Should I Get an Epidural? A Personal Choice

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform summary of "Expecting Better" by Emily Oster. Shortform has the world's best summaries of books you should be reading.

Like this article? Sign up for a free trial here.

An epidural is an analgesic injected into the spine during the first stage of labor. It drastically reduces the pain of labor to virtually no pain, and it helps the mother get rest for the physically demanding pushing part of labor.

Should you get an epidural? It really depends on personal preference. There are pros and cons of both.

Epidurals are very popular and are used in about 66% of births in the US. 

For the baby, epidurals don’t have big differences in APGAR score, fetal distress, or NICU time. The epidural does raise the risk of a maternal fever during labor, which could prompt doctors to administer antibiotics to be safe and thus expose the baby to antibiotics.

The epidural does come with a number of cons: 

  • Increased risk of forceps or vacuum extractor in delivery
  • Greater use of C-section for fetal distress
  • Longer pushing time (15 minutes)
  • Greater use of Pitocin in labor to compensate for slowing in contractions
  • Higher chance of baby facing up at birth (possibly due to less walking)
  • Greater chance of maternal hypotension
  • Longer recovery postpartum
  • Increased chance of fever in labor
  • 1/200 epidurals cause a wet tap, where the needle goes into the spinal fluid and causes a headache for a few days

Book author Emily Oster ultimately chose to deliver both children without an epidural.

Should I Get an Epidural? A Personal Choice

———End of Preview———

Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best summary of "Expecting Better" at Shortform. Learn the book's critical concepts in 20 minutes or less.

Here's what you'll find in our full Expecting Better summary:

  • Why much parenting advice you hear is confusing or nonsense
  • The most reliable way to conceive successfully
  • How much alcohol research shows you can drink safely while pregnant (it's more than zero)
  • The best foods to eat, and what foods you really should avoid

Allen Cheng

Allen Cheng is the founder of Shortform. He has a passion for non-fiction books (having read 200+ and counting) and is on a mission to make the world's best ideas more accessible to everyone. He reads broadly, covering a wide range of subjects including finance, management, health, and society. Allen graduated from Harvard University summa cum laude and attended medical training at the MD/PhD program at Harvard and MIT. Before Shortform, he co-founded PrepScholar, an online education company.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.