Epidural Analgesia and Anesthesia
What to Know
- Seeking relief from labor pain without drugs protects your baby and your body from injury, helps labor progress, and facilitates breastfeeding, bonding, and other postpartum adjustments.
- Epidural use necessitates an IV, continuous EFM, and restricted mobility, and it relaxes vaginal muscles. All of these factors can prolong labor.
- Epidural use increases the risk of instrument delivery and may increase the risk of cesarean.
- Epidural use raises the risk of fever and postpartum separation to rule out infection.
- Epidural drugs do reach your baby. Both of these factors can make breastfeeding initiation harder.
You May Need an Epidural if:
- Your labor is very long and difficult and you need to rest.
- You have a cesarean.
- Your blood pressure is very high.
- You don’t have good labor support.
- Your birth site restricts your ability to find comfort in other ways.
- You can’t move beyond your fear of labor pain.
How to Avoid Unnecessary Use:
- Labor at home as long as possible.
- Choose your caregiver and birth site carefully.
- Discuss your desires with your caregiver.
- Make sure you have excellent labor support.
- Use all the non-drug comfort measures you can.
- Be patient and remember that your body knows how to give birth.
How to Keep Labor as Normal as Possible if You Have an Epidural:
- Use a wide variety of other comfort measures for as long as possible, so you don’t need an epidural for your entire labor.
- Let your epidural wear off before pushing (“labor down”).
- Ask your helpers to massage your hands and feet and help you stay as active as possible.
- Be patient with your breastfeeding baby and spend as much skin-to-skin time together as possible.
- If your baby doesn’t latch well at first or you have other breastfeeding problems because of your epidural, ask hospital staff (preferably a lactation consultant) to help you express colostrum and feed it with a small cup or eyedropper.
- To avoid aggravating breastfeeding problems, tell the hospital staff not to feed your baby formula or use bottles or pacifiers.