"
"There's no medal at the end!"
"Why endure labor pains if you don't have to?"
So what's wrong with the conventional wisdom about epidurals?
These are the ones I've heard and I'm sure you could add more. I know women who even heard these quips from their doctors when they expressed an interest in going natural.
Let me illustrate my belief about the potential of a woman's childbirth experience with a story about the sacred Peruvian peak Macchu Picchu: "You can't get to Macchu Picchu without hiking it. Sure, you can take a bus to the top, but when you arrive, you're not in Macchu Picchu, because Macchu Picchu is more of a metaphor for that sacred destination waiting to be discovered as you journey through the pathways of your life. And if you complete the journey with the right intention - as I did over a period of several days - the journey becomes a teacher that leads you to gems of undiscovered, inner wisdom. Macchu Picchu, you see, was a city discovered in the deep jungles of Peru. It symbolizes the hidden knowledge in yourself that's also waiting to be uncovered and explored"
-Mike Adams, NaturalNews
So medical risks and side effects aside for a moment, I equate epidural use with a missed opportunity: taking the bus instead of climbing the mountain. And that expansive view you get from taking the scenic journey ripples through your life as a mother in subtle but incredible ways you never expected, but perhaps won't even know you've missed if you choose the other route.
UPDATE- November 26, 2010: So does this imply that by using anesthesia somehow the journey to motherhood is somewhat less?
This thought-provoking question was posed to me by a friend after reading the above perspective. To answer this loaded question with both objectivity and sensitivity, I think we need to look at the advantages of natural labor as well as what we know about the more subtle side effects of epidurals.
The epidural is, in fact, fairly effective in doing what it sets out to do, which is to numb the body with the goal of pain relief. But the questions you may want to ask yourself are:
- Is numbness and voluntarily disabling my body really what I want?
- Am I willing to accept unwanted risks and side effects?
- Am I aligned with my other goals and principles, or is fear in the driver's seat?
I really think many women don't get the full story about all they are saying "yes" to when they consent to epidural anesthesia. Other women end up with an epidural even though they didn't want one because they consented to other common interventions like inducing labor.
What you might not know about the side effects of epidural anesthesia could change your mind about using one: From epidural headaches to fetal distress, learn what the epidural risks are for you and the baby...
The Epidural Procedure
The epidural procedure involves injecting a needle into the space around the outer layer of the spinal cord, called the dura, and inserting a small catheter. Through this catheter, a cocktail of medication is administered to numb the lower body.
Though serious epidural complications are fairly rare, they do occur. Many speculate The Christmas Miracle story was a case of this.
This term is a misnomer if I've ever heard one! No one is letting you walk anywhere with a walking epidural. Though side effects are reported to be milder with this type of epidural, restricted mobility and other side effects are quite similar to the more traditional epidural anesthesia.
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