Trying to decide whether or not to take the epidural during labor? Please Don’t Take It! This is what you should know about the risks of the epidural during labor. Do the risks outweigh the benefits of natural birth?
Have you ever wondered whether or not you should have the epidural during labor? I know this is one of the big questions moms often spend a lot of time researching during their pregnancy.
I’ve been through not one, but two, hospital births without an epidural. From the first time I got pregnant, I knew I wanted to have a natural birth. I was driven by the desire to give my unborn baby the best start in life. Getting an epidural (or any other pain medication) didn’t seem like I was offering my baby the best start. Plus, I didn’t want to be robbed of the full experience. This is what I believed best for myself and my baby … my personal choice.
The conversation about pain relief and choosing between epidural vs. natural birth commonly comes up when you’re pregnant. With my first, I can remember numerous comments from women questioning, sometimes mocking, my decision to have a medicine-free birth. And the horror stories… my God, the horror stories women like to tell. It’s as if everyone wants to convince you that you’re unable to birth naturally.It is as if everyone wants to convince you that you are unable to birth (without an epidural) #childbirth #epidural #naturalbirth Click To Tweet
Thankfully, I never let these women get into my head. I read, watched videos, and took a natural birth class with my husband. I made it through these two births without an epidural. It leaves me questioning why so many people believe you can’t make it without one, or any other sort of medical intervention. Let me clarify that I did, in fact, request some pain relief during both labors, though never followed through.
So, why am I telling you not to get an epidural?
Firstly, mainly because many people won’t tell you you’re capable of birthing your baby without it.
If you’re interested in natural birth, but are scared of labor, you’re being conditioned to believe something that isn’t completely factual. Natural birth isn’t all that painful if you’re prepared and know what to expect.
If you’re thinking about taking the epidural during labor because of the horror stories you’ve heard, it’s important to know that another woman’s birth story is her own … it’s not a fact of every birth story. So, if you’re considering an epidural because of the pain your mom, aunt, sister, or whoever else felt, try to put that thought aside.
Their birth, their body.
Secondly, there are risks and side effects associated with birth, both with and without an epidural. And, you’ll likely feel like you need some relief. From everything I read about the risks, I decided it wasn’t worth the relief for myself. Plus, I have faith in you and I truly believe you can do without the epidural during labor.
Is It Safe to Take Epidural During Labor?
As I’m not a doctor, I can’t answer this for you. What I can say is that I did a lot of reading and took a natural birth class to determine that I did not like the risks involved in taking an epidural during labor. Backed by research and information given to me by a former labor and delivery nurse, “safe” didn’t seem to be the word I would use for this.
But, if you’re interested in having an epidural during labor, here are some of the risks and sources cited so that you can make up your own mind.
Risks of Epidural to Laboring Mother
According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, risks of epidural blocks and spinal blocks are the same. They include (quoted from the ACOG website):
Although it is rare, an epidural block can cause the following side effects:
- Decrease in blood pressure—An epidural can cause your blood pressure to decrease. This, in turn, may slow the baby’s heartbeat.
- Fever—Some women develop a low-grade fever as a normal reaction to an epidural.
- Headache—If the covering of the spinal cord is pierced while the tube is being placed and spinal fluid leaks out, you can get a bad headache. This happens rarely.
- Soreness—After delivery, your back may be sore for a few days.
Serious complications with epidurals are very rare:
- There is a small risk that the anesthetic medication could be injected into one of the veins in the epidural space. This can cause dizziness, rapid heartbeat, a funny taste, or numbness around the mouth when the epidural is placed.
- If anesthetic enters your spinal fluid, it can affect your breathing muscles and make it hard to breathe.
Other Side Effects From Epidural During Labor
Moms may also experience:
- nerve damage (both temporary and permanent)
- infection (although low risk)
- rare complications like breathing difficulties
According to Johns Hopkins, there’s a 10-20% risk of hypotension or low blood pressure from having an epidural during labor.
Side Effects of Epidural on Baby
According to Chris Kresser, the drugs in an epidural can enter your baby’s bloodstream, and your baby will take longer to eliminate these drugs from his system. There’s a chance your baby’s abilities will be decreased as well as increasing issues with his immune system.
A few key takeaways about the side effects of epidural on baby:
- Possibly compromised immune system
- May cause a drop in oxygen and blood supply
- Lower heart rate
- May affect latching and sucking
Chris Kresser has a well-written article on natural childbirth and the possible side-effects of epidural on yourself and baby. I suggest you read it.
My Experiences Without Epidural During Labor
I had TWO completely different childbirth experiences. My first was 26 hours long and exhausting because it literally was a marathon of wakefulness, though contractions were never very intense. My second was a very intense 9 hours.
With my long first labor, I wanted relief … not necessarily from pain, but from the utter exhaustion. The stated 26 hours was only what we counted when I left work to go home to labor. It was 26 hours without any significant rest and I was in serious need of sleep. When I complained enough about needing a “break” the doctor finally came in and told me I was too far along for anything more than an epidural. I didn’t need that kind of break so I excused him from his duties. Moments later, my water was broken and I was having a baby.
