Due to the risks involved, epidurals are not administered at freestanding birth centers such as Corpus Christi Birth Center. The rise in the routine use of epidural medication – anesthesia injected through a catheter threaded through a needle and inserted near the spinal cord – has been linked to the rise in cesarean births throughout the world.

Epidurals are often the first intervention in what is sometimes referred to as a “cascade affect,” or the first medical intervention leading to a multitude of subsequent interventions.

An epidural can slow a woman’s labor, and she is more likely to be given a pitocin drip to speed up the labor process. Movement of the mother during labor is either eliminated completely or severely limited. Epidural administration necessitates fetal monitoring, to ensure the baby’s heart rate is not affected by the drug. The second stage of labor is often particularly slowed, sometimes leading to the use of forceps. All of these interventions can lead to unnecessary cesarean sections.

While epidurals can numb the sensations of pain associated with labor and delivery, they also numb the muscles that aid in pushing the baby out.

The International Cesarean Awareness Network, Inc. published a white paper written by Dr. Sarah Buckley outlining the risks for mother and baby of epidural use. The report concluded that “there is a noticeable lack of research and information about the effects of epidurals on babies. Drugs used in epidurals can reach levels at least as high as those in the mother (Fernando et al.), and because of the baby’s immature liver, these drugs take a long time–sometimes days–to be cleared from the baby’s body (Caldwell, Wakile et al.). Although findings are not consistent, possible problems, such as rapid breathing in the first few hours (Bratteby et al.) and vulnerability to low blood sugar (Swantstrom et al.) suggest that these drugs have measurable effects on the newborn baby.”