The Truth About Epidural Side Effects

Some say that the crunchy mamas of the world are crazy for not wanting an epidural during birth. Who wants to feel needless pain? (Not me!)

But for most of us, it’s not about the pain. It’s about avoiding the epidural side effects.

Nearly 60% of mamas get an epidural during birth. But I don’t think most women get the full story about the true side effects of this intervention.

Rather than positioning epidurals as just a harmless pain reliever, doctors need to educate their patients about the risks and rewards so they can make informed choices.

Please hear me: this post isn’t about judging or shaming moms who get epidurals. I requested one myself during my very long and painful first birth but it was too late to get it.

I understand why epidurals can be a real gift in labor, and I support any mom who feels she needs one or even medically may need one.

This post is about educating moms about the potential epidural side effects so they can make an empowered and informed choice. (They also can change her mind about it all mid-labor, like I did :))

I wanted to write this post because I’ve heard from many moms who didn’t realize what they were signing up for when they requested the epidural. This has to change! Here is the truth about epidural side effects.

Epidurals can create a need for other interventions

Probably one of the biggest issues with epidurals is that it can set of a chain of more interventions. This is such a common occurrence that there’s a catchy term for it… “Cascade of Interventions.”

By just choosing to get an epidural, you are also signing up for several other interventions like continuous fetal monitoring (boo!), an IV because fluids help reduce the chances of a blood pressure drop, frequent blood pressure monitoring, and in many cases, a catheter :(. All of these things can make it difficult to move around and labor effectively. In fact, many moms are confined to a bed on their backs, one of the worst positions to labor in because it narrows the pelvis.

Epidurals also interfere with the natural cascade of birth hormones. This is a cascade we want! An epidural blocks uterotonic hormones such as oxytocin which helps your uterus to contract, so labor may slow down. Because of this, epidural use triples your chances of receiving Pitocin.

Pitocin interferes with your body’s production of endorphins, these morphine-like helpers offset the pain of birth naturally. However, because Pitocin is synthetic and not regulated by your body and baby, many women experience intense and frequent contractions that don’t allow mom or baby time to rest. Without adequate rest between contractions, baby may not get enough oxygen and become distressed. Fetal distress can mean an emergency c-section.

Epidural side effects: C-section

Fact: Epidural anesthesia in first time mothers, in particular, is shown to increase the chances of having a cesarean birth.

Some epidural supporters say that c-section is correlated to epidural but not causative. They say that it’s actually small pelvises (cephalopelvic disproportion or CPD) that are the reason women have c-sections. But CPD and other pelvic anomalies are quite rare, so this argument doesn’t stand up.

While it’s difficult to determine if women get an epidural because their labor is not progressing or if women get an epidural first, and then labor progress slows, we do know that babies are more likely to be in a persistent occiput posterior position (POP) when the mom has epidural anesthesia. That means that baby is facing forward instead of facing back, which reduces the chances of spontaneous vaginal birth. In one study only 26 percent of first-time mothers and 57 percent of experienced mothers with persistent posterior babies experienced a spontaneous vaginal delivery. In addition, the epidural can produce side effects in the baby (fetal heart rate changes, for example) that necessitate a cesarean. The topic of epidurals and cesareans is a hot debate; at the very least, it has not been possible to prove that epidural analgesia is NOT associated with a higher risk of cesarean birth.

Epidural side effects: Longer labor

Epidural anesthesia lengthens the first stage of labor by about 30 minutes and the 2nd stage of labor (pushing) by as much as 2-3 hours (source). We’re talking three hours of pushing for the natural mama versus 5 to 6 hours of pushing for the epidural mama.

This may be because mom can’t feel how to best push effectively. It may also be because epidurals numb the pelvic muscles and the vagina, so the brain doesn’t get the message to send a super surge of oxytocin to get baby out.

Another factor could be that epidurals block adrenaline. While it may seem that blocking adrenaline, the “fight or flight” hormone, is a good thing to promote relaxation, in a natural labor adrenaline slowly increases over the course of labor in order to give a mother a huge energy boost to perform the hard work of pushing at the end of labor.

The higher risk of persistent occiput posterior positioning of the baby (as we mentioned above) can also make pushing long and difficult.

Many advocates of the combined spinal epidural, or walking epidural, argue that they are safe because they reduce the risk of instrumental birth over standard epidurals. However, they still double the risk of instrumental birth compared with natural birth.

And, in practice, the walking epidural usually equates to the stuck-in-bed epidural.

Epidural side effects

Epidural side effects for mom

There are a number of potential side effects for mom when using epidural anesthesia. Moms are at increased risk of instrumental birth and complications for instrumental birth, pelvic floor problems (such as anal, sexual, and urinary) and complications from infections and epidural abscess.

Epidural use also doubles mom’s risk of severe vaginal tears. Epidural side affects also include complications from accidental puncture of the spinal cord coverings and permanent nerve damage in rare instances. Some moms have a “spinal headache” or migraine that lasts for a few days to a few months after birth.

Epidurals can cause fever in mothers during labor too. One study reports that 19% of epidural users developed a fever while only 2.4% of non epidural users did. These babies are 2-6 times more likely to be weak, require resuscitation, have seizures in the newborn period, have poor tone, and have low APGAR scores. The higher the maternal fever, the higher the risk to the baby.

Epidural side effects for baby

Some studies have found that epidurals may compromise fetal heart rate and blood supply at birth due to the reduced blood pressure in mom. Infants who are exposed to epidurals are more likely to be evaluated and treated for sepsis and may have reduced immune system function.

Epidural side effects: Reduced incidence of breastfeeding

A surprising correlation has been found between epidural use and fewer breastfed babies according to several studies.

It’s important to note that the same number of moms attempted breastfeeding… they were just less likely to succeed. One study found that an epidural during birth was connected to women ending breastfeeding by the time their baby was 24 weeks old.

One reason for this reduction in successful breastfeeding relationships may be that epidural side effects include neurobehavioral abnormalities that tend to peak in the first few hours after birth, also the most important time for establishing breastfeeding. It may also be because epidurals block oxytoxin, the hormone that helps mom and baby bond and mom’s milk to come in.

Other reasons breastfeeding can be affected by epidurals are:

  • Mom might delay the first nursing session out of fatigue because she doesn’t get the same rush of adrenaline and oxytocin that a woman birthing her baby naturally experiences.
  • Given the increased risks with the epidural for babies, it’s possible the baby may have difficulty transitioning after birth, leading to more time on the infant warmer or in the NICU, away from the mother.
  • The baby’s rooting and sucking reflex may be delayed or depressed, and some studies have speculated that there may be a localized effect of epidural anesthesia that dulls the sensation on the baby’s soft palate, which is critical for proper latch and suck.

Epidural side effects: Potential lack of satisfaction

Epidural moms may be singing right along with Mic Jagger regarding satisfaction.

Pain isn’t something to be avoided at all costs, and it’s useful in birth. Pain helps signal your brain to release more endorphins (for pain management) and oxytocin (to stimulate contractions). Pain also helps mom know which position is most effective to bring baby into the world, and it helps her know when and how to push.

Oxytocin can put mom into an “other worldly” state during birth. (I know that I was whacked out in my second birth!) In this state, women can relax and get tuned into their body. An epidural interferes with oxytocin so women are not able to enter this primal birth place and are more aware of pain and can be more fearful.

Natural birth doesn’t mean no pain management

A woman’s body produces it’s very own pain killer (endorphins) which are released in response to pain. Many women have great success managing pain through movement, water, self hypnosis, birth affirmations, etc. Many doctors don’t understand this. Many haven’t seen a natural birth, let alone experienced one, and they think that pain should be avoided at all costs.

In reality, lack of pain rarely plays into a mom’s satisfaction with her birth experience. Many women say that they understand why women choose drugs, because labor gets really hard, but that they are glad they went med free. Several studies have supported this too. Women who use no pain medication reported the most satisfaction with their birth.

Women who used no pain meds reported the most satisfaction with their births

Don’t get me wrong—Epidurals can sometimes be a big help

Just like almost everything in birth, epidurals aren’t a black or white issue. And they certainly aren’t a moral issue. I am not here to judge.

Some moms who’ve been in labor for a very long time, need an epidural to rest so that they can summon the energy to push. Some moms need one to get past debilitating fear.

Sometimes, when all other options are exhausted, an epidural can actually help a mom avoid a c-section, which is a very good thing. Epidurals can help to relax the pelvic area, which can help bring the baby down and out of mom.

The key is for mom to be educated about the epidural risks and rewards, and then make an informed and empowered choice for her and her baby.

How about you?

What did your doctor tell you about epidurals? Did you end up using one in birth?

References

  • http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/757744
  • http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/449423
  • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20861420
  • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2782350/
  • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12738150
  • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15863533?dopt=Citation
  • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1481670/
  • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17134489
  • http://www.scienceandsensibility.org/p/bl/et/blogid=2&blogaid=749
  • http://www.childbirthconnection.org/article.asp?ck=10183
  • http://www.llli.org/docs/lad/ChildbirthandBreastfeeding.pdf
  • Shorter, E. (1991). Women’s bodies: A social history of women’s encounter with health, ill-health, and medicine. New Brunswick, N.J., U.S.A.: Transaction.
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228 Comments

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  1. I have to say that I love this article! I fully believe that women are not being given all the information that they need to make a truly informed decision.
    I believe that ALL of the risks should be laid out BEFORE the woman is in labor.
    I know for me I had a VERY traumatic birth experience with my first. It was a full induction (medically necessary) and my contractions were so close together that there was only 8 seconds between them! So, I agreed to an epidural. Then the damn thing did NOT work! I still felt everything, including the episiotomy. I credit my super amazing support system, including my doula (best choice ever!), as the reason I nearly avoided a C-section.
    Because of this I was terrified when I was pregnant with my second child. With her I got an epidural from the start because they were planning to administer pitocin again. That time it worked and I had a wonderful healing birth experience.
    I truly believe that epidurals have a place, but I also feel that women are not being truly informed about all the risks, including that they may not even work.

  2. I’ve had two kids. My first I was in labor 27 hours all natural until I had emergency surgery. Never had side effects from my epidural. My second baby a month ago, I begged for an epidural because I couldn’t get into a peaceful place & I couldn’t handle the pain. Plus I wasn’t dilating even after my water broke. 20 min after my epidural my baby was crowning & it was time to push. I felt great after delivery, I was on such a high because I got a vbac but fast forward to this week, my back feels really weak, I have almost daily headaches & I still can’t seem to hold my pee. I don’t have that full bladder feeling anymore, I just feel it come out & I run to the bathroom. I’m wondering if it’s due to the epidural now.

    • That is definitely something to discuss with your provider. I hope you get some answers soon.

  3. During labour with my only child had epidural done. Nine months later, due to the epidural I still haven’t recovered from bladder and bowel weakness and it’s onky getting from bad to worse. Having said that, I was not informed at all by my midwife about the possible side effects and even if I had I don’t know if I may have still gone ahead with it.

  4. I do not think an epidural will always cause problems. I have 4 children and had an epidural with 3. My labors were slow with alot of back labor til I got the epidural. After the epidural my babies were born within an hour or two. I only had to push for a few minutes each time. My milk always came in in twenty four hours. I am all about nonmedicated birth but if you need it don’t feel bad. Sometimes severe pain can cause slow labor and other complications. Be informed but be open to pain medication if things are hard and slow.

  5. I did not push once during labor I could feel her head enter my vaginal canal over 7 hours through labor. I felt pressure on my rectum. I knew with each contraction she was getting closer then suddenly I put my hand down to feel and I felt her head and hair. I pushed when her head was about halfway out. When you relax your body your body will do the pushing.

  6. 2 to 3 hours of pushing?! I had a freebirth at home, I was in labor for 8 hours. I pushed one time and baby came out. Your body naturally pushes baby down that’s what contractions are.

  7. I’ll come clean. I am an anesthesiologist. I have taught an epidural class to moms-to-be for years. The take-home message that I try to convey is as follows: I’m sure we all wish that we could deliver without requiring drugs or interventions. But things don’t always work out as we want them to especially when it comes to something as anxiety-provoking and complex as childbirth. So make the decision to avoid an epidural based on the right information not misinformation (like much of the misinformation presented in this article). Don’t want a complication from an epidural? Don’t get an epidural. But be aware that if you choose to get an epidural you should know that they are very effective and statistically very safe.

    And one last thing: The article begins by suggesting “This post isn’t about judging or shaming moms who get epidurals”. But let’s look at the name of the website, “Mama Natural”. If a woman chooses to, say, get an epidural is she an unnatural mama?? The term “natural childbirth” is often used to refer to a drug-free, vaginal birth. But beyond a label, in my opinion, it adds an element of “I’m better than you because I had my baby ‘natural'”. Hey Mama Natural, you may think you’re being non-judgy but you’re being judgy. These days, there ain’t much natural about going through a pregnancy or delivering a baby especially if it’s done in a hospital.

    • Hi Peter! I am just wondering which information above is incorrect? I am researching my upcoming birth and would love to know a bit more. Thanks

      • Hi Michelle. Sorry for the delayed response. I’m not much of a blogger. Where to start? Some of the information is false while much of it is fear-mongering. Let’s start by asking the question “What’s the worst thing that can happen to a woman in labour?” The answer is death. Sad but true. In sub-Saharan Africa, the lifetime rate of death due to complications of pregnancy, labour and delivery is 1 in 20! Pretty scary, don’t you think? And to be clear, death, like cancer, is a very ‘natural’ process. In Canada where I live and practice, we’ve taken a very ‘natural’ process and manipulated it using very unnatural techniques to reduce a women’s risk of death. So as I said in my initial post, to avoid getting a complication from an epidural, don’t get an epidural. The same can also be said about pregnancy but you don’t see many blogs about that topic.

        Most of the complications or nightmares that you may have heard about epidurals are to some degree true. Yes, one can get paralyzed. But the serious ones are very rare. (Again, keep in mind that there are potentially some very serious complications to being pregnant.) As far as inaccurate info in this article, I’ll comment on a couple. First, an epidural can increase the time of pushing up to 5-6hrs!?!?! Wow. I’m not sure which species we’re talking about here but it ain’t human. Do you know anyone who has ever pushed for six hours?? The evidence shows that epidurals generally do not significantly increase the duration of the first stage of labour (going from closed cervix to fully dilated cervix and ready to push) but can increase the second stage of labour (fully dilated cervix to birth of baby). Most first time moms push for 1-2hrs. At worst, I’d be inclined to say that an epidural might add 30 minutes to this time but to triple it is outrageous. Keep in mind that a woman who has laboured in relative comfort with an epidural for a number of hours might actually be better rested than one who has chosen to go without an epidural and would thus have greater energy to push her child out.

        Epidurals don’t increase the rate of C-sections. In fact, I would argue that it is likely that they lower the rate of C-sections. I am often asked to place an epidural in a woman whose labour has stalled so that Pitocin can be used (OMG! Not that evil drug Pitocin! The horror!) to advance the labour to the point where she can deliver vaginally, thus avoiding a C-section. Pitocin can make contractions very painful. An epidural can make such a labour much more tolerable. The comment about epidurals causing POP is quite shocking. These are actually the cases where we are often asked to place an epidural so that Pitocin can be used to get the child out of POP to avoid a C-section.

        Epidural use doubles the risk of severe vaginal tears?? Another shocking claim. For starters, I’m not sure there is any good evidence that epidurals are even associated with a higher incidence of these tears, let alone some sort of causative relationship. But let’s say that we actually found that epidurals are associated with vaginal tears, does that mean that epidurals cause these tears??. Well, what actually causes a tear? Baby’s big head passing through mommy’s small passage? Does it hurt more to labour and deliver a bigger baby than a smaller baby? Probably. And who needs an epidural for labour? Women in pain?? So women who have bigger babies might tear more and they may also ask for an epidural at a higher rate than other women. Association does not mean cause.

        I’ll stop there. I’m tired.

        • Your point is contradictory. You can’t compare the risks of a pregnancy with the risks getting an epidural. Plus, it’s your job to assure people of these meds. How can a person avoid risks of an epidural by avoiding the epidural if they’re unaware of the risks altogether. My birthing class at the hospital was super obvious with their inability to stick to one answer on this subject. I’ve noticed doctors acting clueless over everything anymore, making complications seem random as though they’re not supposed to understand their patient. It’s your job to know all the studies with what you do. I don’t see why you’d ever choose honesty, you have your patients sign a waiver for the drugs first anyway.