My son was 13 days past-due. When I finally went into labor, my body did everything in its power to push that baby out by any means necessary. It was an intense 9 hours in which every contraction felt like I would burst from my core. Again, I began requesting relief, though never did I use the safe word to indicate I had to have it. My requests fell on deaf ears, but in support of my real desire for a natural birth (thank God!).
Tips for Going Without Epidural During Labor
First, a few things to remember about labor:
From my experiences, the following things helped me make it through both experiences without ever accepting an epidural during labor and achieving a natural birth:
- Fear drives pain. Your state of mind is going to be the driving force in how you handle labor. Scared of labor? Overcome your fear!
- Don’t lose focus. Remind yourself that a contraction is coming and focus on your breathing or movement.
- Pain is temporary. You will get through a contraction (or pushing) and it will be over soon.
- Movement relieves (some) pain. It’s amazing how your body will tell you what you need during a contraction. Be sure to listen to it! I found a birth ball helpful for this.
- Have support. It doesn’t matter if it is your husband, partner, mom. It does matter that they support your decisions. I’m all for having your husband in the delivery room as your support!
- Be comfortable requesting help. Whether you need counter-pressure during a contraction, back rub, a shoulder to cry on, or help to get into a comfortable position during labor, you need to ask!
Related: Secrets you need to know to prepare for giving birth naturally
Want more? Try these tips for birth without labor.
Yes, labor can be difficult. The comparison that it’s like a marathon isn’t completely inaccurate (especially if you have a long labor). It does hurt, temporarily. When I sit and think about having my IUD inserted (and removed), I prefer labor pains which are natural and are followed by a symphony of hormones that your body handles on its own. I prefer supporting and trusting my body over trusting medical interventions that come with their own sets of unnatural risks that you open yourself up to when choosing an epidural out of fear. And this fear likely resulted from others’ telling you “you’ll change your mind” in their anti-epidural shaming speeches.
Related: Other Moms Tell What Childbirth Without an Epidural Felt Like
Would you like more tips for avoiding the epidural during labor and transition? I’ve created a cheat sheet with 21 ways you can skip the epidural!
Being induced may increase your risk of further interventions
You may have heard this called the cycle of interventions. A Pitocin induced labor can stress out the baby and your body, and you or the doctor may want to start an epidural. Every intervention has side-effects which may require the next delivery of medication to off-set the last. This is known as the cycle of interventions.
Interested? Learn more about how an induction may not only be unnecessary but one of the first steps in an unfulfilled natural birth dream.
Can I ask to be induced?
If you’re considering induction because you’re tired of waiting, try out these tips first:
Baby is Late? How to Cope with the Disappointment
While you wait, why not make some freezer meals?
30+ Great Freezer Meals You Need to Make Before Baby Arrives
If you’re interested in natural birth and all the reasons not to succumb medical interventions, I want to recommend a book to you. Everything in this book was reiterated and confirmed during the natural childbirth class I took, led by an L&D nurse and 4-time natural birth mother. I can’t say enough about how helpful this book was for motivating me to take the natural path for my baby’s entrance into the world.
*Disclaimer: This is an affiliate link.
This was my favorite book to help me prepare for childbirth without an epidural!
Be sure to have your postpartum and baby kit packed in your hospital bag too!
Tell me: Did you take the epidural during labor?
This post originally appeared on SAHM, plus… July 2021 and has been updated.
I went through 8 hours of labor before I had my epidural. Then another 5-6 hours before the emergency c-section. I don’t dilate and the pitocin ramped up the pain. I understand why you chose not the get the epidural but I am thankful I got one lol
Oh I love Chris Kresser! I followed a lot of his protocols, including no ultrasounds/dopplers and doing the food based glucose test when pregnant. The medical community treats pregnancy as a medical condition, or even a disease, instead of treating it as a normal part of a woman’s life. We’ve done so many wrong things, including using gravity to our advantage when positioning for birth, improper breathing, etc that we feel much more pain than we should. It is still painful to have a completely natural birth but it doesn’t have to be as bad as they make it look on TV. If you follow a natural diet/lifestyle/environment AND mindset, including epidural as not being an optional AT ALL, then things will be better.
Thank you for your input. You’re so right … it’s disappointing that pregnancy is considered a condition which needs an insane amount of monitoring. I spent the majority of both pregnancies stressed at the doctor’s office instead of just enjoying them.
There is an insane amount of monitoring because there are an insane amount of things that can go wrong which is why women and babies have been dying for centuries during pregnancy and childbirth. It’s great to go natural, but there is a reason why there are so many medical interventions available, to save lives.
Oh, even before I got pregnant, I was always scared of epidural labor. What if my body can’t handle it? I gave birth to my daughter through normal delivery, we are planning to have another one, but I’m too scared now of what if maybe I needed an epidural the next time?
I can tell you, from my experience, my second labor was painful beyond anything I could imagine. My son was almost 2 weeks late and my body had tried to go into labor for a while, but he had gotten his head stuck on a bone and wasn’t in proper position to dilate my cervix. When I finally got him moved and went into labor, my body went into overdrive. The contractions made me feel as though I was going to burst in half from my abdomen. It was excruciating. But, I got into a position that my body dictated naturally, and I made it through the most painful 9 hours of my entire entire life without an epidural.
Of course, anything can happen, and I imagine if it is necessary, you won’t regret it when you see your beautiful baby.
