How hard is it to get an epidural?

Filed under: Just For Moms, Your Pregnancy, Health & Safety: Babies, Mommy Wars

having a baby

The debate as to whether or not epidurals are a good idea is one that has and will wage for ages. And that's not what I'm here to discuss. For the sake of argument, let's say you've decided to get an epidural. Let's also say you've established your decision with anyone who would need to know--your OB, anesthesiologist, attending physician, nurses, and anyone else who walks by the delivery room who can hear you begging for one. How long does it take before you actually get that epidural, and is it within the optimum time frame fabled to exist when you took that course on epidurals?

In the old days, from what I read and heard, anyway, epidurals were given way too early. Women showed up at the hospital, were hooked up and then basically were either knocked out or stuck in bed for the duration of the labor--which could have been hours upon hours. Now, you generally have to be at least 3-4 centimeters dilated (in both my personal experiences, anyway) before they'll administer the epidural. Before that happens, however, the anesthesiologist and others such as nurses, interns, et al, ask you a host of questions about your medical history as well as make you sign a bunch of paperwork after reading or reciting to you all the possible side effects, etc. Yes, there are possible side effects, and they'll go over each and every one of them with you while you sit there in pain trying to listen. The throes of labor are decidedly not the best time to be making such decision, so you'd think it would be better to receive such information and agree to any risks before you were screaming your head off.

On either side of the questioning and the speeches, the entire medical staff will dicker around endlessly, pretty much ensuring you'll get your epidural whenever they get around to it, and not necessarily when it's considered "optimal" to do so. Now, you say, hey--at least you opted for the drugs, so stop complaining. Sure, that's true, but what is the point if they don't have time to take effect before you start the heavy pushing? An informal survey indicates to me that not everyone gets her epidural when she wants it, when she needs it, or, in some cases, at all. Perhaps the medical profession take their time with all this because they secretly want women to opt for a natural childbirth. Perhaps I'm just a conspiracy theorist. And, perhaps, it really does take that long to get an epidural because it is a serious process and decision and the utmost care must be taken during every step of it.

Did you get your epidural when you wanted/needed it? Or were you the star of one of those infamous stories where it was too late?

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.