          • Spoken like a true medical practitioner. Ranting about something totally off subject and not knowing the facts.
            At 27 years old I knew instinctively that there was no way I was having an OPIATE injected into my SPINAL-CORD while GIVING BIRTH to MY BABY. I had a client who was an anesthesiologist and a friend and he couldn’t argue my stance with anything that put me at ease. This article is gentle and brave and kind to let women know the truth. Not the “BS” the hospital tells you. Think about it, why would they not want you to know this info? Well, epidurals cost more money, so do the ivs, the monitors, the pitocin, and the c-section. Google for yourselves how much a c-section is compared to a vaginal birth. It’s from double to 10x more. Doctors are uneducated on how a woman’s body is designed to function and are heavily educated in medical interventions. And “practicing” medicine. It’s a big business folks and sorry to say you don’t need them to get your baby out. You need to be educated and research for yourself and believe in yourself and trust that your body knows best. And stay home, find a midwife who will be your support person and assist you st home. It’s such a beautiful luxury to be in control of your body, in your own home, with no one pressuring or poking you. I had 1 hospital birth and one home, and I would never ever go back to the hospital, and my birth experience was uneventful no complications! It difference is VAST and yes, many insurances cover home/births these days.
            Anyways, this article touched upon some very important things for all humans to know, there are more side effects that go with your baby as they grow and the mother as well but wasn’t discussed. Research will be out soon.
            Why don’t we gas our mothers anymore as they did 50 years ago? Because with every cocktail concoction the drug companies come up with there’s always side effects. Back then education of this wasn’t spreading fast enough. Well, today it is, share share share, don’t be afraid! you’re doing it for the women and babies of your country.

  8. Hi! I had epidural with both of my children, the second one was a nightmare! While performing the epidural the anesthesiologist punctured a layer called the duramadre, so he just told me i would have headache. I was sent home the next day, with a horrible migrain, they told me it was normal. The pain continued for several days, it was as if someone whas whipping my brain. This continued for a week, finally i was desoriented, confused and couldnt feel my face, my husband tono me to the hospital where i had an mri and venography, the results where horrifying. Cerebral venous thrombosis, 5 of them! Plus 2 cerebral hematomas. Hospitalized for 10 days, blood thinners for a year, lots of medication, no breastfeeding for my child! All this caused by the epidural and the puncture of the duramadre with no proper management! Horrible experience!

  9. I appreciated this post. I have had 4 babies. I used an epidural with my first (with side effects like delayed bonding and poor nursing and lethargy in baby), and the other 3 were without any pain medications. The 3rd did need pitocin to induce because of a knot in his cord. My point though isn’t how I did it. Though the examples of people having wonderful experiences with their epidurals (the pain free part IS wonderful!) sounds nice, this is not the point of the article. The risks involved with having an epidural are real and we need to know these. Then we can make a decision. We cannot decide to ignore the risks because someone else didn’t experience them. We aren’t guaranteed that the risks will happen to us, but we’re also not guaranteed that they won’t. I agree that it’s very individual and can depend on circumstances. I just want to caution other motheres not to make a decision based on how rosy it was for other mothers. The risks are still there for you and you need to weigh those out for yourself.

    • Yes absolutely! Think twice and even a third before considering having an epidural. The long term side effects are very long term which could require further serious treatments/ surgeries.
      The most important thing weigh up the pros and cons and when in labour if you still require then at least you have done your research but not read about people’s experience.

  10. What is really sad about epidurals that no one talks about, (and I had epidurals with both of my children which I didn’t want, but needed and I still regret to this day), is that when the mom isn’t producing the hormones like oxytocin that help relieve her pain naturally…she is also not giving that gift to the baby either, which means that while mommy may not feel as much pain because of the epidural, the baby is now bearing the brunt of the pain on their own. I think that is something more moms should be aware of too. If I would have known that, i would have worked harder to avoid the epidural, although with my first it was a weird situation and sometimes it just happens because birth is unpredictable of course. I am just saying…if moms are doing it just to relieve themselves from the discomfort..it’s important to consider what the cost is to your baby!

  11. My first daughter was undiagnosed frank breach which frank means for those who don’t know her feet by her ears so bent in half I got to the hospital at 8 cm dyalated and was rushed off to have an epidural and c section . So that’s one case that was unavoidable just thought I would put that out there as they are not always avoidable and some of us don’t get a chance to have a beautiful natural birth

    • That’s hospital policy. I had my Son at home frank breech with absolutely no problems. Hospitals respond surgically to problems. Sounds like your daughter was ok so that’s good 🙂

      • Omg that’s amazing! I know babies can be in any position and be birthed safely but unfortunately its something people are told is a “complication”.

    • Yes sadly, I had almost the exact experience as you. After my baby was born I couldn’t have that immediate bond with her because I was didn’t feel safe holding her when I was shivering and shaking.

  12. I had one with, and one without lots of side effects but all resolved within 24 hours. Yes my pushing stage was longer than my non epi labour but that’s why I needed it, my labour was longer and more complex with a baby tangled up in her cord and meconium in her lungs, it wasn’t the epidural that caused this, it was all this the lead to the epidural. Try having a ventouse without pain relief!
    Usually those bad effects are happening and the reason someone needs an epidural, it might not be the other way round.

  13. Never wanted an epidural and am satisfied with my birth experiences. Had first baby and then twins drug-free. Had a little med with last baby but it didn’t deaden the pain. Couldn’t have gotten through the labors without my husband, my “doulo”. 😉 I am surprised how normal epidurals are. Like it’s assumed women will have them.

  14. Unfortunately I had to have an epidural. My water broke prematurely and I was prom for 28 hours with almost no contractions so they induced me with a very high dose of pitocin. The contractions started out of nowhere. I went from a 1 to a four in ten minutes….I was starting to black out in-between contractions….only the pain would bring me back enough to scream. So they did an epidural. I got some sleep, about an hour or two, then they checked me and I was at a -3. I practice pushed and went to a +1. So I pushed seven times and I had a baby :). After the epidural everything slowed down and I could relax and focus on actually having my baby. I hate pitocin so so so much. Next time I hope I will have a natural birth but you never know!

    • Agree pitocin is horrendous!

  15. I had an epidural with my first child due to intractable vomiting from the pain and hormones. I couldn’t rest in between contractions or use alternative methods of pain control, because I was vomiting and dry heaving. Fortunately, I had best-case-scenario as far as epidurals are concerned. I was able to feel contractions still and could labor without vomiting. The labor progressed quickly and without further intervention. I was able to push effectively and had a relatively short labor for a first-timer. I had no adverse effects from the epidural, and I was able to breast feed and bond, and overall, my first time was a wonderful experience. I am currently pregnant with my second and hope to avoid an epidural this time around, because I think I got lucky with how well the first experience went! I’m hoping to learn more about natural remedies for the nausea and vomiting in labor because that ultimately was what led me to accept the epidural.

  16. I had a very difficult pregnancy with my daughter that led me to no choice but to deliver via CS. Along with it is a dose of Epidural Anesthesia which was both originally not in my birth plan. I had a really, really hard time recovering after the effect of the anesthesia was wearing down. It started when I was still in the recovery room. I experienced all the routine side effects of the anesthesia like vomiting, chills, you name it. But what caused me to prolong my stay in the recovery room was the blood in my urine bag. I stayed in the recovery room for almost eight hours because of it. Then when I got to my room, it took me 2 days before I could fully mobilize my entire body. It did give a relief during my delivery but it also took its toll after the effects are gone.

  17. I chose an epidural with my first however I still felt the contractions as if I did not have one. They kept saying I had a pain window. I was basically “immune” to the epidural effect I was told. After 27 hours of labor my daughter was born by cesarean. It was hard but she is beautiful.

    • Coll I am amazed that you gave birth via C-section while the epidural didn’t work on you. You are one tough mama.

  18. I have had one birth so far, and in my case, I was the one who had the epidural to prevent having a c-section because I was so tired and had only dilated 1 cm after 10 + hours of labour. I made sure my partner knew that I wanted a totally natural labour and birth and asked him to fight for me if I couldn’t fight for myself. However, after seeing me struggle and weaken throughout the night and after being hooked up to Pitocin to try and speed things up (which didn’t work) he told me that he would support me through anything and told me that I needed my strength. After the epidural was administered by the incredible anesthesiologist who was quick and efficient, within 2 hours I had dilated to 10 cm with baby’s head fully engaged and ready to come out. I wasn’t sure if he would even wait for the doctor to get to the room! Less than an hour of pushing had him in my arms.
    So, in short, I appreciate that this article gives facts about what may happen while acknowledging that medical intervention can actually help in some cases, which is what happened to me.

  19. I received an epidural with 2 of my 4 children. The first and third children were all natural births and were quick. My second child I was basically guilt tripped into having an epidural because I was GBS positive and “they needed more time to give me the antibiotics so I would have a healthy baby.” Well with that birth I got the epidural after the guilt trip. As soon as it kicked in my son’s heart rate dropped. It went from 167 all the way down to 37 bpm. They broke my water and I had to start pushing even though I was only displayed to a 9. Thank goodness he was my second child so I knew the basics about pushing. I was able to get him out without needing a c-section. It was very scary and stressful for both of us. Everything turned out alright but it could have gotten really bad really quick. If I could have pushed him out like I did it would of lead to a c-section. Plus he was extremely blue and his APGAR score at birth was a 0. If they would to have gone to a c-section I fear my son would not be alive today. My fourth child was induced because where we lived at the time it was over an hour drive to the hospital and home birth wasn’t an option there at the time. So they feared that since my third child’s labor was only 45 minutes long. I wouldn’t make it to the hospital in time. I was also GBS positive with the child. So besides receiving pitocin I was also receiving vancomycin which I didn’t know I was allergic to. I ended up having a allergic reaction hives from head to toe. Which only intensified the pain I was having from the back labor (which is “normal” with induced labor.” So I requested an epidural at that point. Had I known I was ready to push at that point when I recieved the epidural I would have never gotten one. I ended up with a spinal headache which peaked 3 days after giving birth so I was already at home. I could hardly move it was so bad so I had to go back to the hospital to get a blood patch. It was awful between the spinal head ache and the blood patch I was bed ridden for 5 days. My husband had to bring me our daughter so I could hold her and breastfeed. I was unable to even get up to use the restroom without assistance it was so bad. If you can avoid the epidural I would highly recommend it. There are other ways to manage the pain. Plus most women ask for the epidural when they are in the transition stage of labor so that means pushing is just around the corner. When you feel the need for an epidural wait 10 more minutes and have them check you. My guess is at that point your little one will be there in less than an hour at that point.

  20. Pregnant now with my 7th kiddo and I’ve done it both ways. I’ve had epidurals, and I’ve had all natural home births. I’ve had negative experiences with both routes (from spinal headache to lying midwives and large stuck babies at home), and I have to say that this time I’m leaning toward an epidural. I always wait to get my epidural, only accepting one once I am 7cm or further. This not only helps relax me, and doesn’t slow down labor, but also means that part that I struggle with the most (transition, crowning, and that good ol’ ring of fire) is just a happy time of pushing and getting to meet baby. I’ve noticed that I have bonded immediately with my epidural babies, but was in so much pain and so exhausted after my natural births that I didn’t have the energy or desire to connect with those babies. I also notice that all 6 kids are equally intelligent, have no health problems, breastfed well past a year, and were alert. Did an epidural prolong my labor? Perhaps (though I doubt it since I only pushed a few times before they were each out), but who really cares when you aren’t feeling that horrible pain anyway? Even another 3 hours of pain-free hospital time wouldn’t bother me cause I don’t hurt! When I was a L&D nurse I wanted to support each patient’s decision, but I told the moms who got epidurals, “I don’t give you a gold star for going naturally if you don’t want to.” ;o) Since I’ve had both types of delivery and I’m not looking for some “magical spiritual experience”, I think I’m cool just accepting the pain relief for my tiny body. Am I letting the crunchy community down? I think I just heard a collective groan of disapproval from my fellow green-smoothie-drinking-baby-wearing-organic friends…but I think I’m okay with that. Bring on the pain relief, baby bonding, and $1,200 bill. Totally worth it!

    • Agree 100%

    • 😂😂oh Nicole, you just made me crack up with your narrative…. I must say you have also made me really lean towrds an epidural for my 3rd natural birth in November.

  21. I just had my first baby 15 months ago at the age of 28 and I chose to have an epidural. the epidural tube ended.up resting against my nerves and killing them. I have foot drop of the left side, im incontinent, and I can no longer enjoy sex due to loss of feeling and sensation. I feel nothing. I will be this way for the rest of my life. I’m not trying to scare anyone but this is the kinda thing no one tells you can happen and I feel like people should be made aware. I certainly never would of thought that the choosing to have an epidural would ruin my quality of life. im told it’s rare that these things happen, but it could happen to anyone. it happened to me.

    • I’m finding that I’m one of those people that if things can go weird, they will. I have great experiences where most people have negative ones, and negative ones where people usually have positive ones.

      Your comment is helpful to me. My first birth 2.5 years ago was very hard. I’ve been scared to have another natural birth and have been looking into getting an epidural. I’ll probably avoid the risks again. I’m sorry for your experience, but thank you for sharing.

  22. I’m one of the weird ones where the Epidural relaxes me and helps me progress. After 16 hours of labor with my first I caved…but then finally progressed! I elected to repeat the epidural for 2 & 3. My 4th was completely natural on purpose and went beautifully until the pushing. I quickly learned that “natural in a hospital on purpose” is HARD. Way too many interruptions to the natural process!! After that birth and having PPH I was considered high risk so hospital is my only option now. I had an Epidural for #5 and it was a very satisfying experience for me. I will encourage my daughters to try natural in a birth center with their firsts, but since I started with a hospital and now must remain there, it’s going to be epidurals. Satisfaction is defined differently for everyone. Accepting my situation and few surprises is the recipe for me.

    • Great find, Elise! But read the fine print: almost all of the studies compared epidurals to opiates, not to natural childbirth. Do you know of studies comparing epidurals to no opioids at all?

  23. I had an amazing birth experience and am so glad I got my epidural. My water broke around 3 in the morning and my son was born before 1 pm the next day. In my case, I could still feel my legs enough to move them and I felt contractions but wouldn’t say they were painful. I only pushed for about 30 minutes before my son was born perfectly healthy and alert. He was and still is a great water (still successfully breastfeeding at 7 months). I am so thankful that I had such a great experience because I know it doesn’t always go that way regardless of whether or not a woman chooses to go natural. It does make me sad, however, that so many women are made to feel bad for not giving birth completely natural. I know this particular article didn’t shame mother who choose epidurals or other pain management options, but so many do!

    • Emily, I guess it depends on which community of people you hang in. Most of my close friends had children 8-10 years before me, my first born was in 1984. I was actually laughed at when I said I was going to have my baby natural. “Why in the world would you go through the pain and agony if you don’t have to?” I was astounded that they would even question me. I had a long horrific labor, the doctor made me stay in bed on my back, they started me on Pitocin, they put an internal fetal monitor on my babies head. I began to think my “epidural friends” were on to something and that I indeed, was laughably living in the dark ages. By then it was too late for any type of pain relief, as I was told. My son was born naturally after 18 hours of constant back pain. I know this next comment will sound so cliche’, but when that baby boy looked into my eyes, I forgot all about that pain, so much so that I had his sister 2 years later. I read a ton about best ways to avoid intense labor pains, my choice was to walk, walk, walk through the pain. When one would come I would put my arms around my husband’s neck and “hang” thru the pain, once subsided started walking again. After 3hrs of walking/hanging, The nurse asked if she could check my progress, I was almost fully dilated and effaced, got me into my birthing bed and our daughter was born in 10 minutes and 3 pushes. There is something to say about empowering yourself with research and knowing who you are to make the right choice for yourself and baby. Me? I would not have done it any other way.

  24. I had an epidural and it actually made my labor go even faster because I was able to stop clenching my whole body and relax and the contractions started doing their job! I had no complications at all and zero vaginal tearing. My baby was completely healthy and breast fed great! So getting an epidural may not be for everyone but at the same time it also has good benefits as well and can affect each person differently!

  25. I had an epidural with my first delivery because labor was so long, but I actually asked them to remove it after about 2 hours because I felt like it was making things worse (everything that was numb was burning with pain), so the second time I went med free and had a much better experience, including the high right after delivery.
    I feel discounted often because people either say that epidurals don’t cause that kind of pain, or that I remember wrong.

  26. I gave birth to my son 7 weeks ago, and maybe my case was just not typical but I think that everyone is just different in their labor. I was induced with pitocin (due to high blood pressure) and once it kicked in I was indeed having intense contractions every 2 min, after about 2 hours of this I got an epidural. After this I dilated fully within a couple hours and only pushed for 30 min. I still felt in control of my pushing and didn’t require any additional intervention. Pitocin started at 6pm and baby was born at 130pm the next day.

  27. For me personally my first of 6 kids my water broke before labor started. I was laying in bed and all of a sudden it went crazy. I left for the hospital at 10pm and arrived at 11pm and not much was progressing on its own. When they checked for dilation I was at zero.
    The first nurse kept saying I needed to walk around and move to get labor started so I wouldn’t need pitocin. She said the last thing I wanted was pitocin. So I did as she asked but still nothing happened. Then in the morning the shift changed and that nurse seemed annoyed and hostile. She immediately hooked me up to pitocin. At that point my contractions were constant with zero breaks and I couldn’t even move or think. Hours went by. Still not much dilation. Baby ended up under stress and they put me on oxygen and kept checking for dilation. I begged for an epidural but was told i couldnt have one unless i was dilated enough. After about 7 hours of pitocin I dilated to 4 cm. They came in with the epidural. I was still back to back contractions and screaming at the top of my lungs. I was thrashing violently. The anesthesiologist only came up because my nurses tricked him and said there was more than one girl who wanted one. Apparently he wouldn’t have came up for just me. Then as he was trying to stick me with the needle I kept having contractions and he yelled at me that he was a very busy man and didn’t have time to wait for me to remain still. But I did end up with the epidural. Completely numb from the waste down. Within an hour I went from 4 to 10cm. Because the epidural allowed me to relax. I pushed one time and her head came out. A second time and her body came out. I had not stitches because I had no tares. 18.5 hours after my water broke my little girl was born. She latched on without me trying to get her to when they handed her to me for the first time. She exclusively breastfed for 13 months. In my case the epidural became necessary because of the pitocin.

