Melanie’s Healthy Mama

Epidurals…Dispelling the Myths and Highlighting The Drawbacks

AUTHOR: | POSTED: 10/2/12 8:33 PM
CATEGORIES: Glass City Parent, Melanie’s Healthy Mama

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!)

Insider Tips from A Labor and Delivery Nurse and a Babies R Us Give Away!

AUTHOR: | POSTED: 08/29/12 6:38 AM
CATEGORIES: Melanie’s Healthy Mama

What’s your favorite story to tell? 

For most mom’s, hands down, it’s the story of their delivery day.  In fact it’s inevitable that if a flock of mothers is grouped together for any given length of time the conversation will eventually turn to delivery day!  It’s quite obvious why the births of our children is a favorite go-to topic during coffee clatches and book clubs–after all, who doesn’t love reliving a miracle? 

Among the staple key elements in the plots of our birth stories are a few common characters–a husband or partner, a doctor, and the lifeline for so many of us–a nurse. I cannot state more emphatically what an integral part our labor and delivery nurses have played in the births of our children.  In fact we wrote about the compassion and empathy that flooded Logan’s delivery from a small team of angels that made our time with him, albeit brief, so special. 

I’ll never forget before delivering Drew a wise woman telling me, “Love your nurse!  She’s going to be your lifesaver.”  I had no idea what she meant, but soon learned when I found myself  feet in the stirrups with an epidural that wasn’t working.  Not only did my L&D nurse keep me from ripping Sean’s face off, but she even took great pics when all was said and done!

When Ryan and MK were born, under less than ideal circumstances, our nurses kept us calm, explaining everything the NICU teams were doing.

And when the twins were born, our nurses knew our story and rejoiced in our happy ending.  There wasn’t a dry eye in the delivery room that day.

There’s no surprise as to why this group of professionals are known to so many as angels on Earth. 

But can you imagine the stories they have to tell? 

My friend Melanie’s been an L&D nurse for many, many years.  She’s cracked me up with her stories of regrettable tatoos, far too many potential fathers in a delivery room, and over the top hysterics of family members during a birth.  I swear she missed her calling as a SNL actress, but thank God she’s in the profession she is.  I’m sure there’s nobody more grateful than the expectant moms who’ve become her patients.

It’s my pleasure to bring you her “Insider Tips” for a more enjoyable labor and delivery experience.  They’re a little cheeky, but that’s her.  How else is she supposed to cope with all the crazy stuff she sees?

Insider Tips from a Labor and Delivery Nurse

 Tip #1  –  I’ll Be Your Bouncer…Just Say The Word

Sometimes deliveries can turn into all out parties.  Most doctors are tolerant of as many people present as you (expectant mom) want, but if ever there is someone in attendance that you don’t want in the room, just say the word!  Give me a whisper, and I’ll make an excuse to get the guest-turned-crasher out!  I have no problem being the “bad guy” for you!   (And this includes eager residents and medical students that have asked you for permission to observe!)

Tip #2 –  Think Before You Ink

Tatoos are a trendy way to express yourself–I get that!  What I wish is that tatoo artists would warn their female clients that tatoos stretch oddly, sometimes losing their appeal during pregnancy!  For instance, that sweet little sun that you wrapped around your navel will look more like a solar explosion when you are measuring nine months.  And word to the wise..,those rays of sunshine aren’t likely to go back to their original placement after delivery, so think about the placement of your ink!  You’ll be grateful that you did!


Tip #3 –  Leave the  Nursery At Home

We are equipped to dress, diaper, bathe, swaddle and all out generally care for your baby during your hospital stay.  So, give yourself a break by leaving your personal baby care items at home.  Use our stuff!  There’s truly no need to bring diapers, ten changes of baby clothes, an infant swing, bottles, etc to our unit!   Two outfits (one for a picture and one to go home in), and a carseat is truly all you need!  Trust me…you’ll be lugging all that stuff around with you soon enough! 

Tip #4  Leave the Good PJ’s at Home

Post partum is an exciting but messy time for a new mom!  I understand that a pretty robe may be the pick-me-up  you need after delivery, but leave the rest of the ensemble at home in favor of our hospital nighties or some cheap pj’s that you won’t mind tossing after your stay! 

Tip #5  Eat before You Arrive

Labor can last a long time so you may want to consider a light snack before arriving at the hospital!  Why?  Well ninety-nine percent of the time your ob/gyn will put you on a NPO (nothing per oral)once admitted, which means nothing goes into your mouth until your baby comes out!  The NPO  is issued just in case you end up needing anesthesia during delivery!  So eat something before we tell you, you can’t!  You’ll be happy you did!

Tip #6  Expectant Fathers…Never Eat in Front of A Laboring Mom

Along the same lines as tip #5, nothing can irritate an already uncomfortable laboring mother more than the sound of you chewing or slurping down a meal–especially when she’s hungry (and doing all of the work)!  If you need to grab a bite, scarf it down quickly in the cafeteria or in the hall way.  And if you do leave labor and delivery for a meal–make it a quickie and leave your phone on!  You never know when your presence may be needed!

Tip #7  Dads, Put Your Big Boy Pants On!

Labor and delivery is a challenging feat for a mom!  It’s also painful which can often cause a women to say things she doesn’t really mean!  So consider yourself forewarned.   You may need to disregard a few utterances that are mumbled/screamed during the intensity of labor! 

Tip #8  If You Are Bringing Siblings into The Delivery Room…

We understand that some patients may desire to bring older siblings to experience the birth of their brother or sister.  As nurses, we fully support your decision!  That being said, we implore you to prepare your child(ren) about what they’ll be seeing and hearing during a delivery so they aren’t scared.  Talk about what to expect, read a book, or watch an age appropriate movie so your child will understand what is happening.  And, understand, that as much as we fully support your decision to have an older child present, nurses cannot babysit said child.  Our focus has to be on you and your baby, so make sure you have other adults to help in case your older child needs attention.

Tip # 9       Never Feel Like You Have to Apologize

Know that us nurses have seen it all!  There’s nothing you can do, say that will offend us and there’s no bodily function that will take us off guard!  Never feel like you have to apologize!  This is our job and we signed on for it!  So relax and don’t worry!

Tip #10   A Word About Baby Names

We understand that many, many people like unique names and creativity is what makes our world such a colorful place.  That being said, be aware that if you go WAY outside the box when it comes to a name, it’s likely that you’ll become part of labor and delivery folklore that will be passed down for many years to come!  So to all the parents who’ve used names like Moxy Crimefighter, Apple, and Shepherd–consider yourself forewarned! 

A Baby Inspired Give Away

In honor of Melanie’s wonderful labor and delivery tips, Mama on The Fly is thrilled to be giving away a $30 gift card to Babies-R-Us!  All you need to do to qualify is to leave a comment describing your favorite labor and delivery nurse moment/memory!  Melanie will pick from the comments and the winner will be announced in next Wednesday’s (September 5th) post!