I am often asked about epidurals and what the risks and benefits are for mother and baby. I feel as though this knowledge should be well known and flowing freely as about 2/3 of our women in 2004 were administered epidurals during their labor.* I will not spend the time going over all of those things, however I will mention that it has been proven that epidurals affect the bonding process between mother and baby. This risk alone, seems to be one that is often overlooked and down played. According to Sarah Buckley, "Epidurals also obliterate the maternal oxytocin peak that occurs at birth —the highest of a mother’s lifetime—which catalyses the final powerful contractions of labor and helps mother and baby to fall in love at first meeting."
I have been told numerous times that we don't want to speak of these things because we don't want mothers who have chosen to have epidurals, feel bad. I am tired of this comment and tired of it's implications. We are doing women a disservice by not discussing this major risk of epidurals. Who would knowingly choose to disrupt the bonding process between themselves and their babies? Perhaps knowing this information would give mothers the motivation to commit to more natural ways of birthing. For those mothers who have had epidurals and experienced disharmony, it might help them to make sense of their relationships with their children and to bring peace to their birthing experience.
I encourage you to read over the article that I have referenced here for a more in depth look at epidurals. I am reminded of a quotation I would see at my local coffee shop by Gloria Steinem — "The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off."
Peace and love to all the mothers out there...
* E. Declercq et al., Listening to Mothers: Report of the First U.S. National Survey of Women’s Childbearing Experiences (New York: Maternity Center Association, October 2002): pg 1