The Epidural Is The Most Hyped Pain Medication Ever. Is novocaine this controversial?

By Babe | Illustration by Ana Hard

In our series The Debate, our community of real moms tackle the pros and cons around the idea of pain medication. The truth is, like so many decisions around child rearing, there is no right or wrong answer.  At HATCH, our job is to give voice to both sides of any debate, peppering real mom wisdom with the necessary facts so that you can make the best decision for you and your family.

Some women think the only way they’re getting through labor is with the maximum amount of pain management deemed legal. Other women want to feel every cramp, spasm and contraction. And then there’s the rest of us – somewhere in-between, wanting to be present for every moment but not doubled over in pain for hours on end. And yet, for so many women, the topic of an epidural comes with feelings like fear, surrender, and often guilt. 

“Getting an epidural is a deeply personal decision, says Dr. Miriam Greene, an OBGYN based in New York. “A lot of women think they’re a failure if they choose the ‘easy way’ and have the epidural,” she says. “But dilating, pushing, and delivering your baby will occur with or without the epidural. Diminishing the pain, in my experience, appears to be beneficial, as it helps the patient relax, rest, and dilate. However if the patient is motivated to have a drug free delivery, she should be encouraged and assisted in fulfilling her wish.”

Let’s hear from two gals in our community on their decisions regarding this most hyped up drug.

Just Say No

Jaimie Bailey
Nutritionist & Flywheel Instructor
Grey, 4

“My background is in nutrition, so in my mind, an unmedicated birth was just what it was going to be. But at the same time, I thought, OK here’s my plan, but if shit hits the fan and I need to do something other than that, it’s OK. I would’ve done a home birth if my husband was on board, but he wasn’t. He was very much, “god forbid something happens and you need to be around doctors,” which I understood.

My labor happened all at home. The first time it started, we went to the hospital but I was only one centimeter dilated, so they told me to go home, take a bath and get some rest. I’d be in the bath, so exhausted that I’d fall asleep for a minute and wake up and have a contraction. Then I moved into the bed. Finally, at 5:00 am, I had a contraction so bad, it made me get out of bed. I took two steps and my water broke. It was like the movies. It gushed everywhere. I was like holy shit! I didn’t know if I could walk. I made it to the hospital at 5:30 and Grey was born at 6:05. I got on the table, and they asked, “Do you want an epidural?” I said no, and they said, “honestly you don’t even have time.” I did three primal pushes and he was out.

In regards to not getting an epidural, I just wanted everything to be minimal and simple. I didn’t want any interference with drugs. I took a birthing class just to know what was going to happen and they walked us through the process of an epidural. I listened because I wanted to be prepared, but I remember going the whole way and thinking, if my mom could have three natural births, I got this. My mentality was “I’m in my body, I want to feel this.” I also believe in purity in everything, whether my food or supplementation. I want things to be clear and present. My biggest fear with an epidural or c-section was that it would take me out of the experience.

I remember my friends who had kids thought I was crazy. I had zero judgement with their comments. I just let it roll off my back. My OB knew what I wanted and my husband was my biggest cheerleader. I didn’t have a doula or midwife, it felt unnecessary. I was like, let’s just do it. You get pregnant, you have the baby. I didn’t want the noise. I’m just going to go with the instinct thing and i’m just gonna do it. And I did.”

Drugs Please, Thanks

Lindsay Hegleman
Global Event Marketing, Facebook
Skylar, 7 + Sebastian, 3

It was not a discussion. I was getting an epidural. I have a low threshold for pain anyway and I felt like there would be a lot of things I couldn’t control in the delivery room. If I could control one thing and be present for the rest of the labor, why not ease the pain? So literally the second I went in, it was the first thing I asked for. I thought my pain was at a 9/10 but then they told me I was only two centimeters. I still wanted it ASAP.

How do epidurals work and should I get one?

It wasn’t a discussion with my husband. It was entirely my decision. I said, “Please give it to me immediately.” I remember waiting in the triage room before they put me in a room, and I was asking every nurse who came by when the anesthesiologist was coming. 

Sure getting an epidural can be painful. You’re bent over with your chest on your knees and it hurts, but not in comparison to what I expected if I didn’t get it. I think it makes some people nauseous. I threw up after getting it but I didn’t care. I thought I’d rather throw up than be in that much pain. I still felt the pain but it felt like bad cramps. 

After I got the epidural, my labor was easy peasy. I told the doctor I loved his hair. I was in La La land. I was in a much better place. The only downside is that you can’t feel when you’re pushing. You’re so numb. You think you’re pushing really hard but I clearly wasn’t pushing hard enough because they had to use forceps with my first. I still loved it. You have your entire life to be a warrior raising kids. Why start before you have to?