  28. I read this article before and after giving birth and it was helpful before I gave birth since it supported my plan and values in regard to having a med-free birth. I also kept an open mind when having expectations on how my birth experience would go, since I know when reading other People’s stories it’s important to keep in mind that everyone experiences birth and pain differently. When I started having 6 minute long contractions with no rest or relief between I asked for the epi. The pain kept me laying down and unable to move and the pain management breathing techniques and movements I was taught in birth class and what I expected to use where not possible. These long and painful contractions allowed me to become fully dilated and ready to push – when promoted I pushed three times and my beautiful daughter came out. I was so happy to feel the relief the epi provided. The Drs and nurses monitored me and I was having 21 minute long contractions that I know would be agonizing to get thru had I not received these meds.
    Because I wasnt able to feel from the waist down I opted to have a mirror placed at my feet so I was able to see myself pushing which was helpful since I had planned on being able to feel what was happening down there. I did tear, which I did not feel and was required two stitches which I didnt notice was being sewn up after delivery bc i was doing skin to skin and nursing my baby. She latched immediately. She is currently having trouble breastfeeding at six weeks due to a tongue tie that we just took care of today, which was developmental and obviously not caused by my choice to get an epidural. This article contained great research and information and reading it post delivery wanted to share my experience for anyone who is on the fence about epis- read other people’s stories but have an open mind going into labor. This article helped me have peace of mind and encouraged me to have the med free labor I thought I could have, however it just wasn’t possible for me this time and everything worked out as it should have! 🙂

  29. I beg to differ from you Cristina. I am glad you had a wonderful experience but many women don’t. I am an OB nurse and childbirth educator at my hospital and I teach all of the above. It’s important for patients to know because it is evidence based information and it may be helpful to them. All my students seam eager to learn. I encourage them to use all the comfort techniques that they learned and practiced in class. I encourage them to try them all in labor and see if one or two work well for them. And their partner plays a huge roll in all of it too. Then, when the comfort techniques are no longer working for them, they might ask for the epidural. It’s their call. I teach that it’s best to wait as long as possible before getting the epidural. Many don’t get an epidural at all. Others wait till they really need it. I am finding that moms love the information. By the end of the CB class, most are sharing how thankful they are for the information. Many students come back and tell me their CB experience. One mom and dad shared this: She was induced. She was in a lot of pain from Pit so she needed the epidural. She went for hours and only made it to 4cms. Then the doctor said he had to do a section. The parents were devastated. The dad said “We remembered the things we learned in class.” By then the epidural wore off and they were able to do all the positions and movements I taught them in class. The Dr and nurse came back in in an hour. She was complete, 10cms, and was able to push the baby out. They were elated! I have many many stories like this that my students share with me. I am happy they have positive birth experiences, whether with or without an epidural. I just want to share the truth. And we do a lot of practice. I teach them to be flexible, go with the flow, and not feel bad at all if their original intentions don’t quite work out. I teach this as a whole life lesson, not just with CB, but raising the child and life in general. Be flexible, do the best you can, get help when you need it, and be thankful. No pressure! Our hospital has lowered it’s C section rate significantly. It’s been a blessing to be a part of helping women.

  30. I dont think its fair that woman like me who try soo hard to avoid a csection get down upon for getting one anyway when theres no other choice to get one. Its articles like these that make us mothers who have no choice to get a csection feel less of a mother for not birthing our children naturally even though we so desperately want too. If its not enough feeling cheated for not having a natural non medicated birth we have to read things like these to spike up fear and worry. Its not fair!!!

    • I think it’s the comments that make you feel this way, not the article.

  31. I’ve given birth vaginally to 2 babies. With my first I did not not want an epidural because I have scoliosis but because they put me on petosin, the contractions intensified to unbearable pain and felt like they were on top of each other leaving my body with no break between contractions. So by 6 cm, they gave me an epidural and immediately upon insertion I began seizing and was unresponsive. It’s unbelievable but I honestly felt like I was no longer in my body but my spirit was still present. Thankfully my mom and husband were present and immediately began praying over me and several minutes later I began regaining consciousness. I thought it was longer than minutes but my family tells me it was a matter of minutes. After regaining consciousness it was still a while longer before I could move or speak. It was honestly the scariest thing I’ve ever been through and to this day (10 yes later) I have hypersensitivity in my entire body. Because my first experience was traumatizing for both me and my son it sent me into overdrive of educating myself, and with my second pregnancy I chose to go the natural route. I used a midwife and had a water birth at home. The 2 birth experiences were like night and day. Even though typically most women’s first birth will be long and their next births tend to be much shorter, I felt in complete control of my body. I was able to manage each contraction because I didn’t have petosin interfering with my body’s natural responses to labor. So coming from a mama who’s experienced both a hospital birth w/ drugs and natural birth, I would say educate yourself. Knowledge is power! Whatever route you choose, be comfortable and positive with your choice.

  32. Not going to lie.

    • Sorry, accidently hit post. Lol So I have questions. I checked all of your references and they actually started the opposite of many of the things you said in your article. Do you have any references that better reflect what you’ve written, please?

  33. Humm I’m reading most of the comment and i wonder why the professional people ( nurses, doctors and so on ) have that attitude of superiority and demand that the author of this article probe some how she have some degree or title to backup her words, when is clear that they don’t backup their words at the office when we get the so called “prenatal care” that sound more to ….”we want to be sure you doing what we expect to do so we get pay” that everything else .I have a wonderful natural birth at a birth center but i have to write one notarized birth plan so they were obligated to follow , i decline ALL interventions so it was me may husband and some friends there that just press my back and at certain point i accept sterile water injections in the nerves of my back to easy back labor ( baby was posterior and 9 pounds and my first) the doula they offer was terrified by my pain and so i was but i was in control of what i wanted for my body and baby, and that power make you able to do the job, many woman think that epidurals solve the hard work part, maybe but at what cost?, i’m coming from a family of doctors and nurses, i almost became one, but is that the point we( women)can only decide what happen to our body if we are a doctor or professional in some branch of medicine? babies still born all around the planet and many without a doctor and again USA have one of the most higher rates of infant mortality …..why? well ….research and tell me doctors what you found honestly
    I’m in my second baby actually today is my due date( no expiration date by the way) and i can’t have my baby at the birth center my 1st was born because the push to hard for interventions i don’t need because they change policy, so i’m going to wait until i’m ready to push to go a hospital that at least is baby friendly and my new doctor agree to respect my wishes i’m also using the visual birth plan from this site with some small modifications complete by a DPA. and a written birth plan on my medical file. I’m just and educated person not a doctor, a nurse and i don’t need justification for my decisions or choices. also the writer of this post doesn’t need it either in my opinion.
    maybe the doctor and several nurses i read comments today need to do a more extensive research apart from the training they receive and do more work on the field with people that are not to willing to accept word of men as words of gods.
    there are some many book to research from and even the page of food and drug administration tell the true about procedures and use of drugs in labor…..is just a click away

  34. I don’t agree with everything on this page because I had a wonderful epidural experience. I came on this site looking to see about the bad after effects of the epidural because I have a suspicion it has messed up my back a little, I will feel pain where they stuck the needles in but it doesn’t always hurt just sucks when it does. The only bad thing that happened during labor for me was the fear of needles, I screamed😂, and the fact that the nurse tore me giving me a second degree tear😣. My labor was super easy, no pain, I slept through contractions,and only 15 minutes of pushing and I was done and being stitched, laying in bed didn’t bug me and neither did the catheter. Even though I had a good experience i stil wanna have my next baby natural if I can to avoid that fear!

  35. I had an epidural during my labour. I wasn’t struggling but it I was advised that it’s the best form of pain relief and if I left it too late I might not be able to have one. I had already taken gas and air so would probably have agreed to anything, I felt totally drunk on the stuff. Anyway, long story short, I felt nothing. I was calm throughout, I could talk to the midwife and my husband throughout. My baby was calm. He was born after nine hours and he’s a huge baby! I pushed him out in less than an hour. My advice, take the epidural. I can’t fathom why there’s all this advice from people encouraging mums to go without. My first night in hospital (I was admitted early due to my baby being so large), a young girl who was in agony refused any pain medication. She was absolutely wrong to do this in my view. She was stressed out so her baby must also have been. I’d take an epidural again any day of the week. I was in the shower unaided two hours after I returned to the ward. I know bad things happen to people who have an epidural but terrible things can happen anyway.

  36. I had an epidural with my first birth. I tried my darndest to have a natural birth, refusing the IV they wanted to put in as soon as I came in and the petocin they wanted to give me when I wasn’t dialating for over 12 hours after my water broke. Luckily I did dialate on my own…very very slowly. I was in labor a very long time. It wasn’t until they insisted I stay put in bed so they could do fetal monitoring that I finally hit the wall with my pain threshold. I was shaking like a leaf. I really don’t think the nurses were used to seeing a woman attempt a medication-free birth. When I did get the epidural it opened me right up and I pushed my sweet gir out within 10 minutes of receiving it! I did Tear pretty severely, and l did experience Post pardum depression. Breastfeeding was super super hard and we really struggled in the beginning, as my 6 lb girl went down to 5 lbs, BUT I kept at it and ended up nursing her until she self-weaned at 3 years old 💖.

  37. I had an epidural with my first pregnancy. I felt no pain during delivery, pushing, or postpartum and was able to deliver my child with one push. I did not have a problem feeling the urge to push and did not tear at all. My baby was born completely healthy with no issues and no breastfeeding problems and is now a happy, healthy, and vibrant six year old. I am pregnant for the second time and doing my due diligence to decide if I will go the epidural route again (leaning in that direction but still undecided) or try to deliver without medication. Thanks for all those who have shared their experiences. Knowledge is power!

  38. I had a very bad experience 5 years ago with an epidural. They went to far with needle and hit my spinal fluid. They told me afterward only 3% have that happen…I was that 3%. I had extreme headaches and stiff neck for 2 weeks after, then floater in eyes after that. I felt like I couldnt enjoy my baby. They sent me home with vicodin for pain. I am expecting hear very soon. I am very determined to go natural. Praying fear doesnt getin way.

    • I had the same terrible experience with epidural, they hit my spinal cord, I had a terrible neck pain, then they told me to do blood patch which I did afterwards, but the headache was excruciating, I didn’t enjoy my baby, I couldn’t breastfeed her properly because of my headache. I was discharge from hospital, my baby is 5 days old and I am still struggling with my pain, I am taking strong pain killers, thank God I have a sister who is helping me with my other small kids, otherwise I couldn’t imagine how it would be without her

  39. Thank you. This article is inspiring because it supports women who choose not to use meds and those that choose not to.

  40. Nothing wrong if someone chooses to use pain medicine for their labor. I had a natural birth and no pain meds. My baby came out healthy and latched quickly. It was painful but I did enjoy the freedom of movement during labor, no complications, and being proud that I experienced it without pain meds because I was intuned with my body and baby the entire labor.

  41. As an obstetric anesthesiologist, I was disappointed to read the information in the above article. There have been important advances in the use of neuraxial (i.e. epidural or combined spinal-epidural) labor analgesia that have occurred in the last 10 years. Unfortunately, these do not seem to have been accounted for in your article. It is important to remind readers that anesthesiologists work in a team to ensure that that patients receive the best multidisciplinary care relevant to them and their pregnancy. If pain relief is requested, anesthesiologists strive to ensure that is tailored and optimized for each patient. In contemporary obstetric anesthetic practice, we are able to employ low doses of local anesthetic with opioids in our epidural regimens which provide high-quality labor analgesia whilst minimizing maternal side-effects such as lower limb motor block (‘heavy legs’), and decreases in maternal blood pressure. There is robust level 1 evidence that refutes that association between epidural labor analgesia and cesarean delivery. In addition, there have been important changes in how obstetricians provider intrapartum care, and untangling the effects of these changes from those that may be attributed to epidural labor analgesia on labor outcomes, such as instrumental delivery, is not straightforward. Therefore, when asked to consult patients, we have a balanced, non-biased discussion about all aspects of pain relief which includes discussion of benefits as well as potential risks. If patients wish to try non-epidural based techniques, such as nitrous oxide, then anesthesiologists can assist in educating and supporting women who wish to try these approaches. Lastly, it is important to remember that some patients have important medical and obstetric conditions that may put them at risk of major complications during the labor period. It may be the case that an epidural can help limit the risk of major medical / obstetric complications in certain cases, for example, patients with congenital cardiac diseases. We should be mindful of how some of these patients may interpret the advice in this article if they have a high-risk medical or obstetric condition. If you would me to send uptodate articles which review the latest scientific studies and data about epidurals, please let me know. Most importantly, we should ensure that patients are given detailed and balanced information so that they can make the best informed decision that’s right for them.

    • I would like to learn more about the information you just shared if possible. I’m open to as natural as possible but I am seeking more information regarding the procedures/treatments. Thanks so much.
      Cortney
      cortney.fowles@gmail.com

    • Thank you, Dr. Alexander Butwick for your concerns on this matter. I strongly agree with you I have had 3 children with due soon, I had epidural with all 3 and plan to have epidural with this one. I only had one bad experience with my second I had a spinal headache that was horrible I almost sided against it again with my 3rd cuz I was in fear that would happen again. I tried to labor on my own, however my body couldn’t handle the pain and my blood presser spiked. I got an epidural and the baby was born a few hours later. However my blood pressure wasn’t stable until hours after delivery. The anesthesiologist and the best experience with the epidural and I know this time I have to because my body won’t be able to handle the pain. Again thank you for speaking up about this matter.

    • Dr.Butwick, I have a question. I’ve had 7 births one with pain medication and numbing my vagina and the second one no medal, I barely made it to the hospital with her. The other 5 was epidurals I Loved them!!! Lol I started having children in 79 and stopped in 96. My doctor was Awesome, he delivered them all Dr. Don’t Lewis. Marketto. He told me that these epidurals may feel good now, but later on in life they could take a toll on my back. My baby is 23 years old now and my back feels like something is sitting on it when I lay down and or walk sometimes. I wanna know if this is a side affects, I have gained weight, but it scares me to think that those epidurals are affecting my back like this. Would love to know if anyone else is experiencing this and what can be done about it!!!! Thank you

  42. Thank you for this article. I appreciate you daring to share real risks associated with epidurals even though you know how many people feel the need to defend their choices and point fingers at you and argue about it. I understand the desire to share one’s birth story and it is great for so many of these people that didn’t experience these complications but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there. It just means you beat the numbers. They DO and CAN happen. There is room for success stories and real knowledge of the risks of epidurals. Somebody doing research and helping others understand options and risks before they go into labor is not a threat to you or your experience. Your experience does not guarantee that outcome for others and it is certainly no reason to keep them from knowing the risks entailed with a medical procedure. Thank you for your boldness and I hope you continue in your work!

  43. I want to share my story for those scared of getting an epidural. I know I was. I worked out (barre amped prenatal workout video) and ate healthy (mostly!) my entire pregnancy. I requested an epidural at about 6cm dialated. I had an 8 hour labor and pushed for only 30 minutes. My baby came out healthy and very alert. I did tear and needed a few weeks to heal but I wouldn’t change a thing. I had zero pain after I got the epidural and was so thankful for that. My doctor informed me that since its in your spine it actually doesn’t reach your baby (like pain medication does). I made sure to avoid pain medicine. My nurse worked at the hospital 20 years and never saw one complication with an epidural. Just wanted to share a positive story 🙂

    • My baby also latched on within a couple hours and was a breastfeeding champ!

    • I appreciate your positive story, so thank you for posting it. Nobody is trying to instill fear. But this article is trying to dispel myths about drugs and your doctor was incorrect. Every drug in the epidural enters your blood stream and will get to the baby via the placenta within 20 minutes.

    • It’s good that you had a nice experience. I don’t think women should be scared of the epidural. They need to be cautious though. The epidural is almost never discussed anymore because most moms just jump on board when the pain starts. However what the doctor told you about it not reaching the baby is false. Scalp tests show that it takes an epidural 3 minutes to reach the babies system. I don’t understand why mothers focus on maintaining a healthy pregnancy and avoid a long list of OTC medicines only to throw it out the window to accept pain relief during labor. It confuses me greatly.