Either way, you can do it!
Nice post! I had a natural birth with my daughter who just turned 2. Thinking about trying to get pregnant again, and maybe this time try in a birth center or for a home birth so there’s not so much pressure for interventions. Your body was made to birth babies…. We got this, ladies!! ????
Absolutely. If I could have found a birthing center covered under our insurance, I would have done that. I threatened my husband with staying home and birthing my babies in the tub alone. I felt like I needed him with the first baby, and then the second happened to decide to arrive when he was home, so I never got the chance.
Still, our bodies ARE amazing.
My 2nd in hospital birth was even better than the first, but neither of them ever discussed interventions 🙂
I had two completely different births, I wanted a natural birth but with my first I had to be induced, after 26 hours of nothing I was exhausted and son was in the birth canal for too long, posterior and going no where as he was big and I was exhausted (& I think because I was induced my body wasn’t truely ready) the vacuum didn’t work 3 times so I had to be given an epidural and forcepts ???? It was traumatic and messy. I hated not knowing what was going on and couldn’t feel my body. I felt violated and after he was born I was in shock and part of me felt like I didn’t do it…. Mentally and physically it took me nearly two years to recover!
Then 4 years later I had my daughter and swore it would be different. I said I did not want to be induced and for the last 3 weeks (I went one week over) I did all the labour prep and old wives tales and read about hypnobirthing. The labour with my daughter was 2 hours and the first hour I wasn’t sure I was in labour, completely natural and my body knew exactly what to do!
So I am a big believer of natural births. After all it is natural and forcing/drugs are not natural
[…] Please don’t take the epidural […]
My two births went completely different. I wanted an epidural for both. My first, my daughter I was induced 2 weeks early due to high BP and the pain was ferocious. The contractions ripped through me with wicked abandon for 6 hours before I got the epidural and it saved my sanity. I even got to sleep lol. She was absolutely not ready to come out yet, I know that for a fact, but they yanked her out. My back though, was a fierce fire. It hurt so much. With my second, 5 hours start to finish and I didn’t even realize I had gone into labor because he was a month early. I didn’t get an epidural cause there was no time by the time I got to the hospital. Literally thought it was just indigestion and it would pass lol. I figured with how fierce my first labor was, the second seemed a cake walk. Next round, who knows, maybe I’ll try it a different way. I would definitely not dismiss an epidural again though.
I can’t even imagine being induced. My second labor was by far the most painful, but he was 13 days late and I’m pretty sure my body thought it would have been more relieving to explode than to just go through labor. Of my two, it was the worst, but there was no way I was getting that needle in my back. I suffered through.
The great part is, when it’s over, it’s over and you feel almost like a normal human being right after (at least in my experiences).
Your second labor sounds like a dream I wish I could have had! I kept telling my husband I wanted to “accidentally” have our babies in the tub at home just so I didn’t have to go to the hospital. I’m pretty sure if my labors felt that way, I would have stayed home LOL.
Thanks for sharing your stories, Leena!
As an anesthesia provider, there is just one comment I would like to make. You need to consider what is going to happen if you need to have an emergency c-section. If you already have an epidural, your anesthesiologist can dose it for you so you can be awake during your baby’s birth. If you do not have an epidural, you are going to need general anesthesia (fully unconscious with breathing tube). Due to the physiological changes during pregnancy, full term moms are at a higher risk for airway complications during a general anesthetic (while still very rare). In addition, all medications that are given IV or through the breathing tube are passed on to your baby. Contrary to Chris Kresser’s belief, epidural medications do NOT pass to the baby. They stay in the epidural space and bathe the spinal nerves (one of the reasons epidurals are used very commonly in pregnant women). To all you mom’s who went epidural-free, I applaud you. That is absolutely amazing. I just want to make sure your readers are properly informed about possible scenarios where an epidural may be beneficial. No matter what you choose, it is your decision, and you get to experience the joy of motherhood after.
I see your point, but I worry about doctors using points like that as scare tactics. My aim is to help women to feel comfortable and take back our ability to birth our babies without the need for interventions. It’s okay to know those facts, but I wouldn’t, personally, promote having an epidural placed in case of emergency c-section. To me, that’s betting against yourself and your baby. I choose to take my chances and give my body the opportunity to do what it was designed to do. Thankfully, I did it twice without any complications. I hope to free women from the fear of birth.
Well what you are doing is scaring mums into NOT having an epidural when they may really need one. I had PTSD from my labour and I would have avoided that if I had gone for the epidural earlier. I lasted 30 hours in excruciating pain because I didn’t want an epidural because of scare tactics like you use in your article. I couldn’t sit or lay down the entire labour, I had been to natural birthing classes, tried the breaking, ball, shower, bath, it all made it worse for me. I got stressed, then the baby got stressed and then I had to have a emergency c section because the baby was in danger from low oxygen. I blame all this on not taking the epidural when I really needed it. I might have avoided the c section if I had been able to relax. I got to 8cm so it might have been possible! I felt distant and unable to bond with my baby because of the shock and pain of labour. You need to be careful and aware that your view may not suit all situations.
