Karen Mead didn’t act like a candidate for trauma-free childbirth. Quite the opposite. When the now-39-year-old New Hampshire mom went in for her first prenatal blood test, she passed out as the syringe went in. Recalls Mead, “My OB said to me, ‘If you don’t get help, you’re not going to make it through labor and delivery.’”
Considering that at least 60 percent of American women today have an epidural for pain relief during labor, it’s surprising how misunderstood this procedure is. For starters, even doctors use the word “epidural” generically, to encompass three similar, yet distinct procedures: epidurals, spinals and a more recently perfected procedure, the combined spinal epidural (CSE), or “walking” epidural. Since deciding whether or not to have an epidural means becoming informed about the benefits and risks well before labor begins, here are the facts to help you make sense of some misconceptions.