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Deciding Between an Epidural and Natural Childbirth

Nov 22, 2016

According to the CDC, approximatley 60% of women in the United States recieve epidurals while in labor. Epidurals offer an anesthetic injection into a woman's spine to block pain. Hospital or birthing centers can offer other, natural types of pain relief. Breathing exercises, heating packs, or other relaxation techniques are available if a woman and her partner decide that an epidural is not right for them. As you can see, there are many different birthing options for women as they progress through labor.

One of the most important decisions you will make while you are pregnant is whether or not you should have an epidural to ease the pain of labor, or go all natural. Relying on the advice of other women to make the decision can be confusing because every woman has a different labor experience. Knowing more about the options you have can help you decide what is right for you. Obstetrician Paul Crane explains the options mothers have when giving birth.


An epidural is designed to provide pain relief, not total lack of feeling. Epidurals block the nerve feelings in the lower spinal region. An epidural is typically administered by an anesthesiologist.  While it’s being administered you will be asked to sit up with your back arched, or lay on your left side. Your back will be wiped clean with an antiseptic solution and a local anesthetic will be administered to ease the discomfort of the epidural. Then, a needle is inserted into the numb area of your spine and a small tube called a catheter is threaded through the needle into the spine and the needle is carefully removed.

D’Lynda Kaplan explains the many benefits of having an epidural to ease the pain of labor. If your labor is prolonged, an epidural will help you rest. An epidural reduces the discomfort of childbirth allowing for a more positive birth experience. If you have a cesarean birth an epidural allows you to stay awake and pain-free during the procedure and recovery.

There are disadvantages to getting an epidural, too. Epidurals can cause fluctuations in your blood pressure and reduce the flow of blood to your baby. Also, pushing may be more difficult when you have an epidural. Other side effects of an epidural include shivering, backache, ringing in the ears, nausea and difficulty urinating.

Natural Child Birth

If you choose to have a natural childbirth you are accepting the fact that you may experience some discomfort and pain. Natural childbirth is non-invasive so there is a lower risk of complications or harm to you and your baby. During a natural childbirth there is no loss of alertness or sensation so you can move around freely and change positions to find what works best for you. You are less likely to need interventions like oxytocin or Pitocin to speed up your labor when you opt for natural childbirth.

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