Thank you for your input! Well done to those who can birth naturally. I however had an epidural after a long labour and required an emergency Cesar to make sure both the baby and I were safe. Not what I planned but what choice did I have….a ruptured placenta? A stressed and sick (or worse) baby?! I am about to have a planned cesarean and while it’s not what I imagined when I decided I wanted children, it’s unfortunately my only option! Motherhood is hard enough without women imposing their opinions or judging one another. Cesarean is not the “easy” option. Recovery can be tough…but ultimately I will bring our living breathing baby into the world who will ultimately be like every other child despite the way in which it was delivered. And I will love him fiercely. So by all means share your opinion and experiences, but please ensure you don’t take away from anyone else’s.
My aim isn’t to take away from anyone’s experience, and I hope you didn’t feel like I was. I do, however, hope to encourage women who never have given birth. Labor can seem so scary when it seems like everyone pushes the idea that we can’t have our babies without epidurals. We have created a culture of women who are afraid of birth before they go through any of it. It shouldn’t be scary. It’s amazing process.
That’s not to say some people don’t need interventions. There is a time and a place for everything. But, I don’t believe in starting a mother’s journey to motherhood with the fear of birthing her baby naturally.
[…] my previous post, Don’t Get The Epidural, I explained that I had two un-medicated births. One, 26 hours, the other 9 very intense hours. […]
I loved getting my epidurals. I think we should support their moms no matter what they want. I was never pressured into having one, and I didn’t get one because I didn’t think I couldn’t handle natural child birth. I felt it was the best decision for my child and me, and it was. To each their own.
It’s okay that’s what you chose. I write to encourage the mothers who may be on the fence or are unsure of themselves. My aim isn’t to tell women they’re wrong for their choices. But, I feel it’s important to let women know that epidurals have their place, and that not every birth requires an epidural. Just because it’s available doesn’t mean it’s a necessity. I heard, all too often “you’ll be getting the epidural.” That’s not supportive and never backed by scientific basis that it would be necessary. It was other women projecting their fears on me. Just as you don’t seem to care for my suggestion to not take the epidural, I find it being unsupportive to shoot down an attempt at helping other moms make the decision not to get the epidural.
I think it’s the approach you take that is off-putting. Something to consider. Maybe re-write some of your article to sound less condemning, and simply title it “my positive epidural-free natural birth experiences”. If you were truly just trying to “help” women enter the birthing time without fear, you would use a different tone both in the article and your responses to your readers.
I have had 8 homebirths all natural. I can say that it was the worst pain I have ever felt with my first and I had a lot of anxiety with my second after going through that amount of pain. I am happy to say that my eighth baby was a completely painless birth. I have read about these births but never in my wildest could of imagined that would be me. Intense yes very but childbirth is intense. Oh he was also my biggest baby by far!!
Vanessa, that’s amazing. I sort of envy you having homebirths. It’s something I wish I could have done, but I was lucky to convince my husband that going drug free was the right choice. Thank you for sharing a bit of your story! How amazing that your biggest baby was the least painful!
Congrats mama! You rock!
Thank you! I have had 3 babies — 8lbs1, 9lbs2, and 9lbs8, without an epidural, and it is my greatest accomplishment in life. I am tired of being treated like a ridiculous person for these choices.!
My first was 2 days of labor and exhaustion and vomiting, the second was (as you described) very very intense and fast — 4 1/2 hours. The 3rd I had my water broken and then pitocin. The last two were emergencies due to shoulder dystocia, one requiring resuscitation, and very very difficult due to their size and my small pelvis.
I am doing postpartum counseling for PTSD because of my deliveries, but someday I hope to be able to celebrate my great accomplishments–move past the traumatic part & focus on how incredible a woman’s body is, and how much we can truly tolerate. Childbirth is to be faced head on, like a warrior. And we child bearers truly are warriors. Nothing will compare to the intensity of pain I have experienced, and nothing to the amazing joy and celebration and VICTORY of that accomplishment.
I’m so sorry you feel as though people treated you like your choices were ridiculous. Your choice was amazing and you did an amazing job bringing your babies into the world. I hope counseling works for you … I’d love for you to see just how amazing of a job you did and the love you have for your babies. You’re a rock star!
Though it was good that you didn’t need the pain medication, you can’t ignore the fact that every one is different. Therefore each case be treated differently. Excuse me for asking, but what is your authority on telling other women not to take pain meds? It’s one thing to share your experience and encourage others to follow your advice, but it’s entirely different thing when you just cherry pick definition and quotes from a medical website and make it sound like it’s the most dangerous things in labor. You do women everywhere a disservice by not presenting both sides of the argument and then suggest what you know only.
From my point of view, there’s more than enough encouragement advocating for epidurals (and all sorts of other medical interventions). I choose not to help advocate for something I know women can do without.
In both labors I asked for pain relief, but a) my husband encouraged me to push through because he knew I wanted AND could do it and b) with my first, when the doctor told me the only thing I could have was an epidural, I refused and had him leave the room. I choose to inspire women to tap into their primal instincts because I believe our bodies still know how to birth babies.
I don’t know why you are saying don’t get an epidural when you haven’t ever had one. Also, some women need the epidural depending on their labor. I’m not getting one but I’ve had one so that’s why I’m not getting one. I would say to try to post from experience rather than what you are posting from.
