Let’s debunk 8 myths about epidurals


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This is the second blog in a two-part series about epidurals. In the first blog, I discussed three things every pregnant woman needs to know about epidurals and in this post, I will debunk eight myths about epidurals.

Myth #1-Epidurals cause permanent nerve damage

It is always possible that a nerve can be tweaked during labor and delivery. This is typically related more to how a patient is positioned during the pushing process, rather than the epidural itself. Most nerve damage will heal on its own within a few weeks or months, and physical therapy is always an option.

Myth #2-Epidurals cause prolonged back pain

A bit of localized soreness in the back a few days after an epidural is normal. However, long-term back pain is usually related to weakened core muscles and the way moms contort their bodies to hold children, carry baby carriers and feed their babies.

Myth #3-Epidurals can cause anxiety

The epidural itself does not create anxiety. Some people, however, may experience anxiety about getting an epidural. Others may become anxious when the epidural takes effect, and they experience the sensation of their legs becoming numb. 

Myth #4-Epidurals cause sleeplessness

Quite the opposite is true, actually. Having the epidural during labor usually helps women rest more before delivery.

Myth #5-Epidurals can cause paralysis

Although paralysis is very rare risk with anesthesia in general, I have never actually seen it from an epidural. Again, any type of nerve damage is likely associated with prolonged pushing than the epidural.

Myth #6-Epidurals increase the potential for a cesarean delivery

Having an epidural may increase the amount of pushing time, but it does not increase the chance of requiring a C-section.

Myth #7-Epidurals can cause incontinence issues

An epidural blocks the sensory nerves, causing most women to temporarily lose the sensation of needing to empty their bladder. Because of this, we routinely place a Foley catheter for the duration of the epidural, or periodically empty the bladder by draining it with a catheter. Women should return to normal bladder function within four to six hours after a catheter is removed or an epidural is turned off. Some women may not experience this sensation at all.

Myth #8-Epidurals slow the healing process

We have not seen any evidence of an epidural slowing recovery from labor and delivery.  

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A calm mom is best for delivery

Is it possible to deliver without an epidural? Absolutely, yes; and some moms can successfully push through the pain without an epidural. However, there are risks to being in pain. If a mom is breathing fast or her heart rate is increasing, this can potentially impact blood flow to the placenta.

If pain is managed, mom is more likely to be calm and relaxed, making for a calm delivery. It is not uncommon for women who are not progressing in labor to relax and progress quickly once they receive an epidural. On the contrary, some women can stay relaxed and calm without an epidural. Everybody is different and receiving an epidural is completely by patient choice.

At the Pavilion for Women, our ultimate goal is to help you have the most positive delivery experience possible, whether you elect to use an epidural or not. As always, make sure you discuss your preference with your doctor prior to delivery so you can receive the care you deserve for you and your baby.