Epidurals are godsend. But if yours is too strong, it could actually make your labor more laborious. Fact is, when an epidural is too dense, you don’t know when to push.

The good news:

  • You can notify the nurse, who will contact the anesthesiologist immediately.
  • “The beauty of an epidural is that it can be adjusted continuously,” says Amy Thompson, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Cincinnati. “Within 10 minutes of such an adjustment, you’ll feel the baby’s pressure and be more effective at pushing.
  • And if you’re more effective at pushing, you’ll increase your odds of giving birth faster.

Here’s 2 ways to encourage a shorter labor:

Let nature take its course.

Unless you have a medical reason for an induction (such as gestational diabetes, preeclampsia or concern for the baby’s welfare), allow your body and your baby to tell you when it’s time. Experts really don’t know the exact physiological catalyst that causes labor to begin. If you wait for labor to start spontaneously—and miraculously!—you’ll increase your chances for a shorter labor with fewer interventions.

“We’re not pregnant for that long in our lifetimes,” says Mary L. Rosser, MD, PhD, assistant professor of women’s health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, New York. “Enjoy your last week, put your feet up, see a movie, go to dinner—you won’t be able to do these things once the baby is born!”

If you’re scheduling the birth, wait until at least 39 weeks.

More and more births are being scheduled too early, says the March of Dimes. To help combat this phenomenon, they’ve started a new campaign called Healthy Babies Are Worth the Wait.

Babies need at least 39 weeks for development of organs, especially the lungs and brain, and their sucking/swallowing mechanisms.

Remember, too, due dates can be off by as much as two weeks. If yours is off even by one week, you may be booking the birth too early for your baby’s good health and welfare.

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