  44. I found this very interesting and informative too. I had too babies with epidural,and I did not experience any problem with breastfeeding. They were also very healthy babies, and the labour went without major conplication and they wete both vaginal deliveries.
    I might just be lucky but I thought I may mention this for more information

  45. I believe every momma should do what she finds best for herself. With that being said, I 100% believe my epidural slowed my labor. My water broke naturally at home. By the time I arrived to the hospital I was 6cm, I labored for another hour when the nurse checked me and I was 8.5cm. At this time the pain was so intense I opted for an epidural (even though that is not what I had on my birth plan). My awesome L&D nurse even tried to talk me out of it, knowing it was not my original wish. I got the epidural at 8.5cm. After that it took another 2 hours to get to 10 cm and 2 additional hours of pushing. My labor seemed to progress very quickly until the epidural.

  46. There is one thing you left out… sort of. I suffer from gestational hypertension (or have during both of my pregnancies, so I just sort of take it as a given now) and having an epidural saved me from having a c-section during the birth of my second child. My blood pressure was dangerously high and my OB was talking about c-section when my awesome doula mentioned that she has known women in the past who used the blood pressure drop associated with epidurals in their favor to help bring it down when it was too high. In my case, having an epidural stopped the “cascade of interventions” that you talk about. I would love to see a step-by-step guide to navigating necessary interventions from the mindset of avoiding more. If my doula had not been present to offer me the peanut ball she brought for progression, for example, I would likely have been given pitocin to help me progress. Luckily it was not needed. Also, my doula encouraged me to try moving around while pushing even though the nurses didn’t think I would be able to. I made it through every position she recommended and actually ended up back on my back, as surprisingly it was the most effective pushing position for me.
    Please, Mama Natural, write more info on “So you have decided you need an epidural. Now what?” Or “So they talked you into pitocin. Don’t freak out… you can still do this!” I want women to know that once they have an intervention it’s not over!

    • I would love to read something along these lines!
      I had planned a homebirth with a midwife for my previous (first) pregnancy, but after my labor that was progressing quite quickly stalled for hours and enduring excruciating pain my midwife sent me to the hospital and I ended up with a c-section because my baby was just too big for my body and was quite stuck. Due to the trauma of my last birth I have an OB (willing to do VBAC – which is hard to find where I live) this time around. She is suggesting that I reconsider my “no epidural” stance as she says with VBAC patients it’s actually better to have it in place so that if I end up needing another c-section I won’t have to be put completely under because the line will already be in place.
      It’s so hard to have one set of beliefs and yet have to decide to do what is safest for myself and my baby.

      • First of all don’t take everything your OB says hook line and sinker. They know even less than you do about how things will progress during your labor. Your OB will always take the least risk (legal risk) possible. Legal risk isn’t always the safest for mom and baby either. Most of the time it’s the safest route for the doctor and hospital who pay millions in malpractice. My mom had a successful VBAC after a similar situation. The baby was even larger, but her body worked differently. You can just see how it goes instead of condemning your birth before it takes place.

  47. When your contractions start at less than 2 minutes apart and you don’t get a break from them, an epidural is a beautiful thing. It didn’t hurt at all to have it done and I had a beautiful delivery! I hope every single one of my deliveries go like my last did. No complications. In fact, I’ve never known anyone (personally) who has ever had an issue with it. There is always going to be a risk to everything, including just getting pregnant.

    • You can’t justify unnecessary risk by just convincing yourself that there is risk in everything. Sure the risk is low but that does not make it as safe as a natural birth. It’s fine for women to get epidurals but it’s annoying when they start justifying their decision by saying things like “It’s risky driving a car”.

      • It’s not annoying at all. It’s keeping things in perspective. So many Mums get scared from having an epidural due to the risks. Keeping the risks in perspective by comparing them to every day relatable risks is actually very helpful.

        There is a ton of misinformation in the article above. It actually is judgey and very clearly supports one side more than the other- natural.

        Also to all the people mentioning that the medication in an epidural reaches the baby by blah blah amount of time- you’re also incorrect. It varies hugely depending on the drug that is used in the epidural. Speak to a pharmacist or to your hospital in regards to what medications they use in the epidural and how much it affects the baby.

        Most peer reviewed articles actually state that the only real side effect on the baby is caused by the side effect f the medication on the mother- eg/ hypotension left untreated leading to hypoxia in the baby. The baby doesn’t come out with reduced sensation or movement as a direct effect of the anaesthesia!

        There is so much mis information online and in birth classes that it makes it very difficult for mothers to actually form valid and non biased opinions.

        I recently went to a birth class that stated that the elidural is inserted in to the spine at breast height and that they lead to c-section. Both statements are incorrect. I bit my tongue as I watched other Mums to be believe this information.

        It’s unfair and unjust.

        How come we don’t get colonoscopys drug free??? After all having a camera up your butt is no different to having a bowel movement pass through it. The camera is smaller than most bowel movements, yet nobody expects you to go through that “unmedicated”.

        It’s all very grey.

        Whatever works for you works for you I suppose. I just wish women had the opportunity to truly learn about the pros and cons of both options so that they actually truly have the opportunity for informed consent.

  48. I had an out of hospital natural water birth, and I am so happy that I trusted my body to do its job rather than rely on modern medicine. My entire labor lasted 8 hours. My water broke naturally, and I was not induced. my labor progressed very quickly, and I credit movement and the relaxation of the birth tub for that. I prepared in the months leading up to the birth By practicing prenatal yoga as much as possible and staying active by taking walks everyday. I think it’s not something every woman can do, but if you’re really dedicated to it and have the mental Drive, it’s a much better option than having medical procedure birth. it’s totally a mental thing. you have to be good at putting Mind Over Matter.

  49. I’m appalled by this article. As a labor and delivery nurse I can say that most of these so called “facts” are in no way true or may correlate but are not caused by an epidural. It scares me that uninformed individuals like whoever is running this site are giving wrong information to soon to be mothers who are vulnerable to suggestion. New moms, ask your provider about epidurals at your next appointment, ask your labor and delivery nurses when you come in, ask to speak to an anesthesiologist about an epidural. Don’t rely on a Google search, you will be very misinformed.

    • I am also a Labor & Delivery RN and while I disagree with about half of the article, I also don’t think that people get the best info from our westernized practitioners. I am the nurse who likes the birth plan patients… I see both sides. I DO think that a patient has to prepare, prepare, then prepare some more for a natural birth. They are the ones who succeed. They have a plan to deal w the pain. The ones who come in and just “see how it goes…” Are usually the ones who get an epidural. I do question some of the facts here, not sure if oxytocin and AND, if your nurse is proactive for you, Sometimes-you can avoid some of these unwanted side effects… I understand it’s a hard choice!

      • So glad to hear you read birth plans!

    • Thank you for sharing your professional experiences. However it is unfair for you to claim that the author is uninformed. She clearly has done her research on the subject which does have both evidence and anecdotal support. I am also a medical professional, I am a neonatal respiratory therapist in a level 3 NICU. It has been my experience that when I am called to aid in the resuscitation of a newborn it is almost always with a mother who has had an epidural. It is most often either a c section from a failure to progress after a woman getting en epidural too early in labor or a baby comes out with difficulty transitioning. I cannot recall a time I was called to a natural unmedicated labor. I am not saying that an epidural is an absolute bad thing. I understand greatly that there is a definite need for some medical interventions but not in all cases nor should it be so common place as it is today. Medicine saves lives when necessary but it also can interfere with the body’s natural processes. Because of my experiences in the NICU I chose to have a natural delivery despite my baby being in OP position and I believe my ability to move freely and help turn my baby into more of a favorable position saved me from a c section. If I was bed bound from an epidural I would have definitely ended up in the OR. I was 8 cm for 6 hrs. It was horrible back labor for 13 hours but in the end I am glad I had an unmedicated birth.

  50. I’m trying to see what the credentials of the writer of this article are. I can’t seem to find them. Is the writer an anesthesiologist or a certified nurse anesthetist? Reading what I read, I would bet that is not the case of at least pray it was not. This is very irresponsible and very misinformative. I am a mother of four, a surrogate of twins and a labor and delivery nurse of 10 years. My first three births occurred before I even thought about going to nursing school. My first birth ended in an emergent cesarean. I had three successful VBACs. I experienced loss at 22 weeks. My story ended in a repeat cesarean at preterm gestation. I had epidurals with every birth prior to the final in which a spinal was placed.
    As a labor and delivery nurse who works 5-7 twelve hour shifts a week at hospitals that vary from maybe one birth a shift to over 50 births a shift, I have worked with all kinds of patients and their families and have been a party to many different situations and wishes. I’ve also worked with many anesthesiologists and CRNAs.
    So as to not have this comment become a dissertation, I will just put out there that doctors and nurses are human. None of us are out there to complicate anyone’s birth. It’s a lot more paperwork and time (in most cases) for your birth to end on a cesarean. The reason I have come to see for the rise in the percentage of births ending in cesareans is this societies apt for legal retribution. Doctors can’t take the “risk” of something “going wrong”, because society is quick to sue and look for blame. I am in no way saying this is right, just what I have heard.
    Now these “side effects” that the writer is referencing and putting on epidurals are first of all NOT “side effects”. This is why I say the writer of this article is irresponsible. 98% of anesthesia providers I work with indeed educate my patients on the TRUE side effects and risks and benefits of epidurals. More importantly the majority of them make it clear that an epidural is a CHOICE. The providers who do not do this are jerks. I’ve had providers come in and not say a word to the patient through the entire procedure. I’ve had other nurses come into the room with me on occasion when I know one of these providers are on so the behavior can be reported.
    As far as the misrepresented “side effects” presented by the writer, I see this as a couple of things. I see subpar nursing. I see miscommunication. I see power struggle between patients and med professionals. I see uneducated patients.
    I have worked with sooooo many patients in my 10 years; from the patient who wanted an epidural from before the first contraction to the patient who doesn’t even want you to look at them and the only reason they are at the hospital is because no lay person would touch them with a ten foot pole. I’ve had patients who absolutely loooove epidurals, those who can’t stand them and those who epidurals worked one time but not the other.
    I believe nurses play a huge role in why this article should not even exist. I’m sorry but this article is ridiculous, but I feel like as nurses we need to do better to educate our patients so mess like this doesn’t get put out.
    No one knows what the outcome is going to be when a woman is on the path to giving birth, but saying that all of these things are caused by an epidural is just plain irresponsible.
    Epidurals did not cause my emergency cesarean. Epidurals did not cause my tears during my VBAC. Epidurals did not cause me to lose 22 week twins. I have four healthy children and there is no way I would ever labor and give birth without an epidural. However, I have motivated the mess out of my patients whose wishes are far different than mine.
    I will continue to do my part to educate my patients in real time and help guide them through the labor and birth process while sticking as close as possible to their vision. I pray that my fellow medical professionals will commit to do the same.

    Side note: in reading the comments, why would you ladies allow anyone to infuse anything into your body that you do not want??? Education time: you have the right to say no!

    • This blog/article is spot on. If you doubt what she is saying read the latest evidence-based literature from reputable medical journals. Its all there. Its just not practiced. 95% of women in labor and birth function optimally, efficiently, and effectively without medical intervention. Common sense should tell you any intervention has a cause and effect. The majority of nurses in Maternal Child for the last 10 years in a hospital setting don’t even know what a “normal” labor and delivery looks like, nor be comfortable without all the interventions and monitoring.

      • You are delusional. As a Labor nurse of 26 years who is required to read research and evidence based literature to stay current I can tell there is very little factual information in this article. Myself and the nurses I work with are very well versed in all methods of childbirth and the support thereof.

        • Calm down. You have a lot of experience and that’s great that it was relatively positive. That being said you didn’t work at every hospital. Some hospitals are great at labor and delivery-most are not. Most of my friends, and I have many, many mom friends, I terrible experiences at hospitals. They were pressured, lied to, and treated poorly. That’s why they opted for home births for their 3rd and 4th children. I watched my mother give birth in a hospital after being induced and it made me terrified of birth–NOT because of birth itself but because of all the poking and prodding and monitoring. And the whole process made me wonder how the human race ever came to exist prior to medical intervention. Many of my friends had bad experiences with epidurals. Many of them described the very scenarios in this article. I had one relative who had an epidural and it went well. That’s it. And my friends are all over the map (not many of them are the earthy types). This does not include my friends who had to have c-sections. Obviously their experience absolutely required one. And I have no judgment on mamas who want the epidural or even want the c-section. But the reason there is a natural birth movement is because many women are so traumatized by their experiences that they are desperately seeking out alternatives. And often, though probably without realizing it, doctors and nurses make patients feel terrible/stupid/worthless/bullied–especially in labor and delivery because the cultural mantra is listen to your doctor and NEVER QUESTION THEM because why the heck would a woman have any insight into how/what she’s feeling in her own mind and body rather than her male doctor. *sarcasm* I myself have had great doctors/nurses. And I’ve had some terrible ones. Also this stuff she claims in this article has been circulating the inter-webs for quite a number of years for better or for worse. Where have you been? Even my own friends who are nurses and/or certified nurse midwives would say these things are true, or at least mostly true. All that said she’s not just pulling this information out of thin air and people speaking out about bad experiences are not delusional just as the person who had a good experience is not delusional. That’s an ad hominem.

        • Agreed

    • I would say it’s been a long time since you’ve had a baby because it’s not like that anymore. So an epidural is a choice but then why have all of my OBGYNs (more than one) never asked if I wanted one. In the office they throw out statements like “we’ll do that when you get the epidural” or “once you get the epi then we will do this”. When I explain to them that I don’t want one I’m usually laughed at and told “we’ll see”. Are you kidding me? It’s so widely accepted that no one even discusses it anymore.

  51. I had an amazing first labor with my son. My body naturally dialated to almost 5. My water broke naturally. I got the epidural 3.5 hours after being in active labor. I rested, took a nap, they gave me pitocin but didn’t feel anything. Woke up and was at 10 cm. Pushed for less than 30 minutes. I want to do a med free birth next but I’m nervous because my first went so well.

  52. First of all, I am not a mom. I am here to educate myself on different birth options so that I can make informed decisions in the future. I respect all of you moms who have brought life into the world regardless of any interventions you may have had. What’s right for one mama isn’t right for other mamas. With that being said, my desire is to pursue as natural birth as possible. My younger sister has such a difficult delivery. Her membranes were swept, foley bulb was inserted, pitocin was started, resulting in her needing an epidural to control the pain, then by the time she started to push, baby wouldn’t come out without vacuum suction. This is just one experience out of thousands, I know. But I’ve always wondered what would have happened if she would have gone a natural route. Maybe it would have been the same, but maybe she would have had a more satisfying birth. Moms, thank you for your bravery! I admire you.

    • I also want to add that from her experience, the epidural wore off and didn’t provide the pain relief she desired because she was in labor for over 24 hours

    • Make sure to look at both sides. Most importantly separate intuition and instinct from fear and don’t let anxiety rule your decisions. Do hospitals make you more comfortable? Go with a hospital. Do you get really anxious and uncomfortable in hospitals like I do? Maybe go for a birth center or a home birth. If you are crippled with anxiety and fear your labor will absolutely be harder than if you learn to be calm. Find a certified nurse midwife (they have actual medical training and schooling as opposed to a lay midwife). How did your mother labor? It’s not unlikely that you will labor at least somewhat similarly to her. And make sure to think about what happens after birth in the years to come in order to remember that chances are they’ll be fine. Don’t freak out over what-ifs. Wait until there’s actually something to freak out about. My personal experience: I had a natural water birth at a birth center right next door to the hospital. It was hard but good I wouldn’t trade it for the world. My husband, who is not the natural type AT ALL, lol, even enjoyed the experience…sort of, lol. If I have another I plan on the same thing…but I also know that sometimes things can go awry and i could end up with a c-section and that will be ok too. I found breastfeeding to be far more traumatic than labor. I had two, kind, wonderful, knowledgeable lactation consultants tell me I would not be able to breastfeed. But I did. Pay attention to your intuition and don’t plan in pen; plan instead in pencil so that when life doesn’t work out they way you wanted it to you can adjust your expectations.

      • It should be noted that there are several pathways into midwifery and medical and emergency training are essential components of education, certification and licensure. Your statement that non- nurse midwives have no medical training is inaccurate and poorly informed.

  53. Another point that was not mentioned is that epidurals are not effective for everyone. I labored naturally for 58 hours with my son before the midwife demanded I allow her to give me pitocin. I asked for an epidural at that point because I didn’t believe I could manage the additional pain of pitocin contractions at that point. So I needed the IV, constant fetal monitoring and was stuck in my back. Well, guess what? The epidural was absolutely ineffective. I even had a second stronger dose and it also did absolutely nothing. I accepted all the risk and restriction and felt no benefit at all. I ended up with a third degree tear, a bladder injury and had a very hard time bonding with my son the first weeks of his life.
    I was(and still am) completely dissatisfied with my birth experience and experienced symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder for over a year. Getting an epidural was a decision I took very seriously and it was hard for me to make. But when I admitted that I needed help and accepted the risks, it never occurred to me that it wouldn’t work at all. Yet, I believe that epidurals only have a 95% effectiveness rate. So just because you choose it, doesn’t mean it will work.

