Will Getting an Epidural Slow Down My Labor?

April 19, 2018

You might be considering the epidural for your labor, just one of many tools in the labor toolbox to help the laboring person. One question in the back of your mind, though, is whether having an epidural will affect your labor progress! The answer? Yes, no, and maybe?

Super helpful, right!? No one can tell you exactly how a labor will or will not affect your labor, but here are a few factors that can influence your labor with an epidural!

Are Your Contractions In a Good Pattern?

It's not just epidurals: anything that helps you relax can actually serve to slow or even stop early labor. For example, we call the tub the "midwife's epidural." Hop in the tub when you are having those early, off and on, annoying but manageable early contractions? Likely your labor will slow or stop. Hop in the tub when you are rockin' and rollin' at 7-8cm though? You might be pushing your baby out within the hour!

The epidural acts the same way. If you are getting it too early in labor, it may make you so relaxed that things slow or stop, and you might need some Pitocin to get things going again. On the flip side, if you can get your contractions into a good, regular active labor pattern, the epidural probably won't slow things down. Think: 5 minutes apart, lasting at least a minute, for at least 1 hour, and intense enough that you have to concentrate, even between contractions. In fact, there are times I've seen the laboring person be SO tense, that getting the epidural is JUST the tool to use to allow relaxation, and some quick progress!

Are You Staying Mobile?

Is the baby high in the pelvis still, and not putting a lot of pressure on the cervix? What can we do to encourage that baby to keep moving down (and out!)? We know that being upright and mobile, letting your pelvis move, and change shape to get baby down, is helpful in labor. Having an epidural does limit your mobility and the number of positions you can get into.

Fortunately, there are ways that we can keep you active, and keep your pelvis open, even with the epidural! In the video below, filmed in collaboration with The Christ Hospital Medical Center- Liberty Township at their brand new Family Birthing Center, I demonstrate some positions you can get into with an epidural using a peanut ball.


‍What Are Your Goals?

Sometimes it's helpful to think about what you are needing and wanting by getting an epidural. Is it getting some much-needed sleep (which is SO important!) Sometimes there are other medications you can try before getting an epidural. Is it because the pain is so unmanageable, and the only option you know for sure is available is the epidural? Sometimes having a doula present with you to suggest positions or comfort techniques will get you past the hump. Are you just done and ready for the epidural? We'll help you call the nurse and get you some relief! Once the epidural is in place, we will help you continue to change positions (after your nap, of course!), and help you navigate what's next!

Have You Talked to Your Healthcare Provider?

If you have questions about the epidural and how it might influence your labor, talk to your OB or midwife! They are happy to answer your questions about the benefits, risks, and even possible alternatives. Each individual circumstance is unique, so it's good to know what factors are at play in your case!

Got More Questions?

Check out our classes, or schedule a consultation with a doula! We are here to help you understand your options, in collaboration with your OB or midwife, and will help you make the best decision for you and your family to achieve your personal goals in birth.