To be perfectly honest, the big reason behind not wanting the epidural is because I am scared to death of needles. A completely irrational fear of needles, and while I know it’s a silly fear, that doesn’t change the fact that I panic.
This started me looking into the epidural, and wanting more information on it. What I found only made me more nervous.
Side Effects:
• Confinement to bed
• Loss of ability to move around actively during labor
• Loss of sense of needing to urinate requiring placement of a urinary catheter
• Pain in the area of placement is not uncommon for up to a year after an epidural
• Increase in fetal malpositions due to confinement in bed
• Sudden drop in blood pressure
Complications:
• Dural Puncture headache (about 1 in 100) – can be severe and last several days and in some cases weeks or months. It is caused by a reduction in CSF pressure and is characterized by exacerbation when the patient raises their head above the lying position. If severe it may be successfully treated with a “blood patch” (a small amount of the patient’s own blood given via another epidural needle). Most cases resolve spontaneously with time.
• Block failure (about 1 in 20). Partial failure may still give satisfactory pain relief. However, if pain relief is inadequate, another epidural may have to be performed.
• Hypotension which may briefly affect baby.
• Significant damage to a single nerve (rare, less than 1:10,000).
• Paraplegia (extremely rare, less than 1:100,000).
• Death (extremely, extremely rare, less than 1:100,000).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epidural
http://www.healing-arts.org/mehl-madrona/mmepidural.htm
http://www.oyston.com/anaes/local/muir.html
It didn’t help that at the birth circle I went to, one of the doulas told a story about a woman who died due to complications with the epidural. The doula was at the birth, and the baby ended up fine, but a few days later, the woman passed away.
Overall, giving birth is something that our bodies should be able to do without a doctor. Being pregnant, giving birth, it’s not an illness. It doesn’t need to be treated. I’m purposely watching what I eat and not taking anything that might harm my baby into my system. Why would I change all that just because the birth was upon me? Shouldn’t I continue to be careful until after the baby is out and can no longer be affected? It’s a natural process, and I want to take an active, controlling role in the birth of my baby. I want to be able to feel and experience this once in a lifetime opportunity. I’ll only give birth to my son once. Another point is that I like to be in control of myself, and my body. I’d don’t drink alcohol (I also don’t like the flavor); I don’t like the out of control feeling drugs can give person. I have no plans at all to accept any type of drugs while in labor, and only an epidural in extreme circumstances. I am keeping my options open on the epidural, but the IV drugs are right out.
On the other hand, modern medicine has come a long way. I have faith in doctors and in drugs. I know that many complications that can occur would have been fatal 100 years ago, and today are no big deal. I don’t want to have a baby at home. I want to have a baby somewhere safe, where people are prepared and can deal with anything that might go wrong.
The big issue I have is that I don’t fit firmly into any camp. The natural childbirth people tend to be shocked that I want a hospital birth, the hospital birth people tend to be confused as to why I wouldn’t want drugs.
I’ve read and been told that hospital staff tend to push medical intervention. I saw this while I was on the tour at CRH. I wasn’t even a patient yet, and the nurse was already encouraging us all to go “pain free.” This made me reconsider a doula again. I had started to feel I didn’t want/need one, but if people at the hospital are going to pressure me, then perhaps I do want someone standing in my corner. I know my hubby (who is very smart and I love him very much) doesn’t have the time to do the research, or get the understanding of natural childbirth. I’m worried that if I am saying one thing and a doctor another, he will go with the doctor’s opinion because the doctor is “more qualified.” The doctor, however, might just be worried about making his golf game, or speeding things along because he feels I’ve been in labor for too long, or the old stand by of “I’ve been doing it this way for years, so we should do it this way.” I worry that hubby won’t support my choices at the last minute, and that I’ll cave due to stress and pain and just not wanting to argue with him. Then, I’ll be upset later because I “missed the experience,” or worse, I suffer from a complication above.
I understand that in a birth situation, things don’t always go the way you want them too. Still, if things are going well, then I feel I should be able to do things my way, and only deviate from them in the case of an emergency.

I read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, by Ina May Gaskins, which has more on natural childbirth, which I recommend. (although I thought that some of the birth stories at the start were very boring)

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