What does it matter just cause you get epidural does not mean that you do not trust your body or that your body can not give birth it just means you do not want the pain that goes along with it and that is your choice but if you do not want an epidural that is grear too and excellent i think the best encouragement is to tell women to do whatever they want and do not let anyone pressure them otherwise thank you for sharing your amazing experience
Totally agree with you!!!
This article totally frustrates me. When I had my daughter I stood on the “no drugs” podium as well. But at 36 weeks the doctor decided to induce due to high blood pressure my birth plan went out the window. 12 hours of Pitocin and writhing contracts I was stuck at 5 cm. I held on for one more hour before begging for an epidural. One hour after the epidural I had gone to 10 cm and had rested enough to be able to push and feel everything while not being in so much pain.
My problem with this article is that it’s almost like the author is looking down on women who choose to get it. I understand here are risks associated with any pain med during pregnancy and child birth, but there are risks with pregnancy PERIOD. During labor a birth plan is a good guide, but in the end it doesn’t matter and the baby is delivered. I’m proud to say I broke every part of my birth plan and my daughters birth doesn’t mean any less. The problem is you give such high expectations to women (especially first time moms) to be the hero and so what’s natural that they feel like failures when things go off the tracks. Shame on you
This article is not meant to shame anyone for their choices. I understand that birth plans don’t always go accordingly.
From my standpoint, I’m sad for women who are led to believe childbirth is so painful the only way to get through it is by taking drugs. I’m not upset with their choice as much as I’m upset with how people portray childbirth to make women feel as though they’re incapable. And, their fear of childbirth leads them to accept drugs without question.
If anything, I fault doctors for instilling fear and perpetuating myths surrounding a woman’s ability to birth. Often times, women who haven’t done research are talked into unnecessary medical interventions. I can’t tell you how often I hear of women being induced because they estimated a big baby. And then, low and behold, the baby was average size. Or, being told you’re too small to birth a baby vaginally. Again, it just saddens me that doctors have no problem with robbing women of their ability to birth naturally using scare tactics.
That’s not to say that every case is perfect … there are definitely times when intervention may be necessary. I don’t shame a woman for how her birth went.
I’m glad you’re happy with your outcome and I appreciate you sharing your story. But, don’t try to convince a mom (even a first time mom) that she might not be able to do it. I believe more women need hope and encouragement than they’re being offered. There’s plenty of people who don’t believe women can birth their babies without drugs, regardless of health problems.
I don’t encourage women to go into natural birth to be a hero. That’s not what it’s about. I encourage women to try a natural birth – to experience a primal ability and a strength that can only be felt in a natural birth. There’s a self-empowerment women will never know if they don’t give themselves the chance.
It says “There are risks and side effects associated to birth with and without an epidural.” You talk about the risks of an epidural in depth, but you don’t talk about the risks of a natural birth and what could go wrong which may require medical intervention. That is a HUGE missing piece to this post. Absolutely state your opinion and give your experiences, but present the risks of both options. Seems like you are doing the same thing as the people you are critical of — instilling fear. Just look at the click bait photo — “please DON’T GET the epidural” complete with menacing gloved hand holding a syringe. Come on now. ..
With my first I went to the hospital knowing two things;
I was being induced and I was getting a epidural.
It wasnt a bad experience. I slept through most of labor. The problem came later. When they removed the epidural I stopped forming short term memories for about 12 hours and had a complete change in personality. The next day my daughter was lethargic and barely woke for anything, we had to wake her to feed her. Probably unique to a small subset of people, but I have the 1% response to most medications, which we did not learn until about 2 years ago (my oldest is 6 now).
With my second it was a normal day. Except she had completely quit moving. It had been over twelve hours and when I told my doctor they checked her and me before checking to see if I was having contractions. They determined that she was ready to be born but that I wasn’t going into labor so we decided to again induce. But I insisted from the outset, no epidural this time. I survived intense contractions without too much fuss and she was born before midnight. I was exhausted, but as soon as they gave her to me I forgot all about it. I was thankful I went without the epidural as I never lost time with her like I did my oldest.
I’m currently pregnant with baby #3 and I don’t want to be induced this time. No epidural, no induction. I’m excited to give a very natural birth.
I find it amazing the things we learn about ourselves after our children are born. I found out I had an autoimmune disorder, MTHFR, and food intolerances after my daughter was born.
Thanks so much for sharing your story! It was very interesting. I wish you tons of luck with baby #3 – you CAN do it <3
After the worst midwife in the world told me I wasn’t in labour, I was “only dehydrated” after having contractions for over 24 hours which are getting progressively worse, I ended up having my baby at the hospital with an OB. This is making a very long story extremely short. I was at three hospitals that day… Because of this woman, who kept making up excuses why she couldn’t deliver my baby “even if I was in labour” because it was Christmas Eve, I was deprived of all of my pain coping machinisms. The nurse wouldn’t even let me sit in the shower in my room while my doula sprayed water on my lower back. Since I was on day two with zero sleep because of contractions, I got the epidural and I have absolutely zero regrets about it. I was able to rest a bit (finally) so I could get through my delivery and I was still able to feel everything minus a bit of the pain. I remember what his head felt like crowning, what it felt like when his shoulders came out, down to his last little leg. He was perfectly healthy, save for one or two small colds until he passed away from SIDS at ten months old.
