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How Early Epidurals Can Increase Your Chances of Having a C-Section

Updated on August 27, 2015


The epidural is a wonderful way to help a mother through labor.If the epidural is given at the right time (in truly active labor} she can experience much relief from a long painful labor, but given too soon it can increase the chances of not only slowing down labor but also raising the risks of the use of Pitocin to augment labor and beginning a cycle of medical interventions that could end up in the Operating Room. I will speak more to that in my next blog. With an epidural a mother can feel more able to watch the birth of her child. It is a personal decision and she should not be made to feel any quilt with any decisions she makes. Risks are very low although there are a few so be informed.

Where an epidural is inserted
Where an epidural is inserted | Source
C-Section Delivery
C-Section Delivery | Source

No More Pain

One Happy Mom
One Happy Mom | Source

Early Interference in the Laboring Process

In the third trimester of pregnancy a woman's body begins to prepare itself to deliver her infant. She will begin to feel the effects of hormones on her body {oxytocin} that may cause "Braxton Hicks",sometimes painful preliminary contractions preparing the body and most importantly her cervix for lalbor and delivery. These changes are caused by the secretion of the hormone oxytocin also known as the "cuddle hormone" . It is responsible for bonding between a mother and her baby, beginning of labor and secretion of breast milk. Did you know that your body releases oxytocin during sex?* Some specialists believe we can increase the production of this powerful hormone through touch, massage, warmth,....It causes the blood pressure to drop and decreases our pain threshold.

Our bodies are made to give birth. God has set into motion natural changes that assist in giving birth. Some interference is helpful but can lead to problems.

Why are doctors inducing labor in healthy moms prior to their due date? Safety or Convenience????

Why are epidurals given in early labor before it is really necessary" Safety or Convenience???

I will address early Induction of labor in a future hub.



As humans we hate pain. I have lupus and fibromyalsia and trying to get through a pain cycle can be tremendously difficult.. I tend to run for my Tylenol or Advil at the first signs of pain. I understand the pain cycle.

As nurses we were taught to stop pain before it gets our of control but we know pain is the body's way of alerting us to possible danger except for chronic pain or labor pain. When we are either over sensitive to pain,chronic ,or it is necessary, labor.

Labor pain is a normal part of delivering your baby. Giving an epidural too soon can decrease oxytocin production and interfere in the natural course of labor

Also you will no longer be able to get our of bed. Movement and walking are both ways to help the labor move along. As you move, by walking, getting on all fours, sitting on a birthing ball,etc your body is helping to thin out your cervix (efface) and open the birth canal (dilate). Laying flat in a bed stops this process.

Once an epidural is given mom and baby will be monitored for signs of problems throughout delivery.


Possible Complications

Early epidurel anesthesia can prolong the length of the first stage of labor thereby increasing the need to augment labor with synthetic hormones. Epidurals have also been known to cause fever in the mother making it difficult to distinquich the fever from chorioamnionitis, a dangerous uterine infection that can harm the infant. This is turn can lead to unnessasry use of antibiotics and invasive test on the infant for sepsis.

Possible Complications

Epidurals are a class of local anesthetics that are often given with a combination of opioids or narcotics such as fentanyl and sufentanil in order to decrease the required dose of the local anesthetic and allow mom to feel her legs, push, urinate.

You should be 4 to 5 centimeters dilated to insure that you are in fact in true labor prior to receiving your epidural

Epidurals can cause a drop in your blood pressure increasing your need for more IV fluids, oxygen and increasing more monitoring of yourself and your baby.

Epidurals are changing to give mom the ability to move more effectively. If you do lose your sensation of your lower body you will need to move from side to side to prevent your labor from stopping.

You may need pitocin (an artificial form of pitocin) to augment your labor.

Studies are ambiguous but some have shown that depending on what drugs are used your baby may experience some lethargy and have some difficulty getting in place for delivery.

Some hospitals have shown a problem in the ability of the infant to latch on in the early hours postpartum to breast feed.

You may get chills, headache, nausea, difficulty urinating requiring a catheter, soreness in your back.

Some infants have experienced respiratory depression.

You may have difficulty pushing the baby out increasing the need for vacuum extraction or cesarean section.

Receiving the Epidural

What you should do?

Epidural Anesthesia is continuing to be studied and refined to reduce many of the barriers it poses, But before delivery you should know the risks and how your hospital and doctor use the epidural.

Ask your doctor what medications are given with the epidural.

Find out what the policies are for walking, getting out of bed, eating ,etc.

Don't ask for an epidural until you are in strong active labor to decrease the need for pitocin.

Don' ask for an epidural late in labor when you are ready to push. At this point you have done the hard work and are in a position to take control of the delivery of your child with possibly just a local anesthetic for any necessary suturing.

The pressure of the baby's head on the cervix just prior to delivery numbs your cervix. Your doctor may ask you if you would like a pudendal block for further numbing. You will have the full use of your legs and not have to wait hours for an epidural to wear off. A pudendal has few side effects and numbs the area from the vaginal to the anus.

In Conclusion

Whether you have an epidural is a very personal thing. They can be perfectly safe. You need to go into the hospital knowing the possible complications.

There should be no quilt imposed upon a mother while she is trying to make informed decisions on the best labor plans.



American Society of Pregnancy

American Society of Family Physicians


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