Navigating the Epidural Dilemma
What’s the Epidural Dilemma?
Pregnancy and childbirth are incredibly transformative experiences. Unfortunately, our culture has reduced the conversation about this utmost transformation to one topic: labor pain. Whether on social media, in moms’ groups, or on the playground, individuals undergoing their childbearing years’ discussions focus solely on fear and coping with labor pain. This narrow focus can make them preoccupied with deciding whether to take an epidural. It doesn’t help much that their guides, birth support professionals, also tend to distinguish between “Natural/Unmedicated Birth” and “Medicated Birth.” The first option is often idealized, whereas the latter is viewed less favorably. This can result in birth givers feeling negative emotions such as disappointment or failure if they choose to take an epidural. Since the decision to use pain relief during labor is a personal choice that has emotional and social implications, I suggest helping expectant individuals to navigate this “Epidural Dilemma” with transformational prenatal coaching,
Birth givers’ dilemma: What scares me more, labor pain or the potential risks of an epidural?
For decades, maternal care agents have addressed labor pain by informing expectant persons prenatally. While agents believing in the superiority of unmedicated birth, like childbirth educators and doulas, inform pregnant individuals about the evidential benefits of physiological birth and the associated risks, medical caregivers provide convincing evidence that epidural analgesia is safe. As a result, pregnant individuals are torn between two opposing bodies of evidence relating to labor pain. How will they navigate the dilemma of taking an epidural when opposing approaches are backed by contradicting evidence?
The limitations of Facts-Sharing
Facts-sharing about the risks of epidurals during childbirth is just as important as informing people about the dangers of consuming sugar. However, in both cases, people tend to overlook the risks involved. Furthermore, The idea that individuals are unaware of the risks involved when deciding to take or avoid an epidural is outdated since people can easily access information through a quick Google search. Therefore, informing people is not an effective strategy to help them make better decisions. Instead, we must find a better way to guide them in decision-making.
The power of Transformational Coaching discussion
Have you ever tried using coaching strategies prenatally to help expectant individuals navigate the epidural dilemma? You see, the context of the epidural conversation is not ‘pain medications‘ or ‘possible medical interventions in childbirth. The context of the epidural conversation is fear of labor pain, which is a mindset. Data can rarely lead to a shift in mindset since, for most birthing individuals, the fear outweighs the risks, hence the dilemma. So when childbirth educators and doulas inform about an epidural’s possible complications and risks, their students and clients are left in a pickle. “What scares me more, labor pain or the potential epidural risks?” They can be led to believe that their choice is between bad and evil. Whatever their decision will be, it is based on fear.
Adopting positive motivation
The decision-making process is impacted by negative motivation. In both cases described above, people are motivated by fear. Their motivation is to run away from something – either from pain or the risks involved with an epidural. A positive motivation would be if expectant individuals were to aspire for a specific experience or if they were motivated to achieve a desired goal. It is imperative to understand that positive motivation is far more effective than negative motivation. When confronted with challenges or obstacles, negative motivation often proves ineffective in helping them overcome these hurdles and achieve their desired objectives. Conversely, positive motivation is a far more effective approach. For instance, a woman may request an epidural during childbirth when the fear of labor pain becomes too overwhelming and outweighs potential risks.
The context of the epidural conversation is fear of labor pain; it’s about optimizing indivisuals’ mindset
How to lead a Transformative Coaching Session around the dilemma of an epidural
Assisting individuals in overcoming internal resistance and performing at their best is known as coaching. This approach assumes that clients possess the necessary competence and self-awareness. Therefore, providing information is not a significant aspect of coaching. Instead, coaches ask questions, uncover insights, clarify issues, explore alternatives, and enable their clients to align their beliefs with their desired actions and experiences. Coaches have faith in their client’s ability to find solutions within themselves and consider personal obstacles as the root cause of difficulties rather than a lack of knowledge. For instance, a coaching session regarding the decision to undergo an epidural may involve these steps:
- Clarifying individuals’ perceptions of labor pain and any other types of pain they may be experiencing.
- Inquiring about beliefs – How did they come to adopt this particular perspective?
- The coach must evaluate whether an individual’s understanding of labor pain, their coping mechanisms, and their desired birth experience are in harmony. If there is a discrepancy, meaning that their perspective hinders their ability to achieve their desired birth, the coach must reflect on it and propose exploring new perspectives.
- One way to improve your labor experience is by exploring new ideas and perspectives. Separating facts from myths about labor pain is an excellent place to start. By doing so, one can adopt a more positive attitude to help them have the desired experience.
- Designing a call to action – what must a person do to own this new perception? What actions can they take that will bring them closer to achieving their goal? To truly own this new perception, individuals must take action. They can start by writing and reciting affirmations, enrolling in a childbirth education class emphasizing labor support techniques, or communicating their birth plan with their medical care provider. These actions are essential for achieving their goal and should be taken seriously.
- Throughout the coaching process, it is essential to assess the commitment levels of clients toward the action plan.
“I want to avoid taking an epidural but leave myself open to…”
Expectant individuals may be uncertain about whether or not they want to have an epidural during childbirth, choosing to keep their options open. Understandably, they may want to wait and see how they handle labor contractions before making a definitive decision.
Sign up for the upcoming FREE 60-min webinar Navigating the Epidural Dilemma
I often ponder how birth professionals developed a tendency to judge birthing individuals for opting to use an epidural. In any other circumstance, changing one’s decision based on reality would be considered practical and pragmatic. Why do we cheer for those who went ‘naturally’ all the way and subject those who had a change of heart to self-criticism or judgment? As transformational coaches, we avoid a rigid approach and model flexibility, which is essential when coaching for such an unpredictable process as childbirth. So when we hear that our clients “leave themselves open,” we’re inquiring about this opening: “Do you know why you keep it open?” and “What situations cause it to be open?” By delving deeper into the imaginary scenarios that clients fear, coaches can guide them toward adopting a positive mindset and developing commitment and coping strategies.
The value of transformational coaching for resolving the epidural dilemma
Does your perspective on labor pain serve you in achieving your desired birth experience?
Do you notice how this conversation lacks any expectations or judgments? Do you appreciate how the coach does not impose any standards or expectations? Instead, the coach takes a partnership position and does not consider themselves experts. They empower the client to share their truths and desires and trust themselves. This is the most significant benefit of integrating transformational coaching principles and strategies in birth support since it empowers clients to see themselves as the experts in their lives.
If you see the value in this new framework to birth support, I invite you to join the upcoming FREE 90-min webinar I’ll lead in recognition of World’s Doula Week, Navigating the Epidural Dilemma, on Tuesday, March 28 at 10:30 am.
>>>Click here to register
- Beating the Spooky Thought: Overcoming Fear of Labor Pain - October 30, 2023
- Five Key Differences Between Informative and Transformative Birth Support - August 15, 2023
- Decreasing Labor Induction Rates with Transformational Prenatal Coaching - June 3, 2023