You can't get an epidural on your couch
Unless your healthcare provider says otherwise, chances are you'll labor at home until your contractions are longer, stronger and closer together before it's time to head to the hospital.
Positions for labor -- like sitting on a birth ball, pelvic rocking, or walking -- will help you stay comfortable while also helping labor progress.
When you want an epidural you may have to wait
Contrary to popular belief, an epidural is not some magic snap-your-fingers-and-you'll-instantly-feel-no-pain cure. When you're screaming, "I need drugs NOW!" guess what? The anesthesiologists could be busy administering epidurals to other laboring moms or in the OR for a caesarean section. And, if you don't already have an I.V., one will need to be placed so you can get extra fluids before the epidural can be administered.
Staying perfectly still is harder than it looks
When it is epidural time, the nurse or anesthesiologist will instruct you to sit perfectly still while the medications are injected into the epidural space of your spine. If you're thinking, whatever, remember this -- you'll be having strong, intense, super-close-together contractions that will be making you ask for pain relief in the first place. And now you'll have to stay perfectly still as someone sticks a needle in your back? Yeah, comfort measures like slow deep breathing, visualization and focal points -- staring at a photo on the wall or into the nurses eyes for example -- will help.
The well-kept secret? Epidurals don't always work
It's the most popular form of pain medication for labor, but moms who had epidurals that didn't work 100% will tell you it sucks. Yours may need to be re-administered, or can even be "patchy" -- meaning certain areas won't get numbed from anesthesia. You could still have some pretty intense pain, but you won't be able to get out of bed or move around since that's a big no-no once the drugs are given.
Still not convinced?
A comprehensive, evidence-based childbirth class will teach you about all your options for labor and birth -- which is awesome, since labor is nothing if not unpredictable. This goes for moms who want natural childbirth and ignore the medications talk, too. They could end up getting an epidural and you could end up going the au natural route. So it's good to learn about natural coping methods, as well as the benefits and risks to medications and other interventions that may come up during labor.
Find out what classes your hospital offers, or check out independent classes that may be available in your community.
I promise, your time won't be wasted.