  54. I was very satisfied with my first, and only, natural birth so far. Because of gestational diabetes I had to be induced 3 days after my due date. The hospital offered me Cytotek, which is a cervical ripening agent, to see if that would start my labor and avoid Pitocin. I was fortunate it worked and my labor progressed naturally. I was also pleased with the hospital staff who were very respectful of my wishes. I did not walk in with a birth plan or demanding their obedience. I simply stated I would like to have as natural a birth as possible and would appreciate their support. They got me an exercise ball (which I labored on for 6 hours) and pretended not to notice that I was snacking and drinking coconut water all throughout the labor since I refused the IV! I recommend the book Natural Childbirth in a Hospital Setting if you think you’re interested in going naturally. Although my 11 hour labor was painful I walked away from it feeling like I won a marathon and have no regrets. Knowing my options ahead of time helped me but regardless of your choice, you get to meet your sweet sweet baby either way. And being a good and attentive mommy is going to strengthen your bond regardless of any decisions you make at birth.

    • Thanks for sharing! Sounds like you had a wonderful and respectful team working with you. Would you mind sharing the exact title and author/s of the book you mentioned? There are several with similar titles and I’m interested in finding the one you recommend. Thank you!

  55. I am a labor and delivery nurse and can pretty much tell you all of these “side effects” happen with or without epidurals. The only proven side effect is a possible headache and infection which is prevented by sterile technique at insertion. Not to bust your bubble, but 99% of the things you listed are tumors and women who get epidurals are usually dilating faster because they are able to relax their muscles, and have less repairs because the babies can labor down without the intense urge to push to every and tear.

    • Thank you! My OB has been saying the same thing.

      • I have to agree here with this comment. I was totalllllly on board the natural train but couldn’t deal with the pain. Got an epidural, was able to relax. Didn’t tear, didn’t need other interventions, didn’t need a c-section, baby’s heart rate remained amazing the entire time, it relaxed me, and I pushed HARD with great coaching from my midwife for 1 hour and 8 minutes. The epidural saved me… haha I couldn’t deal with the pain or fear of the whole process and was SO grateful for the pain relief.

    • I agree, I have had 5 kids vaginally (4 epidurals, 1 natural). Each labor experience is unique. I have never had complications and labor progressed wonderfully after the epidurals!!!!

    • I have to agree. I’ve had 3 births in this order: Caesarean, VBAC (vaginal birth after Caesarean, 14 months after my C-section, with an OB) and finally natural childbirth (with a midwife instead of an OB). My Caesarean had no effect on the subsequent two births. My experiences actually got better and I have no effects that you mentioned above. That being said, my natural, midwife assisted birth was definitely my most satisfying birth of them all, hands down!

    • I am also and L&D nurse of almost 36 yrs. I have seen epidurals relax the mom enough that she will progress significantly where there was none before. If the prudent nurse does frequent position changes there is no reason that the mom will be in a persistant posterior position. I would rather be in labor for a couple of extra hours than the terrible back labor that i had. I have also seen mothers that did no medical intervention and need a c/s for failure to progress. To make statements above seems a bit one-sided

  56. I had to get an epidural because I was induced and the pitocin caused my body to have constant contractions. I was only dilated to 2-3 cm and I did not have any recovery time between them. It was like 1 giant contraction and I did not have any of those natural pain killers that your body is supposed to make. Plus I was already on an IV and constant fetal monitoring so the epidural didn’t change that for me. I congratulate any mom who can go natural but I was not one of those moms lol

  57. I didn’t have any of the side effects or problems you listed… and I had an epidural both times with my boys. They both were delivered vaginally, came out relatively quickly (first was 17 minutes of pushing, the other was under 10) had no complications, I had no tearing and I breastfed them both until at least 16 months. 🙂 Getting the epidural was painful, but the rest of the giving birth experience was pretty great.

  58. Thank you so much for providing and sharing this information. I really enjoy your website/ blog. I have two questions:
    1. What are the (negative) effects of constant fetal monitoring for the baby? Is there a concern with radiation?
    2. Also, despite not wanting them, I received pitocin and then later an epidural during my first birth. I also encapsulated my placenta but am curious as to if the placenta pills are safe to take considering whatever was in the epidural and the pitocin was coursing through my blood and likely hanging around in the placenta and now encapsulated in the pills. I haven’t taken any yet and wonder if it’s “safe” to do so…
    Unfortunately, my CNM did not delay cord clamping and cut the cord right away because she had some concern about the baby’s safety since during labor I was discharging baby’s meconium. So I didn’t get they DCC benefits but am concerned about the placenta pills…
    Thank you so much for any info you can share!!

    • Constant fetal monitoring often causes attendants to see phantom distress (putting baby and mom at risk for unnecessary interventions) while intermittent monitoring lets them check that baby is ok but not cause undue stress. As far as the placenta, I don’t know. Could you ask the person who encapsulated it?

    • There is no side effects for baby related to fetal monitoring. None. There is no such thing as “phantom distress” and constant monitoring allows us to see changes in the fetal heart rate over time and use minimal interventions such as position changes to prevent worsening fetal distress. Intermittent monitoring is like skipping pages in a book. “How did we get here??” I have no frame of reference to operate from.
      (Labor Nurse of 26 years)

  59. The difference between my epidural birth and my natural birth was night and day. With the epidural (sure, it was relaxing and pain free at the time) but my baby had to be vacuum extracted because I was ineffective at pushing. He had terrible bruises on his head when he came out. I had no oxytocin rush after his birth. I didn’t feel that our breastfeeding relationship was that great and he quit nursing at 7 months.
    My 2nd birth was natural–no meds, no IV. The hormones that kicked in were AMAZING. I felt like I was floating, I allowed the contractions to sweep over me and they were so effective. Only a couple pushes and I don’t remember the pain at all. After he was born I felt like I could climb a mountain. Our bond was so much stronger and he breastfed like a champ for almost 2 years. He is also a much healthier child and almost never gets sick.
    I have many friends that have had side effects from epidurals. They are not risk-free. Some have had migraines, some had intense itching that lasted for months, some had high water-retention/blood-pressure. Everything has pros and cons, but after my experience, I would never get an epidural again unless medically necessary.

    • Thank you for sharing your two different experiences! I had two unmedicated natural births, and I love how you said the contractions “sweep over” you – that’s exactly how they felt to me. They came over me like waves and I focused on riding the waves. When I didn’t ride with them, I felt a sort of disbalance and overwhelm. And the article pinpoints oxytocin as the reason I was so completely into my body. My world was focused on the birth, me and my body, my baby – nothing else. It was intense, but I experienced no pain. Birthing is one of the most amazing things I’ve experienced.

      • I wish that ALL of my patients (and me, in my pre-crunch days 🙂 could tune into this wave! It would help so much! It seems that soooo many women are soooo afraid of the labor process. I admit, as a Labor Nurse of 15 years when I was pregnant- I was afraid to have a “bad” delivery like the ones we see sometimes. I am much better in my life today, with letting fear get the best of me! (Most days!) lol

  60. Going epidural free for this birth (my 3rd pregnancy). First birth, I had to be cathed in recovery 3 times before I could pee on my own. Second baby, I had a catheter the whole time in recovery and they tried to send me home with one! I had to push to pee for almost 2 years after!! After talking to the urologist, it was confirmed my inability to pee after is because of the epidural. I’m actually excited for my “natural birth,” and love how much I’ve learned about birth because of it. I’m actually really embarrassed how little I knew going in with my other two about the birthing process. But I’m super hopeful I’ll be able to pee on my own after baby comes this time!! I better be, or I’ll be crying in recovery for days strait.

    • Definitely look into hiring a doula. I had one for my second birth, and I honestly don’t think I could have had a drug free birth without her. The chances of staying drug free go up about 75% with a doula’s support. She will write up a birth plan for the hospital and give it to them when you arrive to deliver. Also try to labor as long as you can at home. She will help you with pain management at home. Hospitals tend to push epidurals, they did with my first birth, so don’t go until you’re at least 7 cm.

    • In my experience with my child’s birth I opted to be induced due to the fact that he was 10 days overdue. I did not have an epidural until I was 9cm and stuck there for 2 hours without progressing. I only had to push for 2 hours and my midwife let me be positioned anyway I wanted, including squatting on the bed holding a bar. I also did not have a Foley catheter. My only complaint from the epidural was my lack of bladder control that took a few months for me to regain. My baby was fully alert and breast feed well right away. He’s now 13 months and were in the process of whining. Oh and I did have 3 very small tears but then again not every women gives birth to a 9lb 6oz baby!

      • That’s great that you could move around into all sorts of positions and sounds like it helped you. I’m glad your bladder control came back!

  61. Did you read the article? She isn’t mommy shaming, she’s trying to make sure people are actually informed. I used an epidural with my baby, and I am glad I did because otherwise I would probably have had a Cesarean. However, I am SO glad that I knew the risks and side affects going into it so that I was prepared. This woman is preparing other women to make informed choices, and I think that’s a blessing. Thank you!

  62. i had a terrible experience with my doctor. I felt like she was setting me up for failure. The whole time she commented about my weight, and my BMI. I only gained 20 lbs my entire pregnancy but to them that was 100. I was told i would have to get pitocin even if i didn’tf want it. I was told i would have a stillborn baby after refusing weekly stress test. i refused them because the only reason they wanted to do them was because of my BMI. I went to prenatal yoga until 40 weeks. Baby was head down and ready at 23 weeks. I labored at home for 10 hours while my SO was at work. i wanted to avoid interventions at all cost. When I got the hospital i was only a 3. I refused drugs, i refused pitocin, i refused monitoring. basically a huge pain in everyones butt. I went to the hospital at 6 pm. delivered at 11:07 pm. i pushed 1 and a half pushes and my 7 lb baby was born. I honestly dont remember the pain, i only remember the relief i felt after i had her. the short amount of discomfort was worth being able to get up and walk 2 hours after giving birth.

    • So sorry to hear Ashley, but sounds like you did an amazing job! Be sure to find a more supportive provider if you have another child. Being pregnant is hard enough! lol We don’t need to be harassed or shamed. Xo

    • I had the same with mine. I thank God that this was my third child because I would have never had another baby after this terrible experience. I’m still traumatized by what I went thru. I always take about 12 hrs to fully dilate but my doctor started the pitching after the 5th hour. I told him that I take a while and have had great births but he did not care. Then, he started cranking the pitocin up. My blood pressure shot up. I was not able to think or tell this man to stop what he was doing. The pains were horrible. It got to the point that I just really wanted to give up and die so I could feel no pain. I almost lost my life as well as my child’s. His oxygen dropped very low. Had to undergo an ER Cesarean. I live in a small island so, it took an hour for the surgery crew to get to the hospital and get me ready. At this point I was fully dilated and was being told not to push. The nurses could see the baby’s head. Thank the heavens that my son was fine. Come to find out he was due to catch a plane to go on his vacation. The nurses and surgery crew were very upset with this doctor. They came to apologize for what had taken place. The Doc never came back to check on me. That was what my baby’s and my life were worth, his vacation. Again, I’m still traumatized and my son will 2yrs old. Almost lost my beautiful boy.

    • Proud of you for sticking to your guns! Many women are bullied by medical professionals!

  63. I am a mom who choose epidural during my son’s birth. It was the best thing that’s happened to me. I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the moment without epidural. Contrary to what the article says, I pushed for just 20min. I was not fatigued at all. Breastfeeding was very successful as well. I’m just saying it’s different for different people.

    • Same here. My deliveries went smooth and quick.

      • Same for me! My epidural was a total blessing! Thank God for modern medicine

    • I got an epidural at 7 1/2 cm. I pushed for under two hours. Would definitely do it the same way again. I feel like the first part of my labor went quickly. It did slow down a little bit after the epidural but I was able to enjoy the last part of it. I was also able to get a little bit of rest before having to push which was nice. Breast-feeding was no issue as well

  64. Some of you ladies are absolutely ridiculous..and it’s very apparent that the ones who are shaming are clearly the ones who didn’t even read the entire post before running your mouths. This article is an informative one, intended FOR people who aren’t informed..not the ones who think they know all. Let me mention..that my child was birthed WITH an epidural. Yet I can be adult enough to realize this article wasn’t intended to put me down. You all need to grow up. And Genevieve, thank you for this article. Very informative and given the complications I had with my son’s birth, I plan on reading more into this so that I may try and avoid it next time around. P.s. don’t listen to the haters, they obviously can’t read. 😋

    • Excellent…

  65. Good information. I think the article is informative and non biased and every women reading it should keep in mind that those are “potential” side effects which means not every women will encounter those issues. The only thing I would add is that I got major low back pain after my first delivery and in my second delivery I only got the “test ” epidural bc I quickly dilated to 10 cm however I still feel major back pain 35 days post pardum.

  66. I was induced (yes they were so frequent -the contractions- that I barely had time to breath between each) and had a planned epidural which came around dilation of 6 or 7. But I had none of the problems you mentioned. In fact, I had an amazing labor (except for baby pooping in the womb and needing help to breath…but she was fine). by concentrating on my body, I knew when I was still having contractions to know when to push. I didn’t feel the pain but still could feel some sort of change or pressure that allowed me to know that I was still having a contraction. I also still ended up nursing my baby just fine. I only had a second degree tear and a little bit of stitching which is common for most all women. I was expecting that. Not a big deal. Our bodies heal. Everything went very smoothly and baby turned out healthy and strong.

    No matter what, childbirth will ALWAYS be a risk for both mommy and baby no matter how natural you go or how much medical intervention you have. There will always be a risk. I know of way too many friends whom were having at home natural births, but they had to be rushed to an emergency c-section either because their babies were breached or because the cord was wrapped around the neck. Anything can happen. Childbirth is a wonderful miracle that should be celebrated no matter how mommy decides to do it. I say, if your doctor thinks you should take the epidural, THEN TAKE IT! I hate pain. Can’t stand it. But the epidural allowed me to enjoy my time instead of hating on Hubby and being miserable.

  67. Omg….all unnecessary scares. Don’t be afraid ladies, get epidural, there is no need to go through labor pains. I had an epidural with my first one at age 23, got it ASAP….labor was about 9 hours long from my first contraction, no complications, 10/10 apgar baby boy.
    With my second one, one year later, I wanted to stay home longer and went through some unnecessary pains and almost didn’t make it to the hospital in time, still got epidural at almost 10 cm…. that was a blessing. Still no complications, no tears, and a healthy baby girl.
    Didn’t have any doubts about getting epidural with my third surprise baby girl 13 years later. And guess what, even at my 36 everything went quick and painless. After about 6 hours of labor, no tears and healthy baby girl.
    Please, don’t read scary stories, there is another side of the coin. All the ladies I know had an epidural, normal deliveries, healthy babies and no pain. I think all the complications that women have, they would have them anyway, without an epidural and even more pain on top of everything. The question is why????!

  68. Everything in this post was the exact opposite of my labor.

    I was induced and had an epidural. I was in labor for 5 hours and pushed for 43 minutes. Everything was normal. I didn’t have any rips and no trouble with breastfeeding. Everyone is different!!

  69. Women should also know that epidural complication are rare! If you are going to visit a hospital for your birth then fetal monitoring and an IV are a part of the package regardless of whether or not you decide to get an epidural.
    In my experience many patients are already on pitocin when the nurse calls for an epidural. It is the painful contractions caused by pitocin that frequently change the minds of even the strongest wills to say “screw this natural birth stuff.”
    The rush of endorphins and pain often cause a delay in dilation of the cervix. Throw in an epidural and many women actually relax enough to completely dilate and deliver vaginally.
    Yes, sometimes it can be difficult to feel the urge to push but in my experience a good RN who is monitoring your contractions and telling you when to push can coach you to a successful vaginal birth.
    The effects of an epidural on newborns are ambiguous at best. Epidural also increase patient satisfaction.
    Epidural abscesses, infections, and fevers are SUPER rare. Chorio is a way more common reason for infection, sepsis, fevers, and changes in fetal and maternal heart rate. Epidurals do not increase c-section rate but boy are they great to have in place if you need one, especially an emergent one. General anesthesia for a c-section is way more dangerous to baby and momma. Given moms increased risk for aspiration, decreased respiration functional capacity, and increased soft tissue swelling which can make placing a endotracheal tube difficult, if not impossible.
    I am not trying to judge anyone either. Get one or don’t. It is ultimately the patient’s/momma’s choice. There is not a right or wrong choice here and there is good and bad to both. I just want the other side to be represented as well. There are plenty of studies out there claiming the opposite of what it stated in this article. Unless you know how to read a journal article or study for its power and validity I wouldn’t quote any.

  70. I had an epidural with my first and I had a great experience. I got it when I was dilated to a 4, I was a 10 within the hour and pushed for 30 mins total. Every person is different and every body will react differently to a natural child birth or epidural. I also don’t look at fetal monitoring and blood pressure monitoring as a negative. Those are things put in place for mom and babies safety which I think is the goal of every child birth experience.