Epidurals are not a horrible thing that should be avoided at all costs. Sure, my back was sore for awhile, but so what. I was able to enjoy the delivery of my son and some time afterward without being too exhausted to function. Every pregnancy and delivery is different and no one should be shamed for doing what feels right to her. There are far worse things than making your delivery a bit more tolerable.
I think what a lot of people on here are either not understanding (or choosing to ignore) is the fact that the author is not shaming people for getting an epidural, instead encouraging those that maybe do not want one, that they can do it.
I’m pregnant with my first and I know for a fact that I do not want an epidural. I have had a spinal tap before when I was a child and it seriously turned me off of anything in my spine again. Also, I am very anti-medication, even when I have a headache. So I am going into this labor and delivery knowing full well that I will not request it. My husband is a doctor and will be there to make sure it is not pushed on me at anytime.
That being said, I do not discount that I may have to have an emergency c-section and will then need to be put under. The fact of the matter is that women’s bodies were in fact made to birth babies without any type of intervention. If doing research and watching enough documentaries has taught me anything, its that the body knows what to do, and women have done it for centuries with little to no interference.
Now, before you get all angry, I am not telling you that you shouldn’t have one, I’m just telling you why I personally do not want one. Everyone is different, everyone’s pain tolerance is different, and everyone has a different thought process. Just maybe think about what the author is actually saying before you jump down her throat about being too judgmental.
Dear Soon to be Mom, You can do it! Trusting your body is a major step.
And thank you for understanding my intent! I understand that childbirth is a personal and emotional event, regardless of how it’s done and I understand how it could be easy for others to react based on emotion vs logic and reasoning prior to reading for intent. *shrug*
My water broke and my labor stalled because my daughter’s heart rate would drop with every contraction if I was upright so they made me recline. I ended up needing pitocin to get things going again. I made it through using the breathing exercises we had practiced and sheer stubbornness. I remember commenting to my husband afterward that apparently I had never felt real pain before. I want to encourage women to not automatically assume that if you need pitocin you’ll need an epidural. See how it goes. I believe there are absolutely situations in which an epidural is the best choice for mom and baby but I’m proud of what my body did. I absolutely agree with you that prior to giving birth it seemed like every person I talked to actively discouraged my drug-free birth plan, especially men! Honestly it only motived me more! I know women who have experienced literally every single one of those “rare” epidural complications you list.
I’m glad you were motivated instead of discouraged. It doesn’t seem to have the same effect on everyone … I’ve seen many begin to question if a drug-free birth is possible.
I too have known quite a few people who have said their Epidurals caused some unwanted side-effects to their bodies and they wished they hadn’t gotten in.
Thanks for sharing your experience … I hope it helps someone else who isn’t sure if they can do it 🙂
Getting an epidural for labor is like doing shots before a tattoo.
I always wanted to type that.
In all seriousness though, check out some peer-reviewed studies on the disconnect felt from mom and babies when pit, section, or epidural are used. How hard it is to breastfeed or the masses suffering from post partum depression. Doesn’t matter whether vbac, breech, big baby – you always have a choice. Don’t get bullied into thinking your “small frame” can’t birth the baby YOUR body designed. Or that you had a cesarean so you automatically have to have another. Or that the baby is too big so they induce – to find out it’s a 7 pounder. The jokes on us because the more interventions they use, the quieter we are and the more money they make. It’s a business ladies, of course they lie to you. Especially when they tell you your baby is going to die if you don’t do “whatever”. If you think for one minute that the pharmaceutical and insurance industries are out there to help you, HAHAHA. Oh and who funds these OBs through school? Everything comes down to money and we all know it. You have to fight for yourself because these people won’t and they’ll rob you without ever feeling guilty because they were taught not to.
Excuse the lack of complete sentences and grammatical errors, guess I’m just sick of reading all these women scream about how they were saved when the Caesarian rate in this country is 30+% and it shouldn’t be any higher than 10% yet the mortality rates are higher than any other developed country. You know why we have so many issues during pregnancy/delivery? Obesity. Lack of knowledge or care to attain it.
Thank you for not holding back! Spot on … it’s easy for women to be bullied over how to birth their babies because doctors can say “it’s the best for your baby.” That’s all mothers want is what’s best for their babies. If they haven’t done enough research to know that ultrasounds can be off by 2 pounds, the idea of having a 9 or 10 pound baby can be scary. And, I’ve seen plenty of people disappointed when the baby was only 7 or 8 pounds. Ladies, we can birth our babies and women have had successful vaginal births (even without drugs) of large babies. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts! <3
So I’m sitting here reading your article next to my sleeping 12 week old, thinking to myself, “yes that’s exactly what I thought before I went into labor.” And then I started to feel bad because I did end up getting the epidural. But then I remembered my labor story. I labored for 72 hours! After 60 hours of pain medication free labor, I was done. My body was done. I literally stop dilating. I was in so much pain and for nothing because my contractions weren’t dilating my cervix any more. So I would caution you from telling woman to not get the epidural. Many woman have great reasons to. And before you say pain is temporary, try going through 72 hours of non stop contractions.
It’s totally okay if things happen, there’s nothing wrong with your birth story because it is yours. If I were you, I’d be proud of myself for laboring that long without it.
