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Do You Need a Catheter When You Give Birth?

Why Didn't Anyone Tell Me: You Need a Catheter During Delivery If You Get an Epidural

When I was pregnant with my first child, I took the childbirth classes, read all the pregnancy books, and badgered friends and female family members about what contractions feel like, how long their labors lasted, and if they got an epidural. I would learn some horrifying things about birth that I had no idea were even a thing (pooping while pushing and tearing?! I mean, WTF?). But I'm just wondering why absolutely no one told me that if you do decide to get an epidural, you'll also need a catheter so you don't pee all over yourself.

Maybe it's common sense to all other moms-to-be on planet Earth other than me that if you can't feel your body from the waist down, urinary catheterization will be necessary. But I never thought about this particular aspect of giving birth because, well, I was distracted by growing a human being inside my body. So it came as a complete surprise to me when my labor and delivery nurse walked in to administer a catheter shortly after my epidural took effect. My facial expression must have been priceless. Like, say what now?

Granted, in the grand scheme of birth, getting a catheter isn't the worst of what happens or could happen (again, pooping on the table, people!). But I resented having no forewarning whatsoever that someone was going to insert a long, thin tube into my bladder. I thought, "Why didn't anyone warn me?" How had this not come up in any of my birthing classes, during the countless conversations I had with mom friends about their labor and delivery experiences, or in the books I'd read attempting to prepare for my own birth?

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Had I known urinary catheterization was necessary, I'm not sure I would have gotten an epidural. Sound crazy? Well, it was unappealing enough that I actually decided to skip the epidural the next two times I gave birth. Between the IV, the epidural, and that catheter, I just didn't think I could stand to be stuck with or hooked up to one more thing.

I'm not saying getting a catheter was horribly painful or emotionally scarring. I just wish I'd been hip to the beat when it came to this aspect of delivery so I could make a truly educated decision about pain management during birth. That's why I am telling other moms-to-be about catheters. Don't shoot the messenger!

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