When I first learned I was pregnant, I subscribed to all sorts of lofty goals like avoiding medications (that lasted until I got my first real round ligament pains) and entertaining the idea of a natural birth. After all, women have been having babies for centuries without the assistance of medication. Surely I could do it too, right? Ummm…WRONG! After attending childbirth class this past weekend, it became clear to me that I will be giving birth with the assistance of an epidural! And here’s why:
Every Mom-to-be starts out the same
According to my instructor, early labor can last anywhere from 6 to 12 hours. This is the longest part of labor and the part without medication. So basically every woman can expect to experience some sort of pain/discomfort during this period of time. If we are looking on the bright side (something I often try to do), the contractions aren’t regular enough to drive you insane, but you will need to be at least 3 centimeters dilated with contractions that are 5 minutes apart that last 1 minute for an entire hour before the hospital will even entertain the idea of admitting you. This is the stage where experts advise you to use breathing techniques and use things such as birthing balls and baths to calm your nerves. So basically you could very well end up looking like this…
First time moms are typically in labor for 16 hours!
That is a long time to be in pain, don’t you think? The good news is that as labor progresses each stage gets shorter and shorter. However, the intensity of contractions increase greatly. My threshold for pain is practically nonexistent to the point something as simple as a paper cut can have me wincing in pain. I cannot imagine sitting around huffin’ and a puffin’ trying to get a baby out for 16 hours! Most hospitals will give you the good stuff (i.e., the epidural) when you are about 4cm dilated…so embrace it. You’re not a failure if you didn’t suffer the entire time. You’re a winner because your baby will arrive in one piece without you completely losing your marbles!
Even though it’s the shortest part of active labor, transitioning is the toughest part
My instructor noted that this stage of labor is so intense because you will dilate from 8cm to 10cm and your little bundle of pain joy will descend into your pelvic region looking to blow the Popsicle stand he or she has called home for the last nine months. Side effects of transitioning without medication can include: vomiting, shaking, uncontrollable shivering, vomiting, and possible hallucinations…#nothanks!
Your child has to get out somehow…gasp!
The most obvious thing to note about labor and delivery is that something the size of a watermelon has to come out of something the size of a small apple. Visualize that for a second, but not too long if you’re pregnant. That very thought lead me to my first panic attack ever! Some women who were brave enough to go Au natural mentioned the baby’s head crowning can be compared to your crotch feeling like it’s on fire. I don’t know about you, but I don’t ever want to use the phrase “ring of fire” to describe a feeling in my crotch!
The decision to get an epidural was made easier after learning these four facts. While it does have some disadvantages like the inability to move around during labor, it sure outweighs the alternative. And with that being said…I will leave you with a video of a natural delivery to give you an idea of why I will avoid it at all costs (warning this video is graphic)!
Images: Baby Center, Running with Tongs, Birth Miracle, What to Expect, and Babble