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. 

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6 Ways Travel with Children is Like Birth

I recently flew across the world with my two young children, from Boston to Thailand. Somewhere around the 30th delirious hour of travel, I realized how similar international travel and childbirth can be!


There you are, sitting with magazines, looking at pictures of the bliss in your future. You write out an itinerary, how things will unfold on this adventure. Then your first day on the trip you realize you weren’t made for trekking in 95 degree weather and book a flight to the beach. 

Planning for your birth can be exciting and intimidating. There are many options, and many questions to ask! Knowing that you are in control of all those choices can be empowering. You can make a plan and you can change that plan.


In the ad your airline promised you were their first priority. You are entrusting them with your experience, your hard earned two week vacation. Maybe you have a friend who flew with them and raved. Maybe you have flown with them before on a shorter, regional trip and they were fine. Does this mean they are going to give you the experience you’re looking for on a 30 hour, multiple plane trip? 

The same reasoning can be applied to choosing your care provider. Perhaps you’ve been with the practice for your well care and have been happy with them. But, when you start talking about how you’d like your birth to go, their philosophies aren’t quite lining up. Maybe it’s worth exploring your options. It’s never too late to change your provider if they aren’t the right fit. After all, you want to feel confident that this practice is as invested in you having the birth you want as you are!


When I was younger I traveled the world with only what would fit in my backpack. On my international trip last month; I brought no fewer than three suitcases, two car seats, a pack n play and multiple carry-ons. Different journeys, certainly. My life is far more complicated, rich and full of little people in diapers than it was on those solo backpacking trips. LITTLE PEOPLE IN DIAPERS WANT SNACKS! Lots of snacks. 

Consider what you will need to feel comfortable as you transition from laboring in your home to laboring in the hospital. Consider what elements, clothes, smells and tastes make you feel cozy. Creating a packing list and putting essentials in a bag in advance can help you feel more prepared. (DADS WAITING FOR BABIES TO BE BORN LIKE SNACKS TOO!)


This is it! You’ve done the work and made it a reality. This is a big deal. You are excited. You are anticipating every moment. Now, remember your breathing. Savor the details and memories, even the painful ones when your feet are swollen and you just want to lay down in your own bed. These times will fly by, so find the beauty and the joy in the journey. It’s there no matter how you travel (or give birth).


You guys, the struggle is real. You have been on a plane for days. Your feet don’t fit in your shoes. The sun is setting but your circadian rhythm says “it’s breakfast time!”. Once home, after our most recent trip, there was a week that my three year old woke up at 1am saying “I’m hungry!” Every. Night. For. A. Whole. Damn. Week.

Much like readjusting to your time zone, bringing home a new baby can be exhausting. They seem to be confused about what times of day it’s appropriate to eat and sleep. They want to sleep in places you never imagined a baby sleeping. Embrace this new normal and get some help. Newborn babies are designed to eat and sleep when they need to. Some babies will begin sleeping through the night around three months, while some won’t until closer to a year, or later. Every baby is unique. With a little extra support at home through the fourth trimester, you will learn your baby’s rhythm. You will sleep again!


You've succeeded once and think, "that wasn't too bad". You’ve been through packing and repacking your suitcase to meet the airline's weight restriction. You’ve been through security, eight times. One agent in Chicago let you keep your toothpaste, but suddenly in Tokyo you have to throw it away?! Really?! You’ve been in the cab that took you to the wrong hotel.

But then again, you’ve watched the sun set over the ocean after you lounged by the pool for an entire day sipping drinks from coconuts. Isn't life beautiful? Where are we going next year?

You’ve been through the labyrinth and out again. Through childbirth and all it’s mysteries. Through parenting and all it’s challenges. And now you’re back, third trimester here we come! Big sister is waiting! 

Or maybe not. Maybe this year you’ll just enjoy the view from your own backyard…