    • Like most anything else, Fetal monitoring and blood pressure monitoring have pluses and minuses. You mention most of the pluses, and doctors tend to mention those when women are in labor, but they tend NOT to mention the negatives or risks (which they are obligated to do by law.) Fetal monitoring not only can slow down labor but also runs the risk of false positives, causing other unnecessary interventions. (I almost had a C-section forced upon me because the hospital staff felt that “my baby wasn’t moving enough” even though I told them that he ALWAYS napped that time of day and wouldn’t be roused for anything. Saying “I …don’t look at [these things] as a negative. Those are things put in place for mom and babies safety” is buying into the black and white view of interventions. The point of this post is to dispel that myth and make sure that IT ISN’T black and white. People already understand the benefits of interventions; that’s why they have them. The point is to inform people about the often unmentioned risks.

  71. My personal experience having my first daughter with an epidural wasn’t a bad one, however I wish I had done it without. I was only in labor (from the very first contraction until she came out) for a little under 10 hours, and I only pushed for 7 minutes through 2 contractions when she came. The actual epidural shot was horrible for me – it hurt and the doc missed the first time bc I jumped so he had to put the needle in a second time. For me, it felt like someone had put a crank into my spine and was turning it. It only lasted a minute or 2 so in the scheme of things, not so bad, but it was a pain I had never experienced before. Where-as my contractions were a pain that was very intense, but I felt like I had experienced the sensation before (period cramps – ultra intense period cramps).
    I was confined to my bed bc I was hooked up to machines & had a catheter, but that didn’t bother me since I ended up getting some sleep before pushing started.
    The reason I wished I hadn’t gotten the epidural was because I feel like I missed out on the experience of birth because I felt nothing….absolutely nothing when I gave birth to my daughter. I barely felt any pressure when I pushed and when she came out, and I feel I missed the experience of birth. I had 3-4 small tears after birth and I didn’t feel any of those, but after this article I am wondering if the epidural could possibly be why.
    Also, my daughter had a very very very hard time breastfeeding. She did it for 26 months, and it was extremely painful for me the entire 26 months – felt like needles were being pulled out of my nipples. she could never get her latch correct, even though I tried EVERYTHING. Again, this could possibly have been due to the epidural. Not sure, though.
    So, over all if you read this whole long thing…the point of MY birth story of my first daughter is that yes, I had the epidural (mostly I think because I was scared – I had no idea what to expect – and when my back labor started I gave in and said yes to the epidural) but I wish I could have done it without it.
    Next time – which is in about 5 weeks 🙂 I am planning on going natural – we will see how it goes!
    Whatever decision you make as a mother giving birth – do NOT feel guilty about it, do NOT feel less than and do NOT be embarrassed. Everyone is different and every birth is different. Whatever choice you make for yourself is the best for you in that hard time. Let’s all try and empower each other & support other women!!

    • Regarding pain with nursing for 26 months- I had a lot of pain trying to nursing my little one for two months, until I found out she had an upper lip tie and a tongue tie- once I got both corrected, within days she was nursing much more effectively and I was finally healing! Now, nursing is finally comfortable!

  72. Hi Libby,

    I’m sorry that this post felt negative or judgmental. That was not my intention. I did start the post with: “Please hear me: this post isn’t about judging or shaming moms who get epidurals. I requested one myself during my very long and painful first birth but it was too late to get it.”

    So clearly, I understand and SUPPORT moms who decide to get epidurals. I just want to be sure that they know all the potential risks/rewards.

    As an FYI, we have a registered nurse on our editorial team who reviewed and edited this post for accuracy.

    Bless you,
    Genevieve

  73. Ladies, mamas! My goodness, no one can state their opinion or information they’ve recieved (whether correct or incorrect) without being judged and hammered at! We need to support and inform each other rather then bark rude comments! We are all doing what we know to the best of our abilities and we’ll always have our own opinions. Whether it works for someone else or not let’s agree to disagree and let this article be helpful to whoever finds it that way, and let the people who feel other wise kindly state the information they recieved in the comments? I’m 33 weeks in, soon to be a mommy for the first time, and quite frankly being so new and sensitive to these topics it’s intimidating, and in these times we need to put out a helping hand, one without salt on it. I think this article was wonderful for people who aren’t educated on this topic, that being said there are many more articles as such, and one can make a decision on her own based on how she feels after reading it.

    Thank you for this article!

  74. Your reply was not nice and unnecessary.

  75. I was finally given the epidural while I was weeping and sobbing because my baby was stuck and would not come. I was dilated and pushing and my girl would not crown. Oh, “you should have pushed in a different position”. I did, I pushed in four different positions for three hours, after 29 hours of labor. My daughter was stuck I had to have a c section. The only thing I wish is that I didn’t vilify epiduals and c sections. I did everything right. Diet. Exercise. Doula. Yoga ball. Pain management. My daughter was face up and bound tightly in the umbilical cord. Sites like this devastated my expectations for child birth.

  76. I did my own research and decided that i don’t want epidural (because of all the reasons you have mentioned and other reason that we don’t know about because we are not scientists and chemists). I come from a Ukrainian bringing up too, where there is no such thing as pain meds during birth (unless it’s a c section of course). I feel like Americans don’t care or don’t think about what the medication is and how it affects your body (and the body inside your body in this case). That being said, I knew I didn’t want to have epidural, but it was SO hard to make this decision again and again during excrusiating birth pains when every nurse (except one) would ask me if I wanted anything to relieve pain. Of course I wanted to relieve pain but I wanted long-term good not short-term relief. It almost felt like devils talking to me lol. I am so glad my husband and my girlfriend were there to support me and my decision. I am so-so happy that I was able to do it (and I fully understand how some mamas will choose epidural because the pain is very much overwhelming).

    • Don’t generalize Americans please. We are not ignorant. I have had epidurals and fantastic short labors. I pushed for less than 15 mins with each kid. I was able to nurse successfully past 12 months. I simply don’t buy in to this article.

      • But she is correct. Looking at our American society as a whole we tend to take whatever is “typical” without really thinking it through for ourselves. A doctor says to take a med and we do it usually without much second thought. A lot of people don’t take the time to step back from the situation and educate themselves on side effects.
        I’m not saying that using an epidural is bad, and neither was Yana Shellman. She was just pointing out that our American society doesn’t think about what we put in ourselves and how it can alter us.
        An epidural worked for you, and I am very glad for that. Natural birthing worked for her, and I am very glad for that. Each person has the right to do what they feel is best for themselves regardless of what anyone else thinks.
        There is no reason to get heated 🙂

  77. Interesting article. I did get warnings about epidurals, so maybe things have changed a lot over the years. My oldest is 28. It was a long, hard labor and I begged for an epidural somewhere during the course of the labor. I wasn’t dilating, so the doctor wouldn’t give it. When I finally got far enough, after 17 hours of hard labor (my first was indeed my hardest labor), my doctor finally agreed to an epidural. It was such a relief, but my son arrived within the hour. My second son was a simple, quick labor with no anesthesia. My 3rd, a daughter, was again, a longer, harder labor, and I did get an epidural. I did retain quite a bit of fluid for several days after her birth that may have been due to the IV fluids necessary for the epidural. My 4th, also a daughter was my first midwife birth. It was a new program at our hospital at that time, and near the end, I asked for an epidural. I tried to get through the pain, but in the end, wanted the help. Interestingly enough, that time the epidural just took on one side of my body, so I could feel contractions only on the other side. She was fine. I’m not done though, lol. At the age of 39 I became pregnant for a 5th time, and halfway through, found out I was carrying twins. An older mom expecting twins made me high risk, and I was monitored for the rest of the pregnancy. I went into labor with them at 35.5 weeks, but one baby was sideways and the other was breech. My doctor let me labor for about 6 or 7 hours, and then suggested a c-section. I agreed, and then faced an anesthesiologist insisting I have a spinal. At that point, I’d had 3 epidurals with no real issues, and a spinal scared me. Frankly, it was the headache that worries me. It’s probably not the wisest thing for an anesthesiologist to go toe to toe with a woman in labor, especially a woman in labor with twins. We literally argued until my doctor walked in. He told the anesthesiologist that I was the patient and if I wanted an epidural, that was what I’d get 🙂 no oleo let after that one either, but I am thankful that I had doctors who informed me of side effects and risks. I just wonder why they don’t do that anymore? Btw, my twins are now healthy 15yo boys.

    • That was supposed to say no *trouble* after that one, lol…not sure how spellcheck came up with *oleo* 🙂

  78. Another side efect is the back pain. I didnt have a back pain during my pregnancy, untill the last 3 days as baby was OP..
    I didnt want an epidural and wanted a natural birth..
    When ny water broke i havent slept for 2 nights as the OP Position of my baby was giving me back pain.. i didnt have any contractions untill next morning, I tried for a natural birth and got to 9cm.. I was exhausted and didnt progess more than that.. Got an epidural in the evening and ended up in a C section as my contractions slow down, baby hearth rate was dropping with every contraction, plus she was OP and my water broke at that point 30 hours before…

  79. I was horrified to discover while studying nursing that bed sores are also a risk of epidurals. It only takes 20mins for one to start.

    • Very true. With the numbness you don’t feel the pressure on your bony prominences. This is why it’s easier for paraplegics and quadriplegics to develop pressure ulcers; they can’t feel it.

    • Pressure areas can easily be avoided by changing the position of a pillow from one side of your body to the other. Easy Nurses are very well trained in avoiding pressure areas in patients with limited mobility.

  80. What about epidural headaches and the chance of anesthesia only taking on one side of the body? These are REAL possible “side effects” — or as the mothers who experience them might call them “possible effects” — of epidurals. I have personally witnessed several mothers who had epidural headaches that lasted several days postpartum, which is a distressing way to spend the first days of a baby’s life.

    • Occasionally women who receive epidurals become paralyzed from the waist down – huge price to pay for pain relief!

      • I have worked in high risk LDR for 34 years, and the amount of BS I see here is appalling. The paralysis comment is especially maddening! Do your anatomy. Where does the spinal cord end? And where is an epidural get put it? Now, tell me how an epidural can paralyze you if A-you are never IN the spinal canal but in the epidural space, and B-the cord ends way above the place they put in an epidural. A lot of this disinformation comes from people who “heard this about somebody who knew somebody who knew somebody’s sister’s best friend’s cousin” type of scenario. I have taken care of THOUSANDS of patients with epidurals. THOUSANDS. I think I would know about this more than you, oh one who is spreading rumors. I have taken care of unmedicated mothers and mothers who choose anesthesia. Who are you to judge another woman’s choices? And be aware that every patient gets “informed consent” about what can happen with an epidural – IT’S THE LAW.

        • Exactly right!! Once again it comes down to people sharing information without the appropriate level of education. Misinformation gets shared and shared leading to fear. It’s infuriafing and so unfair on women. It makes it so hard to form an opinion that’s based on true evidence and true information.

    • My mom had epidurals with all four of us kids, and each was different. I was a c-section because I was breech. My next brother she had back labor for 24 hours before being admitted to the hospital, and her epidural left her with a huge headache. Brother 2 she had pico. because he was late. Her epidural only worked on one side, and not the side on which she ripped. The last brother she ended up with nerve damage in her feet plus the epidural didn’t work and she had to be stuck twice for that one. That being said she doesn’t regret getting them, but it makes me more likely to attempt natural birthing.

      • Hi, I too am experiencing nerve damage – did she ever resolve her feet? Did she have low back pain? Can you tell me any more info please? Thanks. JS

    • I experienced this first hand in my family. My mom didn’t have epidurals with me or my brother, but she experienced a “later-in-life” pregnancy when I was 12 (1999). She decided to get an epidural, and the after effects were awful. She was numb in her right back/leg for months and to this day has a spot about the size of a fist on her right back that is numb.

  81. You obviously didn’t even read the post in its entirety. Did she once say you were less of a mother for having an epidural? If you read until the end, she even explained some benefits of epidurals, making the post show both sides. If you are going to have an opinion, at least take the time to actually read the post first.

    • AGREED! She is not bashing anyone..just giving some info! I enjoyed the article and it gave me a lot to think about!

  82. Libby, as a student midwife (in my final year) I can tell you everything in this article is true. I don’t know what country the author is from but here in Australia all this information is given both antinatally and during the birth if a epidural is requested. While it is possible to have natural vaginal births following epidurals, if a block is good it can be hard and everything said above is true. I know America is very medicalised and doctors tend to push things like epidurals so it’s very different for me reading this as 90% of our births are led by midwives not doctors and we push as much as is safe for a natural birth but these issues are very real for epidural babies. Tje only issue I have with this article is it comes across as scare mongering. You can give this information without being so rash and abrasive.

  83. I don’t see the possible side affects if the needle placement addressed.
    I suffer sciatica due to my only epidural. =/

  84. FYI, Your introduction claiming not to be judgmental ultimately rings a wee bit false when you end your rant with name calling and ad hominem attacks.

    I would argue that yes, some women need, and more importantly, want a class on natural birth so they know what to expect and what their options are. For information on all of the medical options available you have the hospital to speak with and it’s definitely useful for some families to have the flip side of that coin to explore. If this is not something that interests you, quite simply, do not participate.

    And considering this is Mama Natural’s blog, she is in her own space and minding her own affairs, you are choosing to be here and choosing to read.

  85. Why waste your time, at 3:40 a.m. no less, to belittle someone with strong convictions-regardless of their sourcing? You’ve obviously spent a good deal of time on this blog. If it wasn’t to open your mind to another point of view, then why not spend your time connecting online with those whose views more closely align with yours? Don’t let your own insecurities put others down. Love yourself and love others!

  86. I was in labor for a total of 37 hours, and around hour 32 I asked for an epidural. When I got it, I was only 5 cm, and looking back, that’s what solidified my decision. I told the anesthesiologist that I loved him after he put the needle in. And I really meant it-if I saw him on the street today I would give him a big hug. I was also able to pull my baby out myself, which is something I will never forget. Advice to mamas-when figuring out your birth plan get a doula!!! And have a few things in mind that you want during the birth so if something doesn’t go the way you planned, you can go down the list and pick something else: eg: no pain meds, that didn’t happen, so then I knew I would pull baby out.
    Even though it turned out differently, I wouldn’t change a thing. I didn’t have negative side effects afterwards and really enjoyed giving birth to him. I’ll tell my birth story to anyone who asks in a positive way, to hopefully give new mamas hope that it can still turn out to be a wonderful experience, even if things change along the way. Kind of like parenthood…:-)

  87. I had an epidural with my first because my labor pattern wasn’t consistent and after 4 hours of pitocen I needed relief. I ended up with a c/s. I went on to have two HBAC’s (never had a consistent labor pattern until second stage of labor when I was breathing them down), I swore I would never get an epidural again the experience was traumatic and I had pain in the injection site for *years*. Then I had #4…we opted to induce via AROM at the hospital, I had been laboring for days (2-10minutes apart) and my belly was rock hard for hours at a tjme. I was feeling concerned about him, I felt like he was ok, but he wouldn’t be if I had him do any more days of this. I also felt like if some of the amniotic fluid was out of his way my uterus could really start pushing him down and out. Boy did it! I had an awesome every 2-3 minute pattern going! Within an hour of breaking my water they were hard work….after 9hours they were triple peaking and I was not handling them well, after 3 hours of that I demanded an epidural. 2 hours of the epidural and I got a nap and he came out ear first (like my others, stinker of platypoid shaped pelvis) in 3 pushes. 🙂 that epidural saved the birth experience. I was able to gather myself and rest and not greet him in that fight of flight panic “just make it end” in which I’m not super thrilled to meet my baby (btdt, awful feeling).

  88. When I had my son, everything kicked off with my water breaking in the morning. I went to the Midwife for a checkup and to see when we would be leaving for the birthing center, only to find that I had heavy meconium staining and would need to birth in the hospital so they could monitor the baby. This being my first, and not knowing much about meconium issues, I was very scared. My husband was scared as well, and on top of it all we had just gone through some very painful and dramatic family issues that resulted in a severance of relationships. My husband was also working on a huge project for work at the time and had to bring his computer into the L&D (not the kind of support I was hoping for). It all seemed like a giant whirlwind. I labored for 10 hours – birthing ball, walking, hot tub, etc. but towards the end I just couldn’t hold it together mentally. The pain started becoming very emotional and after being the hot tub for about 10 minutes, I asked for the epidural. I really wanted to birth without it, but it became necessary for me, in large part I believe because of all the other stresses weighing on my mind at the time. After receiving the epidural, I calmed down right away and dilated another 2 inches. 2 hours later it was time to push, and he was out within 3 pushes, screaming his beautiful head off! I was so glad I had the medication because I was truly able to enjoy my birthing experience and seeing him being born was the most amazing thing. He scored perfect on his APGAR and nursed right away. We nursed for a total of 15 months without any issues whatsoever, only stopping because I became pregnant again (due in 9 weeks!) I truly don’t regret my decision and wouldn’t trade my experience for anything.

  89. I had three boys without an epidural!

    Mostly, the thought of a needle going into my spine freaks me out way more than giving birth to a baby! Also, I know someone who had an epidural and it numbed the entire left side of her body. It was a medical emergency and she had to have a c section because of it. Scary stuff!