Our bodies need fuel to continue laboring effectively … and I fault doctors and hospitals for not being more aware and understanding of that. Instead, they do the opposite … preventing your body from sustaining the level of energy it takes to continue.
It’s so hard to cover every aspect of labor in a single post. This one was intended for moms who have wondered if they were capable of laboring without drugs because we’re often told: “You’ll change your mind.” It’s said so matter of factly and with no mention of the negative effects, that women tend to question whether they’re even capable and often think they should just do it out of fear. But being driven to something out of fear and without all the facts isn’t a good birth plan.
Having the facts and deciding in the moment if it’s right for you isn’t anything to be ashamed of.
Way to make people who got an epidural feel crappy. Its every womans choice. I wanted to have a totally natural birth but i was in labor for over 24 hours and in so much pain i couldnt stand it anymore. And i dont feel bad about that. Keep your preaching to yourself thanks.
This post doesn’t shame anyone for doing it. It’s meant to encourage those who question their ability because of the constant mockery from others who tell us we can’t do it. “Oh you’ll change your mind when you’re in labor.” It’s easy for us to feel as though laboring naturally isn’t possible … I didn’t know anyone other than my mother that didn’t take drugs for only 1 of 2 births.
I don’t believe in perpetuating that fear.
There’s nothing wrong with choosing relief in the moment. There is something wrong with going into birth believing you can’t do it because so many people tell you that you can’t.
It is very easy to give an opinion based on self experience. Yo have to consider all the factors involved when having a baby, including anatomical variations. If you have a fairly normal anatomy you can make it without the epidural in a delivery, but when things are not 100% like you’d like them, medicine makes a HUGE help. So I would absolutely recommend to do not persuade people and manipulate an opinion when you are not the provider of the person.
I am a nurse, a physician and I see many different reasons why should patients may or may not decide to have an epidural. Remember safety is our first concern and we will always advocate for patients and their best outcome.
Oh yes, I found out just how much nurses and doctors advocated for what’s best when my second baby was 13 days late. At none of my visits and questions about painful contractions that didn’t result in labor did anyone ever tell me my son was stuck on a bone. Instead, I heard “second-time mothers often feel more pressure” and I was scheduled for induction.
I had to call a childbirth educator and former l&d nurse to figure out my son was stuck on a bone preventing me from going into labor. I then spent a whole day working to get him unstuck before I was forced into an induction that could have caused more problems.
I shared that story too https://www.sahmplus.com/13-days-past-babys-due-date-how-i-escaped-induction/
Doctors and nurses can’t know all and their word isn’t gospel.
I’m not saying there aren’t medical necessities, but I’d caution people not to go into any procedure blindly. It can be easy for women to be bullied into unnecessary procedures because, of course, we want what’s best for our babies. If we haven’t done enough research, we can be made to believe anything is necessary.
I believe we have to be our own best advocates and hope that our chosen providers are honest and thorough.
[…] What You Should Know About the Risks of the Epidural […]
Just because you gave birth to two babies without an epidural doesnt mean that you have the qualifications or the right to urge women not to have an epidural. My labor was 38 hours and stalled for the last 13 with zero progress. I got an epidural the last 40 minutes of my labor. The epidural relaxed my uterus and finally i completed to 10 cm. I was exhausted beyond recovery when i chose to get an epidural. It was the alternative the doctors let me try for 20 minutes before they would have to give me an emergency c section. Without the epidural i would have either died (as would have my baby) or i would have had to have a c section. Your knowledge on this very complicated subject is clearly very limited and is based on your own personal experience and preference. Iy is fine to have an opinion but you should not try to influence women to forego an epidural when you clearly dont know enough about the topic. Even if the epidural is not strictly medically necessary like mine was there is something to be said for a relaxed mother who is not exhausted from labor as she will have to stary caring for a newborn immediately after birth while she herself is still recovering. I find your article troubling and ill informed and you should reconsider painting yourself as an expert.
I felt the same way about having my wisdom teeth removed with zero numbing or medications. I mean, people get their wisdom teeth removed all the time!! No one NEEDS medication! I experienced a primal, natural strength taking over when I just allowed my body to handle the pain of having 4 teeth removed naturally. And do you KNOW the risks of anesthesia given for oral surgery?? No thank you. Natural is best.
I’m being completely sarcastic by the way, I just wanted to show you how utterly ridiculous you sound. You are not qualified to give medical advice or tell women what to do with their bodies because you had 2 kids without medication. You don’t get a gold star, and literally no one but you cares.
[…] me. Then, there’s all the risks of an epidural that really lead me to tell you “don’t take the epidural.” I’ve heard enough complaints from women about having back issues after receiving […]
I’m searching your whole site, but, for the life of me, I can’t find your medical credentials to be telling women the appropriate medical interventions for their body.
Well what you are doing is scaring mums into NOT having an epidural when they may really need one. I had PTSD from my labour and I would have avoided that if I had gone for the epidural earlier. I lasted 30 hours in excruciating pain because I didn’t want an epidural because of scare tactics like you use in your article. I couldn’t sit or lay down the entire labour, I had been to natural birthing classes, tried the breathing, ball, shower, bath, it all made it worse for me. I got stressed, then the baby got stressed and then I had to have a emergency c section because the baby was in danger from low oxygen. I blame all this on not taking the epidural when I really needed it. I might have avoided the c section if I had been able to relax. I got to 8cm so it might have been possible! I felt distant and unable to bond with my baby because of the shock and pain of labour. You need to be careful and aware that your view may not suit all situations.
