If you are considering a California surrogacy with Surrogate Parenting Services, whether or not you get an epidural may have crossed your mind. Some gestational surrogates pledge to have an epidural upon arrival at the hospital, while others hope to experience labor and birth without using this method of pain relief. Regardless of which camp you’re in, it’s worth knowing that while the epidural can be a useful tool, it does have a downside, too. Arming yourself with the facts will help you make an informed decision when labor unfolds.

Epidural anesthesia is very effective at reducing or eliminating pain during childbirth, allowing a woman to get through an exhausting labor. It is also of the most common types of pain relief for childbirth, with almost 80 percent of all vaginal deliveries involving the drug; however, along with the benefits, epidural anesthesia also has some major drawbacks.

So how do you decide if an epidural is right for your California surrogacy? Please consider both the positives and negatives:

The Pros

Creating a little wiggle room. Using an epidural to relax the muscles of the vagina and perineum will allow a “sunny-side up baby” (a baby facing your belly button instead of your backbone) to rotate and descend.

Giving you some well-deserved R&R. Sometimes birth contractions can keep a surrogate awake for a very long time. An epidural may allow you to nap, thus giving you to catch your second wind to finish the delivery.

Less stress equals a better delivery. If you have a prolonged labor, it may be due to the fact that excessive anxiety slows down contractions—which is caused by an increase in the surrogates’s stress hormones (epinephrine and norepinephrine). An epidural will decrease a gestational surrogate’s stress level by allowing her to rest without pain.

Safely drops your blood pressure. During delivery, your blood pressure can spike when pushing, posing many dangers including stroke. Epidurals are believed by many doctors to drop blood pressure and reduce these risks.

A helper’s helper. In the off-chance that your baby needs the assistance of forceps or a vacuum, an epidural can prevent discomfort for your baby enough to help in exiting.

Less chance of a non-emergency C-section. The speed of general anesthesia is only needed in very urgent situations (which account for a small minority of C-sections) and usually don’t allow surrogate to be conscious. If you are already sufficiently numbed through an epidural, there is no need to be anesthetized, and you can stay awake.

The Cons

Creates limited mobility. Epidurals keep you fairly immobile, though there are certain kinds of epidurals (offered at a few hospitals) that are mild enough to allow for some leg movement; however in most centers you won’t be able to get up and walk around in the halls because you will be hooked up to an IV or fetal monitor.

A less effective labor. Since your entire body is numbed, an epidural also affects your ability to push. In this case, you will have a 38 percent greater likelihood of needing a vacuum delivery or forceps. In addition to that, women who get epidurals will also require the hormone oxytocin to increase and strengthen stalled contractions—all of which carries its own risks.

Doubling the odds of a C-section. In many studies, epidurals are conclusively shown to increase the likelihood of having a C-section. The good news, however, is that it is possible to reduce, or possibly eliminate these occurrences. How? A skilled doctor will know to hold off on using the medication until you are four or five centimeters dilated.

Dangers in a drop in blood pressure. An epidural can cause the baby’s heart beat rate to slow down—and, if IV fluids and drugs don’t work in bringing back to a normal rate, it could lead to a C-section.

Difficulty urinating. After having an epidural, you will not be able to feel when your bladder is full because the epidural affects the surrounding nerves. If you get an epidural there is probably a chance you will need to have a catheter inserted into you bladder.

Excessive headaches. Only about one percent of women who get an epidural develop headaches—but if you do, they can be very severe and it can linger for days, and sometimes weeks.

An increase in fevers. Though their occurrence isn’t completely understood by medical scientists, the odds of developing a fever during an epidural increases significantly. Your temperature could be 100.4F or greater, compared to those who didn’t receive an epidural.

Sometimes it may not even work. If an epidural does not work, it may be because of many factors, such as the catheter falling out or the anesthesia not spreading around evenly. If that happens, your anesthetist may offer you a different kind of medication or even perform the procedure a second time.

Before deciding to have an epidural, you should discuss the procedure with your anesthetist. They can provide further information and advice on the risks of developing complications such as those described above.

If you have a question about epidurals or would like to schedule a consultation with our agency for your California surrogacy, please call Surrogate Parenting Services at (949) 363-9525.