Don't get me wrong- while I was in labor with my first baby, I LOVED my epidural! I'm not a masochist!
BUT- I am convinced that my epidural is what caused my c-section... something I would love (more than almost anything!) to have avoided!
I went into my first labor wanting to have a natural childbirth. However, many people encouraged me to "have an open mind" because "you don't know what your pain tolerance will be like!" So many of my friends' labor advice was simply "get the epidural!"
I felt manipulated to have an induction because of a misdiagnosis of low amniotic fluid levels. The first four hours of active labor on the pitocin were difficult, but bearable. I was coping fairly well with my husband providing counterpressure on my low back. "I'm doing it! I can totally do this!" I kept thinking.
Then... my water broke! Immediately, the contractions intensified and fear overwhelmed me. The contractions were long, hard, and close together. I felt like I had no relief. I reluctantly asked for an epidural. I felt like I had no choice. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't move. Pitocin-induced labor was ridiculously intense and painful.
It took 45 minutes for the epidural to get placed. The first attempt caused ringing in my ears, a metallic taste in my mouth and it caused my heart to race. It was incredibly scary. Finally... after the second attempt, I had a "good" epidural and I found relief. I couldn't feel a thing from below my breasts to my toes. I was completely numb.
Because I was less tense and was able to relax (and those pit contractions were STRONG), my cervix dilated very quickly. I went from 4cm to 10 cm in an hour. Then, I had to start pushing.
Pushing was a nightmare. I couldn't feel anything! I didn't know when I was having a contraction. I didn't know when to push. I didn't know how to push or where to push. I tried the best I could. I pushed for three hours. I felt totally out of control- the nurse kept "coaching me" to push longer and harder (I'm already giving it all I got!). I felt like I wasn't making any progress at all. It was only afterward that my husband told me that he could see the top of the baby's head for at least a good hour of pushing. I tried SO hard to not look over my shoulder at the clock. It was so disheartening after a while. All my work in vain.
Then... because of my epidural and at the suggestion of my nurse and the hospitalist midwife who managed my labor, I pushed flat on my back while pulling on a knotted bedsheet. This was awful. I had horrible heartburn and the pulling caused tremendous strain on my arms and shoulders and they HURT for days afterward.
Because I was flat on my back, my baby rotated and was now occiput posterior (we didn't know at the time) and that was why I was having such a difficult time pushing him out. The prolonged second stage caused fetal distress and sent me to the OR.
To this day, I still have AWFUL itching at my epidural site on my back about once a week! Do any of you have strange post-epidural symptoms?
The thing that kills me is that I knew that this could happen. Before my first labor, I read this article: Changes in fetal position during labor and their association with epidural anesthesia, by Lieberman, Davidson, Lee-Parritz, and Shearer, published in Obstetrics & Gynecology in Sept 2005. The conclusion? "Fetal position changes are common during labor, with the final fetal position established close to delivery. Our demonstration of a strong association of epidural with fetal occiput posterior position at delivery represents a mechanism that may contribute to the lower rate of spontaneous vaginal delivery consistently observed with epidural."
That's exactly what happened with me.
I also read this: "Regional analgesia for pain relief increased the likelihood of instrumental vaginal delivery" in the article "Effect of availability of a parturient-elective regional labor pain relief service on the mode of delivery" by Hwa, Chen, Chen, et al in the Journal of the Formosan Medical Association in Sept 2006.
My sister in law (I love her dearly) also had a c-section for her first birth and wants to have a VBAC. My biggest piece of practical advice? Stay away from the epidural! Labor at home as long as possible and have as natural a birth as possible!
Unfortunately... she loved her epidural with her first baby (she only labored for 45 minutes without one!) and she is one of the women that tell others "just get the epidural!"
Women love their pain relief. Well... here's a little secret. Natural labor and birth aren't that bad!!! If you have adequate coping and relaxing techniques, it's very manageable!
My next post will be about what natural childbirth actually felt like for me. I would go through a natural labor 10 times before I'd sign up for a cesarean!