Epidural Trip


 Yes, that’s right. Judy Slome Cohain, in theUS publication Midwifery Today, describes the similarity with the hallucinogenic trip induced by (illegal) drugs. The statistics in this article are USA related but the epidural anaesthetic is very common in our maternity wards, too. Unfortunately, it seems that we are not immune to ever-growing popularity of opinions that medicalized obstetrics has actually a medicinal effect.

In USA, two million American women will take an epidural trip this year during childbirth. In most cases, they’ll be ill-informed as to possible side effects or alternate methods of pain relief. In many ways, epidurals are the drug trip of the current generation. Similar to street drug pushers, most anaesthesiologists in the delivery rooms maintain a low profile, avoid making eye contact and threaten to walk out if they don’t get total cooperation. Women get epidurals for one of the main reasons so many women smoked pot in the 1970s—their friends are doing it.

In the Western countries, the 50 – 70% of expecting mothers would choose epidurals simply because they’re afraid of the pain. However, when informed about the possible side effects of this drug, only half of the original number of women would request it. In other words, the more experienced the woman is – who wants to be in control of the birth and be fully conscious during the labour, would trust in their own ability to bear some pain.

Typical dosage of epidural anaesthetic is a combination of two very potent opioids – fentanyl and bupivacaine (or other opioids). Fentanyl is around 80 times stronger than morphine (and has a lot more side effects). Some of the side effects of bupivacaine are facial tics, vertigo, blurred vision, depression, loss of consciousness, difficulty breathing, and so on. It has also caused several deaths of heart failure because the anaesthesiologist hit the vein rather than the epidural space in the spinal column.

 Despite that, the doctors consider the epidural to be the most effective and safest painkiller (against the birth pains). The ability of our own body, mind, support of the loved ones or help of a hypnosis may be far more efficient to remove the pain, and can’t be compared to the dangers of letting somebody to inject such powerful drugs into our bodies.

 The pain is a very individual matter and healthy women who allow their bodies to experience the full joy of pregnancy have usually no reason to fear it. The birth pain, or birth “effort” respectively, can bring or induce some pleasure (comparable to love making). If the body of woman in labour isn’t stressed out and anxious by the sterile white walls of the hospital, male obstetricians constantly checking how much she’s dilated; her body naturally releases huge amounts of hormones which may lead to almost orgasmic experience. This release of hormones will provide her with the needed strength on physical, emotional and spiritual level so that she may be fit enough to get up and go home soon after birth, without needing to stay in hospital. Some women in Czech Republic know that the epidural increases the possibility of needing caesarean section. On top of that, a woman who is to receive an epidural has to sign a disclaimer form detailing the possible risks (for which the hospital doesn’t  bear any responsibility), and this further increases her stress levels and stress subsequently causes complication in the labour process.

 It’s a vicious circle: the more the woman is worried about results of all sorts of checks and potential risks, and the more the obstetricians scare her into believing that her own body is not strong or capable enough to give birth without their help, the more there is a risk that her body will be tense and muscles contracted and that the childbirth will be inevitably painful. I would much rather see that the obstetricians focus on informing women on how to prevent the pain (rather than their contra productive scare-mongering) so that the expecting mothers can relax and enjoy their pregnancy and subsequently eliminate their pain.

When the woman in labour is stressed out, her psoas muscles contract and this in turn affect the contraction of the pelvis muscles. There simply is much less room for the baby to position itself in the correct way, so the baby descending through the birthing canal presses more against the psoas muscles. This area is very rich in nerve endings and the pressure on the walls is what’s causing the birth pain. Terence Dowling’s method consist of letting the woman in labour walk around for a while and when it’s clear from the way she walks that her psoas muscles are tense (contracted), he asks her to lie down, and with few moves folds her legs back and forth in a specific position to relax the relevant muscles – after that the childbirth progresses much easier and almost pain free.

 I’m trying to say that the obstetricians are confusing the symptoms with the causes and that they’re treating illnesses and complications instead of preventing them (by keeping themselves out and leave women and their bodies to give birth to the new life). It is their unnecessary meddling into the natural course of childbirth which cause the complex neuro-hormonal processes to seize up. The childbirth is interrupted and subsequently needing an intervention in a form of caesarean section at which point the obstetrician becomes a hero of the day – completely oblivious that it all happened because of his own ignorance in the first place.

Judy Cohain also mentions that while many stars died of overdose in the 70’s (namely and exemplary Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison) and many would disapprove getting “high” illegally, many women have no issue at all to allow a stranger (anaesthesiologist) to administer much more potent drug – legally. We seem to have an epidural trip generation…the next generation of women will copy the same (as they’ve learned while still in the womb, just before their birth) and thus be that little bit more dependent.