The Pregnancy Podcast: Episode 38 – Epidural

Why this podcast?
I decided to feature The Pregnancy Podcast early on because it was one of the first podcasts I listened to and, more importantly, because I think it is amazing!
The host, Vanessa Merten, has a totally relaxed vibe going on with a very easy to listen to voice. At the same time, the woman knows her stuff!

I love how she gives you an overview of the topic and then talks about the risks and benefits associated with it.

The absolute best thing for me, as a doula, is that Vanessa really does her research. You can be sure that what you are getting is evidence-based information and that, in a world full of internet opinion and blah blah, is gold!

As we learn more and more about pregnancy, labour and birth we see that letting nature do its thing and intervening only when necessary is really the way to go.

If you still need convincing that you need this podcast in your life I can tell you that Vanessa is able to bring this across to you but still lay out all of the options with absolutely no judgment.

Something I have heard her say time and time again is that you need to make informed choices that are best for YOU and YOUR baby. This perspective leads her to give you both sides of the story without trying to influence your decision.

How was this podcast born?
The host, Vanessa Merten, is a mum to her young son Reef. She was inspired to begin The Pregnancy Podcast during her own pregnancy. She spent heaps of time researching everything she could so that she could make informed decisions that were right for her and her baby.

It turned out that there was so much (often contradictory) information out there that it was easy to get lost, not to mention confused! The Pregnancy Podcast is the tool she wished she had had during her pregnancy. In short, she has done all the hard work so you don’t have to. 

How does it look?
The Pregnancy Podcast is actually split into three different styles of episode:
1. 40 weeks
2. Q&A and
3. The Pregnancy Podcast

– 40 weeks explores, as you might expect, each week of your pregnancy. You can find out what is happening with you, your baby and (I love this part) get a tip for your partner. Even better, each episode is only five minutes.

– Q&A takes specific questions from listeners. Vanessa introduces the question and then lays out the research behind her answer. She has tackled subjects like why you might ask for two layer suturing after a C-section, padsicles, stress from family, sushi and VBAC. Most Q&A episodes are ten minutes or less.

– The Pregnancy Podcast covers a myriad of pregnancy and birth related themes in episodes of thirty minutes or less.
From more general information about each trimester to specific information about interventions, breastfeeding, postpartum depression, cord blood banking, labour positions and C-section. Vanessa also delves into areas such as caffeine & alcohol in pregnancy, home & water birth, skin to skin, placenta encapsulation, zika, circumcision and your birth plan to name but a few.

Of the three styles of episode, The Pregnancy Podcast will probably be where I focus the most and I just cannot tell you how excited I am to share some of these episodes with you.

The Episode
Now that you have an overview of the podcast let’s jump into my chosen episode. I decided to start with the epidural episode as I feel this is something that lurks in the back of a lot of pregnant mum’s minds.

Questions float around like ’’How early can I get one?’’ ’’Can I handle birth without one?’’ And even ’’How will I be able to resist pressure from others to get one?’’

Sixty percent of women in the U.S. who give birth vaginally receive an epidural and it’s pretty common internationally so I hope this post will be useful to many of you.

Before I start I should probably point out that as The Pregnancy Podcast is U.S. based some of the details may be different for you depending on where you live. This does not take away from the general fabulousness of this podcast and the majority of the information will be relevant wherever you are.

Who should listen to this episode?
You should check out this episode if you are planning to get an epidural or if you are dead against getting one.

You should even listen if you are going to be giving birth via C-section.
Why? Because barring a full blown medical emergency C-sections are performed under epidural.

If you have your heart set on an epidural you should know what it involves and all the risks and benefits. If you are set on doing things naturally you also need all of this information. Maybe you will change your mind. Maybe you won’t but other’s may try and change it for you. Being armed with all of the facts will make it much easier to stand your ground.

So what exactly is an epidural anyway?
The host begins by laying out the three different kinds of procedures covered by the term ’epidural’. She explains in a short and simple way what each of these is and how they work.

I love that Vanessa is very pro having an open, respectful and therefore empowering relationship with your care provider and making sure that they are on board with all of your choices.

She points out that the medications in an epidural will vary depending on where you plan to give birth. Being able to talk openly to your care provider so that you know what will be going into your (and your baby’s) body and what effect it could have is incredibly important.

Walking Epidurals:
I had to laugh when this episode delves into the area of ’walking epidurals’.

One of the downsides to an epidural is that you are stuck in bed, unable to move or feel much of anything from the waist down. Even with the lower doses in the so-called ’walking epidural’ it is pretty unlikely that you would have enough sensation to actually walk around.

That’s not particularly funny I hear you say. True, but the idea that medical staff refer to it as a ’shuffling epidural’ is!

With all the extra paraphernalia that an epidural entails – an IV, a fetal monitor, a tube in your back and possibly a catheter, it’s not too likely that you are going to be lunging up and down the stairs even if you could talk your legs into holding you up.

I know that for me, the idea of having to lie still in a bed, even for the short time they needed for the pre-epidural assessment, was enough to put me off completely!
How you feel about having limited mobility is definitely something to think about.

But really she’s anti-epidural, right?
Earlier I wrote about how much I liked the fact that Vanessa always gives both sides of the story, the pros and the cons.

This comes through for me when she points out that although epidurals can have some pretty weird side effects (itchiness and ringing in the ears) and some rare but pretty scary ones (problems breathing and permanent nerve damage) there are also great things about epidurals.

For most women, they will be effective at reducing or eliminating discomfort and they can make it possible for you to rest or even sleep. They also allow you to be awake and alert so you know what’s going on and can play an active part in any decision making.

What else can you take away from this?
I love that this episode also outlines some of the more indirect effects of epidurals.

For example, the extra fluids being pumped through your IV can mean that your baby’s weight is higher at birth. When these fluids have been passed out of their body there could be concern that your baby has lost too much weight. If you are breastfeeding this can lead to pressure on you to give formula. Definitely something to keep in mind.

Another important point that Vanessa raises is the idea that one intervention (like an epidural) often leads to another.

An epidural is linked to a longer pushing stage. Taking longer to push your baby out could lead to an assisted delivery (many hospitals will have some kind of time limit on pushing). An assisted delivery almost always comes with an episiotomy. The link between epidurals and an increased risk of C-section is also covered.

This episode is really full of must-know information and I really encourage you to listen to it in full.

To wrap up
On my path to becoming a doula, I have learnt that opting into one intervention often means opting into a whole heap of them and The Pregnancy Podcast is a great place to learn all about your options and what they mean for you and your baby.

I hope that I have inspired you to check out The Pregnancy Podcast, whether that means the episode on epidurals or a totally different one is, of course, up to you! I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post and suggestions for future ones!

Until the next time!

More episodes on this topic
The Birth Hour: Episode 95 – Hospital Births With and Without Epidural  &  More Epidural Episodes

Birthful: Episode 40 – Epidural & Breastfeeding

Pregnancy Confidential Podcast – Week 30: Epidurals

Common Sense Pregnancy, Parenting & Power: Episode 44 – Labour Pain and Epidurals

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About emilywills

Emily Wills is a doula based in Stockholm. She believes that birth can be a beautiful and empowering experience and started this blog as a way of sharing some really great podcasts. She is also a mother of three and an enthusiastic runner.