First of all, huge kudos to ANY mom – whether she birthed her children naturally or not. Pregnancy, birthing, and of course RAISING a baby is hands down the most beautifully incredible thing that exists in this world. So to be honest, whatever method a woman chooses, we are all badasses! It is first and foremost a personal decision a mother has to make. Many mothers I know did it naturally for the reasons listed in this article, or reasons listed in the comments – awesome! To each their own. I chose to have the epidural because I wanted to enjoy my birthing experience. For me, that meant minimal pain. Another really important thing to take into consideration here are peoples’ pain thresholds. Everyone has different amounts of pain they can really handle. Peoples’ bodies also react differently to pain. Some people go into shock. Some people don’t. This is a very touchy issue, and wording of title and body of the article needs to be very careful with tone. A few of my friends said they are not going to have more children because of the pain they experienced in birth. I was able to nap during my labor and the pushing was pain-free (just TONS of pressure). I still had partial feeling in my legs, and my baby came out totally aware, eyes open, strong, full of appetite and everything. My enjoyable experience has me wanting tons of kids. At the end of the day, yes, educate yourself, but know that whatever you choose, it is your decision, and you are freakin amazing just for being a mother!!!!!! <3
[…] Don’t take the epidural […]
I was 44 1/2 weeks pregnant when I went into labor with my last baby. After laboring at home for 36 hours with my husband, doula, and a midwife with over 30 years of experience with homebirths, my midwife gave up and sent me to the hospital. I had stopped dilating at 8cm with contractions every 2-3 minutes for 24 hours. I was vomiting up everything I consumed, and my bp was through the roof. On the monitors at the hospital, my baby’s heart rate dipped dangerously low with every contraction, and the nurses said they had never had an OB patient come in as severely dehydrated as I was. When my water broke, it was tainted with meconium. Desperate not to have a C-section, I begged the OBGYN to try an epidural and pitocin instead. Two hours after the drugs, my son was finally born. That epidural saved my life and the life of my child. If we had stayed at home, we would have both died. It’s great that you were able to have natural births. Good for you. I’ve always longed for a natural labor, but my body literally cannot make it to 10cm without help. Women died for centuries because of lack of the medical advances we have today. It is a dangerous thing to write an article using scare tactics to encourage women not to get medical help they might desperately need. Painting natural labor as some ethereal dream that only the best, wisest, and strongest women can achieve is wrong. No one wins a prize for having their baby without medical intervention. And my epidural babies have grown up just as well as my friends’ natural birth babies. Mom-shaming is never cool. I love breastfeeding, but would NEVER write an article about “Why You Should Never Formula Feed Your Baby and How to Avoid it” because I know life is messy, plans get turned upside down, and the majority of human beings are literally trying the hardest they can. We are all moms. We’re all on the same team. We need to encourage one another in whatever decisions we make. Not self-righteously shame or belittle. I’m expecting our 3rd in September, and he will be born in the hospital with an epidural. And I don’t feel the least bit upset about it.
Excellent tips to avoid an epidural. My first birth was 23 hours of unmedicated back labour. Second was a planned c-section (including epidural) because she was transverse breech. Third was an emergency c-section, after requiring an induction (due to lack of fetal movements). After 12 hours of pitocin, and zero progress, babe’s heart started having decellerations, which resulted in the epidural c-section. Going into the induction, I figured odds were high a c-section would be the outcome (because of that cycle of intervention you mentioned), but I tried. Good luck to all the mamas-to-be in having a birth you want most.
I sincerely appreciate your response! Understandably, we can’t always decide how birth goes, but it’s great to be as informed as possible so that you are aware of the possibilities. 😀
I was induced for my first birth and had an epidural. It was a horrible labor and I couldn’t feel when I suppose to push. I had to have Oxegyn and had an awful recovery. My son could not latch which made nursing very stressful. I decided to go natural for my second birth and everything was so much better. Yes, labor was WAY more painful, but it didn’t last that long and it was only when pushing. My baby was able to latch and my recovery was very fast. If I had to do it again I would not get an epidural. And yes, my doctors thought so was crazy and tried to talk me into it too.
I’m sorry about your experiences. I don’t have epidural experiences myself, but I can say that both my unmedicated births were super quick recovery. I was up walking and active quickly and the pain subsided immediately after birth. I’m glad you were able to experience that yourself and didn’t get talked into it again 😀
[…] 1. Should You Get The Epidural During Labor? […]
Late to the party, obviously there are varying experiences. But without my epidural I think I would have died. My second child was so much more painful. I am glad I couldn’t use the beautiful natural birthing center I wanted. I wish I knew why my second birth went so badly. Scarring maybe? I even had to get an epidural top-off so strong it paralyzed one leg, to do anything except scream like a trapped animal! Anesthesiologists are miracle workers. Or maybe my epidural wasn’t placed exactly right, thus requiring extra meds. Idk. Anyways, not everyone is the same. Unless you can swap bodies with me, don’t shame anyone’s needs.
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