Delivering a baby can be a wonderful experience, if you’re a fan of pain, that is. 🙂 All jokes aside, labor can be too painful for many women, and that’s why taking medication to help with the pain is such a great idea. If your labor is progressing too slowly, you might also need medication to speed it up. For any woman who wants to deliver her baby with medication, there are some things that you should know.
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When I was expecting my first baby, I thought I might want to deliver her naturally. I read a lot of books on dealing with labor pain, but I never took classes to learn breathing techniques. My baby came a lot earlier than I expected, so I wasn’t ready and decided to just get an epidural.
With my second, I figured I would just go the same route as I did the first time and get an epidural. I didn’t have time during that pregnancy to read books and take classes. In the end, I had to speed up the labor with Pitocin, and then I asked for an epidural.
The Truth About Taking Meds During Labor
In both cases, I learned some things about taking medication for labor that actually have made me reconsider the pain factor. Here’s what I’m talking about:
You aren’t allowed to eat or drink once you get your Pitocin or epidural administered.
I was only allowed to eat ice chips after I got Pitocin and/or the epidural. Labor can be a really long process, so it might be smart to eat something as you are heading to the hospital. You might receive different instructions from your own doctor, though. Some hospitals may ask you to go without eating for four hours before you receive an epidural.¹ Whatever happens, try to eat as close as possible to your delivery time.
You will get a catheter if you choose to get an epidural.
When you get an epidural, you can’t walk around, nor can you even tell if you have to pee or not. Enter catheter.² Yeesh. Just thinking about a catheter makes me squirm. Both times I had an epidural, I could still feel the catheter, especially towards the end when it was starting to wear off. I think labor pains might just be worth it if I can avoid a catheter next time.
If complications arise, it could lead to a C-section.
With Sofía, I had to use an oxygen mask so that she could get more oxygen. The nurses were watching my contractions and her heart rate to make sure that she was getting the oxygen she needed. If I had decided to give birth naturally, I bet she could have come out quicker. They actually mentioned that if she didn’t come fast, I might have to get a C-section. Taking Pitocin can also increase your risk for a C-section.³
The medication could possibly affect your baby more than you think.
Both of my girls were very sleepy soon after they were born. I wanted to breastfeed them right away, but they both had another idea. It’s frustrating to try and breastfeed a sleepy baby! I attribute the sleepiness to the drugs. My mom would agree with that statement. She had two babies delivered by C-section, and then her third baby was delivered with lots of drugs (like Pitocin and an epidural). Unfortunately, he was not very alert and she ran into breastfeeding problems with him as well. By the time she had me and my younger brother, she just wanted to go natural so she did. She said that we were very alert after birth.
Your milk supply might be affected by the drugs.
If you take medication to help with labor, it could affect your breastmilk. When you go to feed your baby, your milk supply may not match what your baby needs.4 This is a factor that can force many moms to just give up and turn to formula. I’m not entirely sure if the drugs really affected my milk, but my milk didn’t come in until the 4th day with my first baby.
Your recovery period will be longer than if you deliver naturally.
I’ve heard it a million times from women who decided to deal with the pain of labor and ditch the drugs. They were back to their normal lives within a day or two, and that’s priceless with a newborn.5 I had to get help from my husband and mom the first few days with both of my daughters, and I definitely didn’t feel normal for at least a week or so.
In my experience, taking medication for labor is not all sunshine and roses. Every mama has to make up her own mind about what is right for her. Taking medication for labor can be wonderful for dealing with pain or speeding up labor, but the consequences are real. Whatever your decision, just remember to love on your baby and take in every moment.