Monday, March 18, 2013

Getting an epidural at my Swedish hospital

OK, so a few weeks ago we welcomed the newest Swede into our family, and once again I was quite happy with the way things went at the hospital – despite a few minor complaints. And once again, I went thru the whole shebang almost all au naturalle, except for a few hits of laughing gas (which always makes me wonder why I paid 1 dollar for that crap in Grateful Dead parking lots).

Getting an epidural at my local hospital is not the easiest of tasks, if one is to believe local rumors and stories. And in my experience, epidurals are certainly rare beasts. 

I have never written up a birth plan. I am not a planner and the idea of planning something with so many unknowns involved just seemed so overwhelming I skipped it. And I still ended up with 2 epidural-free births.

If you want an epidural at my hospital, I imagine you need to plan accordingly, completely opposite of the American experience (from what I have read).

If you are going to get an epidural it probably depends on

1) If your midwife is pro-epidural – Seriously, one of the midwives I had with my first got me all prepped for a possible epidural, so that I could opt for one later if I wanted. But the next shift’s midwife was all ‘you don’t need that, you are doing great’ and did everything she could to give me other options (I hope it doesn’t make me sound ungrateful here, I loved midwife #2 and was in the ‘I will try to go without an epidural if I can’ camp before my kids).

2) If the anesthesiologist is around – A lot depends on what is going and how available the anesthesiologist is. There is, I am pretty sure, only one and it can be hard to get him/her. There will be a wait.

3) You scream your head off  - One of my friend’s said she got really tired of all of the alternatives and just started shouting “EPIDURAL” or rather “RYGGMARGSBEDÖVNING” until they caved and got her one. I will say, this friend is a bit on the dramatic side, so I tend to believe this story. It may sound extreme, but then, labour does strange things to a person.

4) Let them know right away – Walk in the door and say you want the epidural. Don’t let them talk you out of it. Get your heplock put in immediately and tell them it is all you want. Although this may not work if the anesthesiologist is not around (My friend from the story in #3 did not have time to get one using this technique for baby # two).

I have heard rumours that my hospital has a 10% epidural rate, so that explains the extreme techniques. I do know other people from other hospitals have different stories. In the end I am happy with my birth experiences. But considering how much my husband had to nag about just getting me a damn yoga ball (which we never got, despite having walked past it in the hallway when we checked in) and how I kept saying “I really cannot lie down anymore get these machines off me” before I just stood up and let them fall off (lady do not say I did not warn you 18 times) – I can only imagine how much work it would take to get an epidural. 


  1. Wow, that's the opposite of my Swedish hospital experience! They were insisting I get an epidural before I wanted one. In the end, thanks to the Pitocin and then the c-section, they were totally right about that epidural. Those people knew before I did I was a getting a c-section, I guess.

  2. There are pros and cons with the epidural... When it works, it works miracles, but when it comes with side effects, it can get really ugly, for an extended period of time. I got one with my first (though there was certainly a wait for the anesthesiologist, like you mentioned). It had the unwanted side effect of me losing the use of my left leg for a few hours, so I had to give birth while lying down which really wasn't optimal for me. So the feeling of "needing it but not wanting it" was reinforced I guess. On the other hand, with hindsight, I realize I would have ended up having a c-section without it, so I'm glad the staff talked me into it. I'm also glad my second child was born in about 9 minutes flat, so I didn't even have time to start thinking about an epidural... it's a tough decision to make.

  3. @antropoliga - interesting, I wonder if it is because of the Pitocin, but I am pretty sure my 'dramatic' friend was also induced with her first and had to still make quite a fuss to get an epidural. I guess this varies quite a bit hospital to hospital.

    @anon - interesting, I agree there are pros and cons, and with my first and really long labor afterwards I did wonder if I would be better off with an epidural, as I was sooo exhausted at the end. But for my second, also super fast, I felt I did not need one. Glad things worked out well for you both times.

  4. There are so many epidural alternatives although I do suggest asking your physician before doing anything that might not be efficient or hurt you or your baby.