My Epidural Experience


Pregnant woman in sunset

About the Epidural Procedure

Epidurals are a very common pain reliever during vaginal delivery. Approximately 60% of women get an epidural in the US. I had a great epidural experience! The process of receiving an epidural is simple: When you are ready, an anesthetist will inject a local anesthetic into your lower back. Once the anesthetic starts working the anesthetist will stick a long needle (don’t look if you are scared!) into the numbed area and thread a catheter (a thin tube) through the needle into the lower back. It takes about one hour to feel fully numb below the waist, but usually, you will notice a big improvement in your pain in 20 to 30 minutes. 

My Choice

In China, the rate of epidural use is very low. I was expecting to have a painful labor before I came to the US. Since I have a low tolerance for pain, childbirth scared me. To prep for this big event, we attended a birth class two months before my due date. At the workshop, a woman highly recommended an epidural and said she had five babies and used five epidurals. After researching online, discussing with my OBGYN, and talking with a few moms who had used epidurals, I decided to use an epidural during my labor. 

My Experience

The day after my due date, my contractions started. I was 4 to 5 centimeters dilated when I when got to the hospital. I was in such a pain that I couldn’t stop shaking, so I told the nurse I was ready for the epidural ASAP! 

The hospital required me to finish a bag of IV fluid to ensure my blood pressure would remain normal after the medication kicked in. I remember looking at the fluid bag constantly to hope it emptied faster. As soon as the IV finished, the anesthetist came in. He walked me through the process as he prepared the epidural. My epidural experience was actually not that bad! He told me the epidural would be there as long as I needed it and if I wanted more relief that I could control it on my own with a button. 15 minutes after the epidural I felt much better. One hour later and I was chatting with my husband and even took a nap! I kept saying that the epidural is the best invention in the world!

Complications and Side effects 

Even with the IV fluid, sometimes your blood pressure can drop after getting an epidural. This happened to me. The nurse came in not long after the medication started and told me that the baby’s heart had dropped a little. Of course, this made me and my husband very worried. Since the epidural had lowered my blood pressure the nurse asked me to wear an oxygen mask until our baby’s heart rate returned to normal. There are other complications associated with an epidural, so research pain management options and feel confident in your decisions. 

Labor with an Epidural

First of all, labor (and when we go into labor) can be very unpredictable!  No matter how much we plan and educate ourselves, we can be thrown curveballs. Epidurals can cause labor to go a little bit longer than usual so the doctor may give administer a drug called Pitocin to make the labor progress faster. After being in labor for 14 hours or so and being fully dilated, the doctor decided to give me some Pitocin to get my contractions increasing in frequency. Thankfully, the Pitocin worked quickly and soon I was ready to push.

Some women have asked me how it felt to push with an epidural. At that point, I didn’t feel any pain at all. When the contraction hit me, I could feel my belly get harder, and the nurse guided me through the pushing process. It took me an hour and a half to finally give birth to our daughter. The epidural continued to work while the doctor finished things up and I held my little girl in my arms for the first time.

Overall, I had a very pleasant experience with the procedure. I was relaxed when waiting for the labor to progress and felt I was able to enjoy this special event without dramatic pain. Am I going to use epidural again when I am planning for baby number 2? Absolutely!