What to Know About Epidural Birth

Birth Options

Giving birth can and should be a beautiful experience. But the moment of delivery can be a worry for some women because of the anticipated pain and discomfort.

While many women choose to take an epidural (pain medication) to have a more comfortable delivery, many choose natural births. There is growing fear about the side effects of medicated deliveries and epidurals.

Discuss the options with your doctor or midwife to determine which method is best for you and your child. In the meantime, here are some of the most important points to consider:

When Is an Epidural Used?

What to expect during an epidural |  TheHealthSite.com

An epidural reduces pain in a specific area – i.e. the lower part of the body at birth. Women often choose epidurals. It is also sometimes a medical necessity if there are complications, such as those resulting in a cesarean delivery. An epidural takes about 10 minutes to insert and another 10 to 15 minutes to take effect. It is given through a tube through the spine.


The biggest benefit of an epidural is the potential for a painless delivery. You may still feel contractions, but the pain is significantly reduced. During a vaginal delivery, you are still aware of the birth and can move around.

An epidural is also necessary in a cesarean delivery to prevent a baby from being surgically removed from the womb. General anesthesia is also used in some cases when the mother is not awake during the procedure.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) also reports a 72 percent increase in the number of cesarean deliveries from 1997 to 2008, which may explain the persistent popularity of the epidural.

While some cesarean deliveries are preferable, most are necessary if a vaginal delivery is not possible. Vaginal birth after cesarean section is possible but not possible for all women.


Some risk factors of an epidural include:

  • backache and pain
  • headaches
  • persistent bleeding (from the puncture site)
  • fire
  • breathing difficulties
  • A drop in blood pressure, which can slow the baby’s heart rate

While such risks do exist, it is important to note that they are considered rare.

The inability of mothers to feel all the elements of birth with an epidural can also lead to a host of other problems, such as the increased risk of tearing during vaginal delivery.

The risks associated with a cesarean delivery need not be related to an epidural. Unlike natural births, these are surgeries, so recovery times are longer and there is a risk of infection. Cesarean deliveries are also linked to greater risk. These conditions are like childhood chronic diseases (including type 1 diabetes, asthma, and obesity).

What Is a ‘Normal Birth’?

The term “normal delivery” is often used to describe a drug-free vaginal delivery. It is also sometimes used to distinguish between a vaginal birth and a cesarean delivery.


Normal deliveries have grown in popularity due to concerns that epidurals might interfere with natural body responses to labor and delivery.

“Women want to be able to walk around without a machine, they want to stay at home as long as possible before going to the hospital, they don’t want to be disturbed or over-monitored, or they want to do a lot of cervical checks (if any) and use vibration to make immediate and uninterrupted skin contact with their newborn and cut the cord. They want to wait until they stop. ”

Mothers have the right to choose normal birth in hospitals.


There are several serious risks associated with normal births. Risks usually arise if the mother has a medical problem or if a problem is preventing the baby from passing naturally through the birth canal.

Other concerns about vaginal delivery include:

  • fluids in the perineum (the area behind the vaginal wall)
  • increased pain
  • hemorrhoids
  • bowel problems
  • incontinence
  • psychological trauma


It is important to be prepared for the risks of normal delivery. Mothers may consider calling the midwife to their home or completing the delivery process in the hospital.

10 Tips for Creating a Successful Natural Birth Plan |  Parents

Birth education classes help prepare you for what to expect. This provides a safety net should any complications arise.

Non-medical methods used for labor and delivery convenience may include:

  • massage
  • acupressure
  • taking a warm bath or applying a hot press
  • breathing techniques
  • frequent position changes to compensate for pelvic bone changes


Due to the complexity of the birthing process, there is no one-size-fits-all method. According to the Office of Women’s Health, here are a few of the factors doctors and midwives consider when making recommendations:

  • mother’s general health and emotional well-being
  • the size of the mother’s pelvis
  • maternal pain tolerance level
  • intensity level of contractions
  • the size or position of the baby

It’s best to understand all your options and know when you might need medication to ensure your baby can enter the world without any problems.

Healthline, Natural vs. Epidural: What to Expect, 2018


  • Blustein J, et al. (2015). Time to consider the risks of caesarean delivery for long term child health.
  • Labor and birth: managing labor pain. (2018).
  • Mayer D, et al. (n.d.). Epidural analgesia for pain relief in labor: Frequently asked questions.
  • Medications for pain relief during labor and delivery. (2017).
  • Ranganathan P, et al. (2016). Chronic headache and backache are long-term squeal of unintentional dural puncture in the obstetric population.
  • Shea A. (2015). Personal interview.
  • Vaginal birth and cesarean birth: How do the risks compare? (2016).
  • What is a cesarean delivery? (2017).

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