Reasons Women Don't Get Epidurals

Man helping girlfriend deliver baby
Reasons Moms Don't Get Epidurals. KidStock / Getty Images

Nothing causes a stir in the minds of many than a mother-to-be saying that she doesn’t want an epidural in labor. The truth is, most people don’t understand why someone would want to labor without an epidural. Though, honestly, there is not one simple answer. Women have many reasons for choosing to forgo the epidural. Here are a few of them:

She Is Afraid of the Epidural

Be it the needle, the procedure or whatever, so mothers are afraid of the epidural enough that they would prefer to avoid it.

While some try to overcome the fear by taking a childbirth class or reading information about it, they remain more fearful of labor with an epidural than without.

She Doesn't Want to Be Numb

For some mothers, they aren’t worried about the actual procedure, but simply they don’t want to feel numb. This may lead them to other medications like IV narcotics or they may choose to do without medications at all. One mother told me that after having an epidural with her first baby, she was so weirded out by being numb that she had her husband squeeze her hand really tightly during every contraction just to prove she could feel something.

She Has Had a Negative Reaction to Medications in the Past

Sometimes you will have a mom who knows that she’s had a reaction to an epidural or similar medication before. She may know that by avoiding the epidural, she can hopefully avoid the reactions. These reactions can be serious ones or simply annoying, like severe itching one mom talked about when I asked her.

“I could get more medicine to mask the itching, but isn’t it simpler just to avoid what causes the itching,” she asked.

She wants to Feel Labor

Believe it or not, there are some mothers who enjoy labor or at least have a healthy respect for it. They prepare to use other methods of comfort during labor like relaxation, breathing, movement and maybe even a birth ball or water tub.

Her desire to experience labor has nothing whatsoever to do with the epidural and everything to do with the experience of labor itself.

She’s Concerned About Added Risks

Some mothers choose to avoid an epidural because they are concerned about the added risks that come with the epidural. While the really big risks are very rare, they do happen. For some mothers, even the possibility of a smaller risk that is more common, like a drop in her blood pressure isn’t worth it. There are others who worry about problems like fetal distress from medications. Ask your practitioner about the risks of epidurals if these are your concerns as well.

She Wants the Sense of Accomplishment She'll Feel

Some mothers believe that there is a sense of accomplishment that they experience when it comes to having an unmedicated birth. This is something that is not external. So it’s not a judgment factor, as is often portrayed, but simply a goal they set for themselves to accomplish. Think of it this way, if I decide to run a marathon, I don’t judge you for not making the same decision.

My decision is about me, not about you.

She Feels a Little Bit of All of These Concerns

In my practice, I’d say that the vast majority of mothers experience more than one of these reasons for wishing to avoid an epidural. Some to more degrees than others or some are born out of others.

Just Because

Some moms don't know why, they just don't want an epidural. That's okay, too.

Truthfully, it doesn’t matter why a mother has chosen to forgo the epidural, all that matters is how we support her in that decision, particularly because the decision isn’t our to make and/or live with during or after labor. If you have made the decision not to get an epidural, make sure those around you know best how they can support you.

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