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What are the Pros and Cons of Birth with No Epidural?

By S. Frost
Updated May 17, 2024
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Childbirth with no epidural gives the woman a more natural experience in the delivery room. Such medical interventions for both mother and baby are generally not included in a natural childbirth. The lack of epidural pain management also means the woman experiences the full pain intensity of the birthing process. This causes some birthing women to feel distressed or out of control.

An epidural is a medical procedure and requires intervention and monitoring during labor and delivery. Skipping this form of pain relief might allow the woman to also avoid an IV, catheter, and constant fetal monitoring. She is also more free to move around, to find comfortable birthing positions for pain management, because she isn't connected to various machines. Women who forgo epidural pain management reduce the chances of needing drugs to increase the intensity of the contractions. The concept of fewer medical interventions appeals to many women.

A natural birth can give the mother more control during labor and delivery. She maintains sensation throughout the body, so she can feel what is happening and respond naturally to the birthing process. Labor with no epidural allows the woman to better feel the need to push, a sensation that some women with pain medication cannot feel. A natural birth might also give the woman a sense of empowerment or accomplishment because she was able to stay in control and manage her pain.

A woman who chooses a birth with no epidural still has options for pain management to relieve some of discomfort. She might use breathing, visualization, massage, or hypnosis during labor. A pool of water or a shower can provide relief for some birthing mothers. Others are aided by changing positions or sitting on a birthing ball. These natural options generally reduce the risk of side effects on the baby that could occur with pain medications.

There are some drawbacks to giving birth with no epidural. Pain associated with labor and delivery is intense and some women are not prepared to handle it. While she can control the pain with natural techniques, the pain does not actually go away like it does with an epidural. A long labor might wear down the mother because of the extended period of discomfort.

Birthing with no epidural, even for a short time, might also leave the mother feeling exhausted. She might feel emotionally drained or frustrated. Exhaustion can actually slow the labor process, especially if the woman is also feeling anxious. A woman who plans to have a natural birth might feel as if she failed if the pain becomes too intense. Weighing the pros and cons of natural childbirth helps a woman decide if it is a feasible option for her.

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