So You're Thinking About an Epidural

Let's face it, birth can be a pain.


Epidurals can get a bad wrap from naturalists, but Maine Doulas is here to empower moms who are choosing an epidural for their child's birth. Your birth means your rules, so it's your call when it comes to the comfort measures and pain management you receive during labor.

Once you know the basics, you'll be able to make an informed decision about epidural anesthesia and if it is the right choice for you and your family. 

What is an epidural anyway?

An epidural is a regional anesthetic that provides pain relief in a specific area of the body. In this case, that area is the lower back area and below. This shouldn't be confused with anesthesia relief that completely blocks feeling or sensation in an area. An analgesic blocks pain and minimizes sensation. Most people think you're thoroughly numb from the waist down, but that's not always how the medication works. 

The epidural is often used in conjunction with other pain medications and medicines that regulate discomfort and regulate blood pressure throughout the labor and delivery process.

It's not as scary as it sounds. 

Most women think that an epidural is just a huge needle of pain medicine going into your spine. It's definitely nothing like that. 

They clean off an area of your back, numb the area and the needle they use actually puts a tiny catheter in your back. This helps them access the area for any medications you need while it's sterile and securely fastened to your back with some first aid tape. You don't even feel the piece there, but it can offer some major pain relief after you're dilated 4-5 centimeters and in active labor. And you can actually receive multiple doses as you need them.

Benefits of Getting an Epidural

 According to the American Pregnancy Association, these are some of the notable benefits of getting an epidural for pain during labor. 

  • It allows you to rest if your labor is prolonged.
  • Epidurals help by reducing the discomfort of childbirth, some women have a more positive birth experience.
  • Normally, an epidural will allow you to stay alerted and remain an active participant in your birth.
  • In a c-section birth, an epidural anesthesia will allow you to stay awake and also provide effective pain relief during recovery.

Downsides of the Epidural Process

There's always downsides and side effects to be cautious of during any medical procedure or pain medication. The American Pregnancy Association has some great resources for parents looking to investigate the pros and cons of the epidural process.

  • Epidurals may cause your blood pressure to suddenly drop. For this reason, your blood pressure will be routinely checked to help ensure an adequate blood flow to your baby.
  • After your epidural is placed, you will need to alternate sides while lying in bed and have continuous monitoring for changes in fetal heart rate. Lying in one position can sometimes cause labor to slow down or stop.
  • You might experience the following side effects: shivering, a ringing of the ears, backache, soreness where the needle is inserted, nausea, or difficulty urinating.

Your birth is your choice.

If an epidural sounds right for you, don't feel guilty for making that informed choice. Pain management doesn't suggest that a woman is less capable than another who chose a non-medicated birth. As doulas, we support all birth choices and feel passionately about women feeling empowered to choose their own birth preferences. 

Every situation is unique and we are setting out to change the stigma of medicated birth and epidurals. 

Medicated or not.