Epidurals…Dispelling the Myths and Highlighting The Drawbacks

AUTHOR: | POSTED: October 2, 2012 | COMMENTS: 3 Comments
CATEGORIES: Glass City Parent, Melanie’s Healthy Mama,

Melanie Miller

So, it’s the big day!  Your bag is packed, you’re hee-hee-who-whoing through your contractions, and your baby daddy is driving through town like a bat out of hell trying to avoid a roadside delivery.  You’ve been picturing this day for the past nine months, two days, 13 hours and twelve seconds (not that you were counting), but you still have some decisions to make.  Names?  You’ve got time!  Who’ll hold the camera to capture your baby’s first breath?  You’ll wing it!  Epidural?  Let’s talk!

I can’t tell you how many moms come into delivery still debating their pain management plan, with dozens of questions.  Of course, I encourage my patients to ask as much as they can before delivery day, but I do understand how the myths surrounding epidurals can confuse even the most medically savvy moms-to-be. 

My job, as a midwife, is to support my patient through whatever choices she makes about managing the pain of her labor and delivery.  She’s in charge.  I’m the facilitator.  

That being said, I can honestly say that most pregnant women are bombarded with well-intentioned misinformation about the risks and side effects of epidurals.  I’d like to take this opportunity to dispel some of the myths that I’ve heard and highlight some of the drawbacks.   


Myth #1    An epidural could cause paralysis. 

This is a falsehood.  The most common yet unlikely risk associated with an epidural is a severe headache afterwards. I have never heard of or seen anyone paralyzed from an epidural.  NEVER!


Myth #2  Getting an epidural will slow down my labor.

FALSE. Labor  is an unpredictable and widely variable experience from woman to woman and baby to baby. It’s impossible to predict how long a woman’s labor will last; so how can something be said to slow it down? Studies show that giving a woman in active labor an epidural has little to no effect on the course of labor. In fact, in many cases, getting an epidural enables the woman to relax and let her body do the work of labor.


Myth #3  A needle will be left in my back after the epidural is administered.

FALSE. A needle is used in epidurals during insertion but is not left in the back. A flexible catheter is what is placed in the back to deliver the medication.

 Sidebar –  I find it ironic when I hear this fear communicated by women with multiple tattoos!?!?!  Trust me when I say, if you can handle the pain of getting a tattoo, I’m sure you can handle getting an epidural!


Myth #4  The epidural is going to “run out” before the baby is born.

FALSE. Epidural medication is delivered into the body using a pump which works similar to an IV. It does not stop until the pump is turned off after delivery.


Myth #5 Real women deliver their babies naturally.

SO VERY, VERY FALSE. While natural labor is great for those women that choose to birth their babies that way, everybody is different and so is our ability to tolerate pain. The sheer fact that you are forcefully ejecting a varitable bowling ball out of your vagina makes you a WOMAN!  Never, ever forget that!



Now that we have the most common myths dispelled, I want to communicate some of the drawbacks associated with epidurals.

Drawback #1  The time it takes to push the baby out may be increased after an epidural is administered.  Without the epidural, women may have better control over their muscles resulting in more effective and efficient pushing.  

Drawback #2  After an epidural is administered laboring women must stay in bed.  This is because an epidural could cause the loss of feeling in a woman’s legs. Even after delivery and the removal of the epidural, it still takes time to get the feeling completely back to where a mom can support her weight.


Deciding how a woman will manage her pain during labor and delivery is a daunting task, especially because everyone under the sun has an opinion.  I tell my patients there is no wrong choice. You have to do what is right for you at that moment. Be fair to yourself and be open to the fact that once you are in labor you may very well change your mind. That’s ok. I’ve had patients happy they didn’t get the epidural (strange but true) and then I have afriend who wanted to name her baby after the anesthetist who gave her theepidural (Thank goodness!  Her oldest definitely looks like a “Drew”.  Pulling off  “Farad” may have been tough for that boy!)

3 Comments on “ Epidurals…Dispelling the Myths and Highlighting The Drawbacks ”

  • Janice | October 3rd, 2012 9:17 am

    I recently read a medical journal that showed studies indicating that epidurals do not cause a higher rate of c-sections (another myth I was told). The study did show an increased rate of vacuum and forceps deliveries, though.

    I chose the natural route, and although I had a great support system I must not have been able to fully relax because after pushing 3 hours the baby was still at 0 station. So I requested an epidural to hopefully get some rest and try again since I physically couldn’t go on. After being on the epidural 2 hours baby descended to +2 station and I was able to push her until crowning. After an hour of crowning I did request forceps delivery because I was getting worn out and wanted to be done.

    Another myth is that delivering naturally will give you a huge sense of accomplishment, a feeling of “wow, look what I did!” That may be true, but I had the exact same feeling with an epidural and forceps delivery. Assistance in no way detracted from my sense of accomplishment and euphoria.

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  • Carolyn Savage | October 4th, 2012 9:38 am

    I just wanted to thank you for your comment and apologize for not moderating it sooner. Oddly, WP identified it as spam and threw it in the spam folder. Clearly not spam.

    Thanks for bringing up the other myths of epidurals. I couldn’t agree more with your statements!

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  • Val Hill | October 3rd, 2012 12:16 pm

    Epidural received in 2009 has been causing me lower back pproblemsevery since receiving it had a previous epidural in 1992 with no problems with this no from the start something wasn’t right and I pay for it daily and my primary care physician puts it all all on my weight when I even mention the epidural he syas a lot of woemnwomen have said the exact same thing but no one is listening to us and just brush us off.

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