    I think everyone interprets pain differently, and some need pain relief more than others. With all three of my deliveries, a nurse would always tell me that red heads (I have red hair) feel pain much differently (generally less pain) than other people. I used a lot of meditation to get through my first delivery (I felt the most pain with my first) and the use of a focal point really helped as well.

    My first, Desmond (8 lb 10 oz), was a 10 hour intense labor. I broke down about 8.5 hours in and asked for fentanyl. It really did take the edge off and it gave me the strength I needed to continue on. I realize now that I was transitioning and entering the third stage of labor. I pushed for 45 minutes and he was born! He was sunny side up and his head was in the 100th percentile! I did not get an episiotomy and I didn’t tear! I was very low on iron though and I fainted twice after I had him.

    My second, Bergen (9 lb 3 oz), was only about 4 hours of labor and I requested fentanyl. They didn’t check me before they gave it to me and I felt an enormous urge to push only acouple minutes later! then the nurse checked me and his head was almost out. The nurses delivered him and he was out in one push! I felt so amazing after I had him and I had so much energy. I really did feel incredible and I was in mama heaven!

    My third son, Hollis (8 lb 5 oz) was born only 12 days ago! My labor was very easy, I didn’t even feel the contractions. At my 38 week appointment they wanted to moniter the baby for a little bit because he was moving around so much his heart rate was 200 bpm! While they were monitoring me, I started having regular contractions that were two to three minutes apart. My doctor had me come back in a few hours to be checked again to see if the contractions were doing anything, and I had progressed from 2 to 4 cm in only 2 hours! I got admitted and I had very low pain contractions and only had about one to two hours of contractions that I felt. I pushed for only 4 minutes and he was born!

    • Hi Kelsey! Your labors sounded great. I am anxiously awaiting my baby boy any day now and I am planning on a natural birth. I’ve been mentally and physically preparing since I found out I was pregnant! I also hired a doula and my OBs and hospital are very accommodating to my wishes, although not a midwife birthing center or anything. I have a good team surrounding me. My question for you is- did you mentally or physically prepare in any way before you had all of your babies? Exercise? Birth ball? Dates or Red Raspberry Leaf Tea? Anything else to have such short labors? Thanks!

  90. I have had three epidurals and none of the above happened! I don’t think the effects you are describing are very common as it is related ONLY to epidurals, it sounds kind of like someone who hasn’t experienced something but is trying to find something wrong with it. Not a whole lot of facts. I wish there was much more to this article!

    • Actually everything on here is very factual and you’d be surprised by how common these complications are…I think it’s something like 60% of epidurals lead to csection here in au. (I’m a final year student midwife btw)

    • Same here! They latched after birth immediately. I could walk after birth and had no tears with each baby. Lol

  91. I had an epidural with both daughters. Both labors were fast and hard. In both instances I was able to move everything and walk with the epi. Both times my labors were fast (6 and 5 hours). I could still feel contractions and push effectively. I was up and walking literally minutes after giving birth. Both babies were perfectly healthy and I even left after 24 hours with my second. Having a baby naturally is having a vaginal birth. I hate how the term “natural birth” has evolved into a term to describe non-medicated births.

  92. I had 6 babies. No epidurals. All natural births In the hospital. I’m not gonna say it wasn’t pain free, but it was worth it. I don’t regret not taking any. God made my body to give birth naturally…and that’s what I did! Just my humble opinion.:))

  93. I tried to go natural with my first baby. After 15 hours, I stalled out on progressing. I was so exhausted, I started passing out between contractions. I got an epidural at 16 hours, slept for 45 minutes and woke up ready to push. I could still feel quite a bit, but the epidural definitely took the edge off. I pushed for 15 minutes, and did end up with an episiotomy because my son had a HUGE head. The epidural was wearing off by the time they started stitching me up. I was still super exhausted and could hardly hold my little guy. I was able to get up and use the restroom within the hour.
    With my second baby, I planned to get an epidural when I started to get tired so that I could rest a little and be up to spending time with my baby. I held off as long as possible with the help of fetenol. 8 hours in, I received the epidural. I slept for an hour. My blood pressure dropped really low and I ended up on oxygen. The epidural seemed a bit heavier that time. I don’t know if they use different amounts of medication (?). I still was able to feel when I was ready to push. I pushed twice and baby was out before the pediatric nurse even made it into the room. She was soooo much smaller than my boy. I was able to hold her and had an hour of skin to skin time immediately. It took me about an hour to be up to getting out of bed. And I was super itchy for a few hours.
    For me, I was very anti epidural with my first baby, but I think because I am naturally a very tense person, I needed it to relax me enough to finish dilating. Either way, I’m glad I did it in both occasions.
    With both babies we induced early: the first because he was so large, we induced at 39 weeks; The second because for some reason I was VERY low on amniotic fluid and after trying to rehydrate, we just couldn’t keep enough in there. We induced at 37 weeks. Both babies are happy, healthy, and a huge blessing to me!

  94. I’ve had four children. My first was waaaay before my “natural” days, and I absolutely planned to get an epidural. I was in labor for 17.5 hours- seven of them in hospital- but the hospital had so many women that I did not get my epidural until about half an hour before I started pushing. I felt so much better; still felt a lot of the pain and could move my legs, and was able to push out my daughter in about 20 minutes in a very relaxed positive way with the coaching of a midwife. I held her and nursed her immediately and was able to get up and go to the bathroom without help and I felt awesome even though I hadn’t slept in 48 hours. With my second, we had moved to a different state and I was seeing an ob-gyn. I waited at home about two hours after labor started and then we went to the hospital. After trying the elevator and service elevator which were BOTH BROKEN we got up the stairs to the maternity ward. I wanted another epidural and got it about 20 minutes after getting there- and they gave me pitocin without asking at that point (!!!!). I felt incredibly nauseous and horrible the whole time and then my blood pressure was plummeting so had to have an oxygen mask. While all this was going on, I was really wanting to push. I started pushing as soon as possible and delivered my son within an hour of arriving. I didn’t even think that I felt the effects of the epidural because I was in so much pain and started pushing right away. Afterwards, I still felt so sick and miserable. I could feel the stitches as they did them, they had to whisk my son away because the cord was wrapped tightly around his neck and waist, and they were flipping me from side to side because I felt like passing out and my blood pressure was dropping again. The whole thing was a chaotic mess. So for my third I decided I would go natural all the way, albeit at a hospital. My ob-gyn wasn’t very helpful so I transferred to a group of midwives. I wasn’t afraid at all, and since I had watched “Orgasmic Birth” I was looking forward to how incredible I would feel. I also thought I had experienced labor without the epidural kicking in- so I could handle it! When labor started we got to the hospital right away. Labor was intense from the get-go, and I labored in the tub for about twenty minutes- which I actually hated. I wanted to get back to the bed, and at the point I could barely make it. I then wanted to try pushing on my hands and knees, which was excruciating and made me want to puke. I also got a bad cramp in my calf. So I struggled around to sitting up on the bed and holding my one knee up to my chest while the midwife massaged my calf and I pushed. It seemed to take so long, and I literally felt like my whole body was on fire and ripping open. I have never sweat so much in my life. It seemed to last an eternity, but I got my son out in about 10 minutes. I was so hot and weak that when they put him on my chest I thought he was going to fall and all I could say was, “Get him off me!!” I was so limp and exhausted they really had to push me (ha!) to get the placenta out. My legs were so weak that I couldn’t walk without help for several hours. I couldn’t pee for hours. I had black eyes from pushing. So fourth time around- epidural! My water broke at home right before lunch time, went to the hospital around eight at night, got an epidural around 10 right after I was starting to have the really bad contractions, and napped and hung out with my husband and aunt, who joked that it was like being at a sleep-over. Where someone has a baby. I could still feel a lot and knew when it was time to push. Just the midwife and a pediatric nurse were there, and once I again I felt relaxed and peaceful as I was able to push my daughter gently out into the world and my arms, where she nursed like a champ. I was able to get up and felt strong. It was beautiful. Now I am pregnant with my fifth, and I go back and forth because in almost every respect I am a “natural mama” but my natural birth left me feeling so weak I couldn’t even care for my babe right away and it terrified me. I didn’t feel incredible or good about myself. I never hear anyone ever say that they regretted natural birth, but just wanted to throw it out there that every person is different. Every birth is different. My most positive experiences have been with midwives and an epidural, where I felt very present and peaceful. And now my novel is complete. 🙂

    • Damn! That was an interesting story! You’re definitely a warrior! I wish you the best on your fifth pregnancy 🙂 I’m preggy myself hehe

      • Thanks for the warrior comment! I sure don’t feel like one. Congrats on your pregnancy and I hope it’s going well!

    • I’ve had 5 children 1natural and 4 with epidurals I had the worst natural birth and always recommend epidurals!

  95. While I appreciate the attempt to offer a non-judgmental description of what can happen after receiving an epidural, I’m afraid I found this article to be full of judgment and misinformation. The vast majority of this post describes all the reasons that not only can epidural lead to a C-section, but that a C-section is the ultimate negative consequence of receiving pain medication. If that isn’t judgmental, I don’t know what is! Any mother who safely births a baby by any means should not be made to feel like their delivery experience is a negative result of whatever came beforehand.
    Secondly, serious misinformation: epidurals do not cause babies to be posterior!!! When babies are posterior, back labor can be absolutely excruciating, and mothers are far more likely to request epidurals in the first place. Not everyone understands that they’re experiencing back labor, especially first time moms. Additionally, an epidural is not at ALL guaranteed to deal with pain from back labor – it is meant to deal with labor when the baby is more optimally situated. This means that a woman can experience back labor, request an epidural, be put on pitocin (very standard practice), find that the epidural isn’t working, and, have to deal with pitocin contractions. Of course the number of babies born vaginally would be fewer in this case – this is far from an optimal situation, but it is common. This kind of misinformation on such a public platform is extremely frustrating.

    • What about the fact that the epidural requires you to stay in a reclined state, which DEFINITELY does cause babies to flip posterior much more often than a laboring woman who is upright and moving around?

      • I was able to sit straight up after I had my epidural. Hell the nurses even helped me sit Indian style.

      • I had an epidural and pitocin labor. My son didn’t flip at all. He was healthy and came out just fine. I wasn’t forced to stay in a recline position, I was allowed to move around.

      • I am a L&D nurse, and one of the (several) statements I found most disturbing was that you have to lie flat on your back with an epidural. We absolutely do not do this! True you have to have continuous monitoring and can’t walk, but we are constantly changing positions with our patients and with any signs of an OP baby we get them on their hands and knees, which is what you do without an epidural as well. Good nursing staff that does their job will work ferociously to ensure optimal positioning.
        I personally had a horrible epidural/cesarean experience with my first, VBAC’d the next 3 without any pain medication or epidural so I very much support natural labor/birth, but the honest truth is very few women are prepared for childbirth, most are honestly quite afraid. Epidurals are very good for these women.

        • I had an epidural with my daughter ten years ago, and was on my back the whole time, reclined at the end so I wasn’t completely flat. Never once was I moved into a different position by nurses. Ahead of time my midwife had told me that without an episiotomy I would horribly tear, so I very enthusiastically asked for one based on crummy information. I was not informed of any possible side effects for me or baby. My legs were itchy for hours, I was unable to get up out of bed for hours. The experience wasn’t really a bad one, but my natural birth was far more satisfying.
          My sister didn’t want to feel any pain at all and asked for an epidural immediately. She was on her back with both of hers, in a reclined position, and was never moved from one position to another. With one of her two labors they had her push for hours trying to get baby to descend, she was exhausted. With her first she was in horrible pain for weeks after the delivery and had to stay on heavy pain killers.
          It sounds like you have an amazing labor and delivery ward, but unfortunately that is not the case everywhere

  96. I appreciate the vast experience represented by the comments. I think the comments represent the truth that every body will react differently to medication and every situation calls for an educated decision! I chose not to have a medicated birth with my first (and so far, only) child. I would plan to go unmedicated again – if possible. However, I had an experience that seemed terrible, though if I remove my own expectations and emotions from it, everything went “smoothly” and I had a very healthy, alert baby! I was 16 days overdue, had 2 days of “early latent labor” = no sleep or even ability to lie down b/c all of the pain was in my rectum – (NOT expecting that!), was so sore from being tense during labor that my muscles hurt everywhere for weeks – even holding my water bottle was heavy, much less my 8# baby, nursing began very well, but only a month into it I lost my supply and could not recover it, and had a significant tear that took weeks to recover from. I am thankful that once my body kicked into active labor, I had my baby in 9 hours. Only 47 minutes spent pushing, though I wish now that my midwife had slowed me down a little to prevent or minimize the tear. I realized after the fact, that I did not have the support system I needed. My midwife practiced in a hospital, so she was more present than an OB, but not with me like a traditional midwife would be. She knew exactly what to do every time she was there. I wished she would have stayed b/c I could not tell my husband what would help me (b/c I did not know – but she did!). I plan to birth in a birth center with a tradition midwife if God gives us another child. I will also get the book Mamanatural has recommended to help me “repair” my past experience and have hope for a better future experience!

  97. I had wonderful experiences with both births and used epidurals for both. I think you’re article is misinformed, and bias towards the fact you chose not to have one. That’s lovely that you could do without but you shouldn’t scare mothers off from having one, they have enough to fear during childbirth. In both my births my babies were not in the correct position and had I not had the epidural I would not have been able to give birth naturally. My first labour was 33 hours and I was 10 days over, with unbearable back labor, I went through 3 shifts of midwives and doctors and in the end the epidural allowed me to relax enough for my baby to be born in the right position. My second birth was similar but went for 16 hours, and 7 days over. I was able breastfeed from the get-go no problems at all. All births and mothers are different and modern medicine has enabled the survival rate of both to far exceed those from the olden days.

    • I also had an epidural after 12 hours if natural labor… I simply did not dilate and was exhausted since I was up for over 24 hours. After getting an epidural I was able to sleep. During my sleep my body did what it needed, my water broke and a couple hours later I was 10 cm. I turned down the epidural and “labored down” for 2 hours before pushing. I felt everything, pain, burning and a wave of the most amazing emotion when I saw my baby for the first time! I was able to get up and go to the bathroom as soon as I was checked over and got one or two stitches. It was the most amazing experience and I am greatful that I avoided a c-section.

      • I forgot one to say my baby’s a page score was 9 and 9!

    • She mentions in the article that she TRIED to get an epidural but she was too far along. So i don’t think it’s biased “because she chose not to” as you mention.

  98. Hi. The article brings up some very good points but also there is some mid leading information as well. Women should have all the correct facts when making their own informed decision. Perhaps using current research would be more appropriate. Your article from the 80’s about epidural causing increase Caesars has been disproved many times. There was a cochrane database review in 2011 that showed there was no significant difference in ceasar rates between those that used an epidural against all other types of analgesia. It also showed no impact on baby as determined by apgars. There was a significant effect on the need for an instrumental delivery. This type of review is the latest and best research that should be used when presenting these articles.
    Epidural versus non-epidural or no analgesia in labour.
    AU – Anim-Somuah M, Smyth RM, Jones L
    SO – Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2

  99. I unfortunately was given one because of pitocin (I was yelled at and said I wasn’t handling labor very well). It was so painful going in and I could feel the meds burning all the way down to one side of my leg. The medication didn’t work to relieve any of the pain from the pitocin, but just made my right leg numb. It was awful. I’m so thankful I was able to push normally (my second baby) and feel all of that. Later on, my leg was still devoid of feeling and I fell onto the floor, and the nurse got yelled at by the doctor, meanwhile I cried because I hated the way my body still felt all those hours later. I am also thankful that I was able to breastfeed my daughter right away, and she nursed like a champ and was alert despite the meds. All I could think to do was chug gallons of water and nursing mother’s tea in order to rid everything out of my system. Weeks later I was hospitalized with severe swelling in my right leg. They said there was no correlation, but I think there was. I warned my sister about this who just had a baby two weeks ago, she requested a midwife at the hospital and went with out meds. My other friends have all had one, and they did great… but I never wanted one to begin with and now know what it’s like with and without.

    • I had almost exactly the same experience during my first labor. I was induced and got an epidural after being told I wasn’t allowed to leave the bed (laying down made the pain unbearable). Like you, I had no pain relief at all, just a numb leg. Turns out the catheter had moved/fallen out of place and I was laboring for about 3 hours before they discovered the problem. The anesthesiologist had to do another procedure, with did relieve some pain (maybe 50%), and by the time that worked I was ready to push, so the whole ordeal was basically useless.

      I would also add fluid retention/ extreme swelling to the list of possible issues. I had horrible lower extremity swelling from the IV fluids they used to stabilize my blood pressure during the two procedures. My breasts were also abnormally engorged from the fluids which made breastfeeding super painful. I just had my second child in November, completely intervention free. I even refused the IV fluids and instead promised to chug water during my labor to prevent dehydration. I had zero swelling issues and felt much better postpartum than with my first.

