Epidural Anesthesia is one of the most commonly used pain medications by women during labor and delivery. Pitocin is a medication often used to induce labor or to quicken the progress of contractions and labor. Both medications can be helpful in certain situations, but it’s important to know that they can also cause side effects and complications during labor and delivery. I was with my daughter when she had an epidural and pitocin when having her first child. I saw how both medications affected her labor and delivery and the baby.
Talked into an Epidural. My daughter went into labor in the early hours of the morning and lives a couple hours from me, so she was in labor for several hours before I was able to get to the hospital to be with her. Though she had other people with her, she is young and was scared and was not handling the pain well. We talked on the phone while I was traveling and she told me the nurse was talking to her about getting an epidural. I told her that epidurals can cause complications and that I had stadol while in labor with her sister and it helped me greatly. She decided to get the Stadol to help calm her down and take the edge off of the pain.
The Stadol helped her for a while, but quickly wore off and she was back to not dealing well with the pain at all. Then the doctor talked to her about getting an epidural. This time she was persuaded to get it and they were already putting the epidural in when I got there, so I couldn’t be in the room. I was instantly concerned that the epidural would affect her labor and delivery, but hoped all would go well.
When I was allowed to go in the room, my daughter had a catheter in her back for the epidural that was hooked up to an IV with fluids and the medication. She also had to have a urinary catheter as well as a blood pressure cuff and fetal monitor on her at all times. With all of this “equipment” attached to her, she couldn’t really move and had a long way to go with labor still.
Side Effects and Complications from the Epidural. Initially, the epidural helped her a lot with the pain, but she lost complete control of her right leg. Shortly after that, her contractions slowed down and became erratic and weak, causing the progress of her labor to slow down a lot. This was one of the complications I knew could be caused by an epidural, but when my daughter asked the nurse about it, she said it can just happen and that they couldn’t say the epidural caused it. I was very bothered by this untrue remark, but I didn’t say anything because I was more concerned about helping my daughter be okay.
Side Effects and Complications from the Pitocin. The solution to her contractions and labor slowing down, was of course, to give her pitocin. I was not happy about this either, because I knew that pitocin-induced contractions and labor were way more intense than when they are natural. To make matters worse, they didn’t even talk to her about it. They just went and got the pitocin and hooked it up to her IV and didn’t say anything until one of us asked what they were giving her. Then it was casually explained that she was being given medication to help speed up her contractions. I looked at the nurse and said, “Pitocin, right.” Then she finally said, yes, that it was pitocin. My daughter’s contractions became so intense and close together with the pitocin that she was in a lot of pain even with the epidural and needed to be given extra shots of pain medication through her IV to help her handle it.
More Complications from the Epidural. When my daughter finally started to feel the urge to push, she had a lot of difficulty being able to push correctly. Because of the epidural, she couldn’t feel where to push in order to be able to push down low. She was also having difficulty getting into a good position to push since she couldn’t feel or control the lower half of her body well. Two of us were helping by holding her legs for her, but the difficulties with pushing brought very little progress. After two hours of pushing, she was exhausted and the baby still wasn’t out. I was becoming very concerned since I had only needed to push for about ten minutes or so for the births of both of my children.
At one point, the baby’s heart rate dropped dangerously low and I was afraid they were going to need to do an emergency C-section. I kept all of my concerns to myself so I wouldn’t scare my daughter, but the doctor said it couldn’t go on much longer because my daughter was exhausted and the baby needed to come out. She was given a few more tries at pushing, but she didn’t have the strength. The doctor decided to use a vacuum extractor to help get the baby out during the next contraction while my daughter pushed. This, at least, was explained to my daughter and her questions and concerns were answered. The vacuum extraction worked and the baby came out and was okay. Unfortunately, my daughter had pushed for almost three hours and ended up with second degree tears from not being able to push correctly and the vacuum extraction of the baby, resulting in her needing twenty-three stitches.
Affects on Mother and Baby After Delivery. Even after everything my daughter and the baby had already been through, the affects of the epidural, pitocin, and other pain medications my daughter was given during labor continued to affect her and the baby for weeks to come. Within a couple of hours after being born, the hospital staff had to take the baby to the nursery to put her under the heat lamps because she couldn’t regulate her own body temperature. The baby continued to have difficulty regulating her body temperature the next day. My daughter’s recovery also seemed to drag out as she did not feel well at all for several weeks after having the baby and had to deal with the pain of the second degree tears and stitches. She also faced many difficulties with nursing because the baby wouldn’t latch on well or wouldn’t nurse. She had to pump for weeks after having the baby, feed her with the bottle most of the time and was only able to get her to nurse once in a while. As time went on, the nursing got better and she had to pump less, but it took a lot of effort to make nursing successful.
Expectant Mothers Need to be Informed. I realize that there are times that birthing situations call for the need of an epidural and/or pitocin for the safety, well-being, and sometimes the survival of the baby and/or mother. I do believe though that the use of epidurals and pitocin has become way too common place and that expectant mothers are often not truly informed of the possible side effects or complications that these medications can cause. Nor do I think that alternatives to these extreme measures are always offered or even made known to women in labor.
If there is one thing I wish I would have done when my daughter was pregnant, it would have been to encourage her to get as informed as possible about labor and delivery, all of the options for pain medications and management, and all of the possible side effects and complications. If you are an expectant mom, I would now encourage you to do the same. Research, read, and get informed. With knowledge on your side, you can make good decisions about what is best for you and your baby during labor and delivery.
AmericanPregnancy.org – Epidural
Childbirth.org – Pitocin
AmericanPregnancy.org – Narcotics/Stadol