When I had my fourth baby I chose an epidural after three natural births. Here’s why.
When Alex was born last year I chose to get an epidural after previously having three natural (unmedicated) births. In some ways it was an easy decision, but it would be a lie to say I didn’t struggle with it at all.
Today I’m going to share with you the reasons I chose an epidural, the reasons I struggled a bit with that decision, and my thoughts about my experience. My hope is that this will help anyone who is struggling with the same decision.
Why I Chose an Epidural After Three Natural Births
It seems to me that I usually hear about this the opposite way – women choosing to try for an all natural birth after previously having an epidural. So why did I choose an epidural after my natural births? Well, there were multiple reasons.
First of all, I was honestly just curious about what an epidural would be like. I figured that I would never know which I preferred (epidural or natural birth) unless I’d tried both.
Maybe all-natural was the way to go for me – after all, it went just fine the first three times – but I couldn’t know for sure unless I’d also experienced an epidural. So, plain old curiosity played a big role in my decision for sure, as silly as that may sound.
Secondly, I loved the idea of an epidural because just knowing that it was an option kept me from dreading the birth.
Obviously I knew that birth wouldn’t be a cake-walk even with an epidural (I mean who really loves the idea of a ginormous needle being stuck in their spine?) but after going through unmedicated labor three times, the thought of the pain relief that an epidural would provide was very reassuring.
A third reason why I wanted to try an epidural this time around was so that I could start off the exhausting newborn stage a little more rested – or a least a little less drained.
As a matter of fact, the only other person I personally knew who’d chosen an epidural after several natural births chose it for this exact reason (and was glad she did), so hearing her experience definitely influenced my decision.
Lastly, I wanted to try an epidural after my three natural births because I loved the idea of still being numb after birth in the event that I needed stitches.
I had needed stitches for my two previous births and even with the Lidocaine shots it was not a lovely experience to say the least (especially while also experiencing some intense after-birth contractions, ha!) The thought of being completely numb while that all went down was quite nice.
As it turned out, I didn’t need stitches this time around anyway – but I do think that the epidural helped alleviate the pain from some of my initial after-birth contractions so that was an unexpected bonus!
So, those are the four main reasons I chose an epidural. Now, I’ll be honest, I did struggle with the decision for a couple reasons so let’s talk about that next!
Why I Struggled With the Decision to Get an Epidural
While the decision to get an epidural felt easy in some ways, I did struggle with it a bit for several reasons.
To start, I just felt kind of silly choosing an epidural when I knew I could give birth naturally. I almost felt like I was cheating or not being strong or something. Was that ridiculous? Yes, but it was a very real feeling.
Another factor I had to consider was that if I wanted an epidural I had to switch from a birthing center to a hospital. All my babies had been born in birthing centers which I loved, but in order to get an epidural I would have to switch midwives and use ones that worked out of a hospital.
I was also worried about the risks of an epidural. While epidurals are quite routine, there are still risks and some, though rare, are pretty scary. Mostly though I was concerned that I’d end up with a permanently sore spot on my back and that I’d kick myself later for taking the “easy route” (in quotes because we all know that birth is never easy no matter how it happens.)
And finally, I was also worried that one intervention (an epidural) would lead to more and more interventions. I was afraid that complications would arise and I would ultimately end up needing a c-section and I really didn’t want that to happen.
So those were some of the things that I took into consideration as I made my decision.
My Experience With My First Epidural
So, obviously I ultimately opted for my first epidural, making the decision before I was even in labor. So what was my experience? You can read Alex’s birth story here for all the details, but here are the answers to some common questions. Keep in mind that this was my unique experience and that everyone’s will be different.
Was the epidural injection painful?
Yes, but it was over quickly, so really not a big deal. Truthfully, the COVID test that I was administered in-between contractions was worse!
How quickly did the epidural start working?
The epidural started working very quickly for me. I’m thinking maybe I had one more contraction that I could feel, and then I was pretty numbed up after that.
Did the epidural slow down labor?
Even though I was dilated to an eight when I got the epidural, my labor did slow down for while. It ultimately wasn’t a huge deal though because Alex was still born within about 12 hours from my first contraction (the same as my last baby!)
Were other interventions necessary?
Shortly after getting the epidural my blood pressure started to drop, leaving me feeling pretty yucky and light-headed, so I was given something in my IV that had me feeling back to normal very quickly.
I was also given Pitocin since my labor slowed down after the epidural.
What was pushing like with an epidural?
I had a wonderful experience pushing with an epidural. They turned the epidural off (or down? I don’t know) for a little bit so that I would have a bit more feeling and it was just perfect. I was able to push like normal – feeling all that crazy pressure and everything but NO pain. It was AMAZING.
How long did it take the epidural to wear off?
By the time they took me (and sweet little Alex) back to our room I was able to walk to the restroom, so it definitely didn’t last overly long like I worried it might.
Were there any side effects from the epidural?
I did have a tender spot on my back for a couple days but then that was it. I’m very thankful that I did not experience any other side effects.
Would I get an epidural again?
Hmmm… probably. What I missed the most this time around was the quiet atmosphere of the birthing center, but I loved my new midwives at the hospital so I would probably stick with them anyway.
At any rate, I am very grateful that I was able to have a good experience both with my epidural and my previous natural births. And of course, most of all I’m grateful for my four precious babies.
I’d love to hear about your birth experience(s)! Have you had an epidural? Let’s chat in the comments!