  100. I was given some information but not all of this! It’s good to know- however, I usually go to the hospital with no birth plan at all & just wait to see how the baby does & progression etc. I have 2 kids exactly 2 yrs apart, my first epidural was at 8 cm & did not slow down my labor.. I pushed 3.5 hrs but baby was stuck above my pelvic bone & wouldn’t budge the whole time I pushed. They just upped the epi for my c-section which was very pleasant & even after waiting through recovery etc to see my baby, he nursed great & went on to nurse well over a year. Neither of us had any issues. My 2nd was born VBAC & my body was pushing on its own before the anesthesiologist came in. They still have me an epidural anyway at 10 cm (which is a no no I think) to ease my pain but I was ready for it!! (they work instantly on me for some reason) & I pushed out a 8.12 oz baby girl in 8 pushes. Both very pleasant experiences with epidurals.. No side effects & she went on to nurse almost 2 years. I think every case is obviously different, things can happen for sure, it’s nice to be educated but even then some may not even experience one single point other than I was a little worried about the needle missing the mark! Lots of prayer & faith got me through my birth stories. I plan to see how the next one goes & keep these things in mind:)

  101. I got the first step of 2 of induction, cervadil. I was a week past due and the cervadil put me into labor but I was not dilated enoufh. They wanted to give me another dose but I decided to just wait and see what happend. After 4 days of full blown labor, contractions every 5 to 7 minutes for the first 3 days then the last 2 days they were 3-5 min apart and I couldn’t even walk or talk through. The 5th night I couldn’t take it n went back to hospital at 11pm. I waited and waited I was still 9nly 7cm at 7 am and hadn’t slept in 6 days or ate in 2 and was completly exhausted. Going in I decided I didn’t want epidural but th w nurse talked me into it after explaining that I didn’t have the energy to give birth I needed to get some rest before it all happend there were risk of me passing out ect so I decided to get it around 11am and thank god! It was amazing I got a little break and they wouldn’t let me eat but I got a 20 min nap in and was good to go I had my son at 2:12pm and it was amazing. Now this was my first child so thank god I didn’t know any better I didn’t know that it was really rare to be in labor for so long but I guess I took n it like a champ. If I ever have more kids I will plan more and make sure I eat and sleep before hand as much as I can to avoid it bc I am very pro natural everything I dint even like to take tylenol still done but the epidural was a life saver I truly think that it was necesary in my situation

    • And 8th was very hard for them to give it to me being in full labor we had to stop twice for contractions in the 5 min it took to put it in. He couldn’t stop but I had to hold completly still in an akward position through the contractions that was hard! And once he got it in but before they finished he got Calle out of the room for like 2 min so I had to keep holding stoll until he came back I was so pissed but it all worked out just weird circumstances

  102. The only reason I never considered an epidural is solely on the basis that someone is messing with my spinal cord. People make mistakes, especially medical, and your spinal column is essential for everyday, healthy movement- we all know this. I kinda relish having feeling in my extremities so, messing with that was a big no go.

  103. Love the information. I am pregnant with my second. My first baby was natural, no meds, fast labor. I honestly think the epidermal just makes it hurt worse. When I watched my sister give birth it was terrible how much pain she had and how long it took. She got the epidermal and her contractions slowed practically to a stop. Soooo glad I chose no meds. It hurts, but it us still somehow more bearable. And way faster. No complications.

  104. When one has 2 go through 9 mths of pregnancy d last thing a woman has to ask herself is it worth going through hrs of pain? The last thing we dont to n suffer d consequences of not making d righf choice. It all about maturity n havings self sacrificing love for our baby a mother will bear d excruciating pain of labor. It is better to gi through d pain n hv a gd conscience! I am a mother of one ! 30 yrs ago i was screaming so much refusing to have epidural injection n went through 16 hrs of pain. Honestly it was unbearable n not having my husband to comfort me by d bed side. Another thing though d likelihood of being half paralyze from d waist down is rare i dont want to take d risk too!No heart feeling just stating d FACT OF LIFE!

  105. I had an epidural done as my baby had changed potions and wasn’t able to be turned which meant unfortunately I had to have a C-section done which meant that I had changed my birthing plan. My original plan was a natural birth as this was my first pregnancy.

  106. For my first birth (in a hospital), I had done the research, and epidural was one of the things i didn’t want. Come to the labor, though, with external factors exacerbating the pain, I begged for one. My midwife however, suggested fentanyl, which they described as a big tylenol. That did the trick, I was able to handle the remainder of the pain just fine. I really wish that in my research i had found that there were viable alternatives, so women suchas myself didn’t think it’s only a choice between epidurals and suck-it-up-buttercup (masked in a list of hands-on ways to deal with labor).

    • I am really grateful that my midwife had the knowledge, presence of mind, and desire to help and care for me. If it was a typical ObGyn, i’m sure an epidural would have been given without further consultation. I wonder how many epidurals would have been avoided had more women known it’s not all or nothing. I wish epidurals weren’t presented as the only option.

  107. I have 4 children and their births were all different. My first I was induced due to preeclampsia. I was fine with the contractions but terrified of pushing so I got a spinal block at the end of my labor and regretted it tremendously. I was vomiting from the moment they injected the medication and was still vomiting after she was born, so much so that I was bleeding heavily. I received a shot in the butt and medication in my iv that knocked me out for about 4 hrs. I wish I’d never gotten it. My boys who were #2 and #3 were completely natural births and it was great. No pushing with either of them. My 4th ended up being worse than my first. Even though I had a bad experience with the spinal block I chose to get an epidural with my 4th because my labor seemed to be progressing slowly unlike my second and third and just didn’t want to endure the pain for hrs. Needless to say it was terrible. As soon as I got the epidural my blood pressure dropped and so did babies heart rate. I was tossed and turned from side to side once my blood pressure came back up with medication. I had oxygen on and was then told to get on my knees with my head down and chin to my chest while many Dr’s and nurses viewed my lady parts while they inserted a catheter. There were so many people in the room at that point as they were ready to rush me to do an emergency c section. Just as the dr have the go ahead for c section her heart rate came back up and was normal thank God. I did deliver vaginally but was so close to c section. I was not educated at all about the epidural and wished I had never chosen it. I guess they assumed since it was my 4th that I knew all about it. I also have some back pain that i didn’t have before the epidural. I would suggest a natural birth if at all possible.

  108. My doctor went over pros and cons during final prenatal care visits. I made the choice to keep it natural because I didn’t want any drugs put into my body or baby. I focused on breathing and used the pain to direct the birth. First child 4.5 hours and second was an hour. No complications. No regrets.

  109. I have had two children. During my first I got and epidural. It was painful and extremely uncomfortable. When it was placed, it felt like they hit a nerve. It has left me with back weakness and other complications. With my second I had a ‘spinal’ which isn’t much different. It was horrible. It hurt almost more than giving birth and the person who did my ‘spinal’ kept having to move it because he “couldn’t find it”. It was extraordinarily painful.

  110. I completely understand where you are coming from. However I’m the mom that had and epidural to save my self from not have a car sextion. I had preclampsya. My blood pressure was out of this word. I was given I’ve drugs to help it which called for a catheter. Which I absolutely hated might I add. I would have been much happier getting that after the epidural. Anyway I’m getting off subject I had the epidural to calm me down so I could try and calm down blood pressure. Thankfully it worked. But my labor wasn’t long granted that’s cause I was induced. I pushed my daughter out if 10 mins max. I’m extremely thankful for my epidural and my doctor for educating me. Safe to say I’ll have one again. I myself shut down when I feel insane amounts of pain my body can’t take it due to injuries I had as a child.

  111. All of those negative “side effects” happened to me (no c-sec but close)! My LO was a week late & didn’t score well enough on the fetal stress test for me to go to the birth center like we’d planned. Doc broke my water, and I lasted til 7 cm before getting an epi. The break was wonderful, yes, but I would have not done it in retrospect. It slowed my labor way down, had to get pitocin, catheter, etc., and I pushed for 4-1/2 hrs on my back with extreme rectal pain for the last half, then finally asked that they use suction because I couldn’t push anymore. I didn’t want forceps used at all but I just needed someone to pull on the other end to help get him out! I had a 2nd or 3rd degree tear and the only nice thing about being in the hospital was 3 days of food, a movable bed, & pain meds. Otherwise it was horrible (the doc & staff were great though). And it took me 3 months to heal and 3 months for nursing to stop hurting. I also couldn’t nurse right away bc of being exhausted, LO wasn’t strong enough to suck, and it was night so there was no lactation consultant until morning. Thankfully we stuck with it anyway. So with baby #2, due July, I’m going back to the birth center!

  112. I want to send this to every person I know. So many people think I am “crazy” for having my children naturally. Umm… Pretty sure everyone had their children naturally back then. This is not that big of a deal. Our bodies were made for this!

  113. Great article. My OB’s never told me any of these possible risks. If I had been properly educated, I may have stayed determined to have natural births, and not have had my four c-sections. This is very important information. Thank you for this article.

  114. I’m a mom of 3. With my first I needed the epidural. I mentally needed it and I had 2 torn ligaments in my knee that were constantly keeping my body tense due to pain. With my second I fully planned on getting one but I ran out of time to get it after a dose of the IV pain relief medication. I was terrified but the doctor and my husband were fantastically helpful and supportive during labor and delivery. I liked that I seemed to recover more quickly so I planned just the IV pain relief for my third. My third didn’t quite work out as I had planned either. I had my water break in the parking lot of the hospital on the way in. There was no time to get hooked up to an IV, there wasn’t even time to fill out paperwork. I unintentionally had a completely natural birth with my youngest. My opinion: all three experiences were beautiful and just how they needed to be. Moms, don’t be ashamed one way or the other; you brought life into this world. That’s amazing. Who cares if you felt like you needed help with it. Follow your instincts, if you get an epidural okay, if you don’t okay, do what is best for you. 🙂 <3

    • Love this! Those 3rd babies are true wild cards!

  115. i took epidural because i had very long labor, i didn’t sleep for two days and knew i had to rest.didn’t regret it, but the labor was very hard and intense.

    • I would have too! As I said in post, epidurals can be life savers for moms with long labors who just need to REST.

    • Wonderful article! After watching ‘The Business of Being Born,’ I absolutely knew I wanted to avoid a C-section at all costs. Unfortunately my baby was in the occiput posterior position and I experienced two days of painful back labor. After my midwife and doula convinced me to transfer to a hospital to receive an epidural and pitocin, I gave in and felt like a failure.

      After receiving the walking epidural, I managed to sleep for two hours. If it weren’t for that nap, there was no way I would had the strength to push on my own. My water broke and 20 minutes later, my beautiful baby was born.

      Epidurals have their place in specific situations. I really, REALLY wish more women would educate themselves on such an important event in their life. We’re talking about lifelong effects on mommies and babies. Thanks again for the great information.

  116. I aimed for the Bradley method with my first and only baby girl but my husband failed to coach me properly (he actually fell asleep draped over my stomach at one point during my labor >:[ ) so 23 hours in and only 4 cm dialated the nurses threatened to cut me open if I couldn’t make my “natural” plan work.. I had no real trouble dealing with the pain of contractions, I just couldn’t relax. I started feeling like I had to push so badly, I fought it the best I could, which made me even more tense.. Finally I shouted for them to give me the blasted epidural. I had to go 45 mins before they could and I wish they would’ve checked me again before they actually did it but I had forgotten all about being natural at that point. They gave me the needle and 15 minutes and 3 pushes later my baby girl was in my arms and searching for my nips like a newborn kitten! She and I shook violently right after she was born, I don’t know if that was a side effect from the epidural or not. But she’s a year and a half now and terribly smart, and besides a bit of phantom back pain I’m fine too. My advice is avoid all pain meds and go for all natural but plan for it like it’s the Super Bowl and if you’ve got a sneaky suspicion your husband won’t be up for coaching, get someone who will be! But all that said, don’t be too yourself on yourself if you end up needing the epidural. Crap happens! It’s all in God’s hands anyway :]

    • My friend had a very similar experience. She just could NOT relax and that was affecting her progress. She got the epidural and BOOM, baby came. Like I say in the post, epidurals can actually prevent further complications in some cases!

  117. Awesome read with great info! I knew I wanted to avoid an epidural at all costs but my water broke in the middle of the night and we waited forever but no contractions due to baby’s head keeping the rest of the water from breaking. After waiting the max, I had to go to the hospital for my midwife to finish breaking the water and I received Pitocin where oddly enough, my baby and I labored pain medication free despite receiving Pitocin so even if Mother Nature throws a wrench in your birth plan, you can still go natural. 🙂 Love your posts!

    • Absolutely! I had Pitocin in the last part of my birth too and it gave me the power I needed to push baby out!

  118. I’m a mom of 4. I have had wonderful, intentional med free births, but with my final baby (born in November) I made the decision to have an epidural from the start. It was really REALLY great. Labor was short and I pushed her out with a laugh and we only stayed one night at the hospital. I left the hospital wondering why I ever chose not to get one, which is silly because I know my reasons not to were valid. Truthfully I really liked just being able to say that I had a medfree birth like it was a war story and I was the hero. I appreciate that I can connect with those who have opted for hospital pain management 🙂

    • I also don’t agree that most doctors don’t/won’t explain epidural side effects. My doctors and midwives explained it all and even gave more information than I was asking for. I have a hard time believing that others don’t as wel?

      • YAY! Glad your birth team talked to you about the side effects. Perhaps it was because midwives were involved.

        • You have to be kidding me?!?! You’re reason that she received adequate information is because midwives were involved?!?! I’d love to hear a midwife explain the actual risks and benefits of an epidural to me. It would likely sound like this article, filled with some truth but lots of misinformation and out of date references. Checking more up to date literature would show you that many claims you make here are incorrect. Ultimately epidurals are always elective, and the person who knows the most about the risks and benefits is the anesthesiologist. Even though the American trend is distrust of doctors, the majority of them want what is best for you and will answer questions if you have them.

          • Can you please post some up to date literature?

            As a nurse who is trying to move to l&D I will certainly love to hear more about recent research. I though she did a great job explaing the side effects. With the exception of not mentioning that neonates can have respiratory depression as a result of narcotics in the epidural (when epidural is given too close to the 2nd phase of labor) I think she did a great job summarizing a lot of the information I learned in nursing school.

          • In the hospital I worked in, and gave birth to my first in, the anesthesiologist didn’t talk to you at all; upon request, the nurses read the consent with the standard information or, if you had a MW, the midwife would go over it with you. The doc would come in, do the procedure, and leave. In fact, it was standard procedure at that hospital to have everyone sign an epidural consent upon admission, “just in case”, without any counsel really, which I felt was sloppy and irresponsible. So, while anesthesiologists may know the most about epidurals, the fact is, in most cases they are not the ones on the front lines informing the patients, that tends to fall on the nurses and MW’s. Especially, in the case of the second hospital I worked in, where there was one anesthesiologist assigned to L&D, per shift, for all routine epidurals.

          • EPIDURALS ARE NOT SAFE so what you are saying is Absolutely NOT correct Info. I had an epidural with my first and only child. I then began having bowel and bladder incontinence and severe pain. I had to get a van because of the trembling pain of putting my child in a car seat. Finally, 18 years later I got a diagnosis of the pain and bizarre symptoms I had been having since my child was born. Diagnosis: ARACHNOIDITIS CAUSED BY EPIDURAL INJECTION. I was warned I could get a terrible headache from the epidural…not an entire lifetime of severe, debilating pain that my husband and most doctors would dismiss as being in my head. It is real…look it up before having the epidural. 48 hours of painful labor is nothing compared to the risk of lifelong ARACHNOIDITIS

    • Agreed. I had 3 perfectly enjoyable labors and 3 beautiful kids using epidurals. This is just more jargon to make women/mom’s feel guilty about doing anything that makes life easier for them. It’s perfectly safe. Absolutely get an epidural! I literally enjoyed my entire stay at the hospital and was out in under 2 days and felt great.

      • Hmmm, not sure if you read my post, Libra. Glad you had such great birth experiences!

    • Oh, my doctors sure told me all the side effects they knew. I actually had to sign some paperwork that explained the whole procedure and all the side effects. It has a lot of scary information on it but I was in pain and wanted epidural so I signed it knowing that there can be complications.

  119. Great post! I planned a home birth for my second birth about a year ago. I obviously did not want any intervention, after ending up with a c section with my first child. Well, after 48 hours of excruciating back labor at home, I decided to transfer to the hospital to get an epidural. I was not at all what I wanted or planned, but I think it was what saved my VBAC! I was mentally and physically exhausted and knew if I was able to rest I still had a chance to birth naturally. So after about 12 hours of an epidural, with lots of break through contractions, I was able to achieve my VBAC with only 45 mins of pushing. After an induction/epidural/pit/csection with my first, I thought epidurals were the enemy, but I think I used it appropriately to have my VBAC. I’m very much hoping for a successful homebirth with any future children.

    • YES! This is exactly how they can be helpful. So glad you got your VBAC… sounds like you worked soooo hard! Xo

  120. I was not a natural mama with my first delivery but I just had my second boy with out an epidural or pain medication!!:) I have learned so much from you! 🙂 I really miss your weekly videos!!!!:(

    • Aw, thanks so much Charla! We’ll be back up with videos next week! XOXO

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