Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Off Topic Tuesday: Epi-c Failure

Although the three of us gals are natural childbirth junkies, I think we all respect a moms right to make an informed decision. Medicated or natural pain relief is probably one of the most common questions when it comes to the birth of a baby. Something that I like to advocate is that no matter what your choice is, you should know some natural pain relieve techniques going into labor. Wanna know why? Well, epidurals only work 80-85% of the time. And on top of that, sometimes your baby is coming so fast they don't have time to get the epi in or the anesthesiologists are too busy and don't get to you in time. That's why. How much would it suck to go into birth with zero training or thoughts on natural childbirth (NCB), just banking on the numbing action of an epidural... only to have it fail leaving you completely thrust into the intense situation of labor and pushing that baby out? Yeah, that would suck. I've seen videos of it, and it ain't pretty.


Did you know that the epidural failure rate is 5%? That is 1 out of every 20 epidurals. Not to mention there is 15% additional failure just in that the epidural is "patchy" and only works on one side of the body. Outside of that 5-20% action is the group that probably isn't easily tracked, the ones where the epi just didn't make it in time. To be fair, some of the failed epi's are able to try again and succeed, but planning on an epidural is not a fool proof pain free plan in all cases. Nothing is fool proof! Even if you plan on an epi and take my advice by knowing some NCB techniques, all of it could fail and leave you disliking your birth. But let's face it, if all that went wrong you were probably doomed no matter what happened.

So, my advice... take some natural childbirth education classes... read some books... learn some techniques... hire a doula... and just make medicated pain relief be Plan B. If you aren't cut out for natural childbirth and end up ordering an epidural, so be it. But if that epi fails or doesn't make it in time, atleast you are armed with some information to help you make the birth be as smooth as possible. Who knows, you just might enjoy natural and become a junkie like us!

Here are some testimonials from moms who experienced a failed epidural:

“I knew that I wanted to get an epi going into the birth, so I only took a one day crash course in Lamaze because I felt like I "had to" even if I didn't need it. They didn't teach any of the breathing exercises because it was so short; they focused on various birth positions and the mechanics of birth instead. I felt like it was a waste of time because with the epi I wouldn't be able to use those positions anyway and I knew the birth facts already thanks to my OBGYN and some books. Boy, I really regret not taking a more intensive natural labor class. When my epi failed I had no way of coping with the pain. I was completely winging it at the improvised coaching of my well-meaning husband and various nurses. Had I been more prepared I probably would have been able to handle the birth without panicking so much. (I had an asthma attack due to the stress of the labor.) If I could say anything to all those women who are going for an epi, I would tell them to definitely educate themselves in as many birthing techniques as possible. As a friend of mine said, "birth is chaos," and you just never know what is going to happen.”

“hmmmmmmm, they DO fail, for me anyway, every time! An epidural does not mean you will have a pain free delivery, as a lot of people are led to think... it may ease the pain for some, but even when it does work, it is not like the relief of a spinal, which I think expectant moms get confused about. Pregnant women absolutely need to learn NCB techniques whether or not they decide on an epidural, because it is only one of many possible pain relief options. I think women should have as much information as they can ahead of time, so that when the time comes, they can make informed decisions and be flexible with whatever their birth experience is. I was more successful the second time around because I had more reasonable expectations of what could be, and all the variables. Expectation is half the battle. It will be beautiful, it will hurt, it will be worth it.”

“I am a FTM, and figured if I said I wanted an epidural, as soon as it was safe, I would feel no pain. I saw many shows (baby story, etc.) where the mom looked so relaxed and pain-free during delivery, and I wanted that badly! I wanted to appreciate every moment without being in so much pain. Well, I asked for the epidural as planned, and without going into a big long story, it failed. It failed miserably. During delivery, I felt absolutely everything, including my 4th degree tear. Unfortunately, being an ignorant FTM, figuring the epi would take care of it all, I didn't take ANY prenatal classes. (bfing was also very painful and didn't work out as I thought, which is a whole other story. I wish I took a class in that too.) I remember the nurse telling me that my screaming was making it harder, and to try to breathe and stop screaming. Since I didn't know what I was doing, I couldn't. The pain was unbearable. I tell people it was like having a natural childbirth without the glory (because I can't tell people that I didn't have an epi, even though it failed). I am terrified of giving birth again.”

“Mine only worked on one side of my body and by the time I was pushing it had almost wore off...needless to say I felt it all!”

“I didn't get one. I asked for one but the guy never came to give it to me. I wished I would've been more prepared for a natural birth. I was sure I was gunna get the epi and it was gunna be a breeze... wrong.”

Mine failed! BIG TIME! The only thing it did was numb my left leg so I could not hold it up. The nurses had to hold it for me while I pushed and I could not walk on my own for 12 hours after! They injected me over and over and over and still all that happened was my leg going numb. I felt EVERY contraction! Should have just went natural! I felt all the pain anyway”

Image from http://www.theunnecesarean.com/

Granted, about 80% of epidural planning mamas have nothing to worry about (as far as having it work or not) - but you never know what side of the percentage line you are going to fall on, so might as well plan for natural just incase - call it Natural Childbirth by Default. I want you to have as much information in your pocket as you can to have a pleasant birth experience - any way you like it. Don't just take some random bloggers word for it, as with anything ask your healthcare professional and do your own research. I will have to say... if your healthcare professional says it "never happens" I'd have to call foul and tell you to submit their answer to "My OB said what?!?" because you can go to any birth board on the planet and hear more than enough testimonials like the ones I posted above to know that it does indeed happen. And Natural Childbirth isn't laying in bed screaming in agony - atleast it doesn't have to be. You have options, take the time to learn about them and you'll thank me later. :)

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