Natural Birth

Natural vs. Epidural experience?

I posted this on the second tri board since I wasn't sure, and I thought I'd copy my post to this board as well and see what experiences I can find out about on here as well. :) This was my post...

I'm at 26 weeks today, and have just now been reading people's experiences with natural birth. I like to try and make informed decisions, so I am curious as to people's personal experiences of epidural vs. natural...

Has anyone experienced both that they can tell me plus and minus of their experience? I know every experience is different.

I'm also just curious as to how many people have experienced some of the bad side effects of the epidural and what were those effects?

Thanks for any thoughts for me to consider! :)  


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Re: Natural vs. Epidural experience?

  • I haven't experienced both, I went natural but I went into it intending to get an epi. Labor was quite painful but it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I didn't feel like I needed an epi, so I went without it. There are other options for pain as well, not just epi's.
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  • ElbugElbug
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    I got my epi when fear entered into my labor.  I labored to 8-9 cm before getting mine so I can speak to active labor / early transition without a bit.  I should also add I was also on pitocin (long story but I'll never do that again without a strong medical indication).  

    Anywho, I only did a general hospital birth prep class (HUGE waste of time BTW).  Once I was in active labor during my induction the contractions were very strong and very close together (they kept having to turn off the pit) but I was managing them well in my own head.  I perceived them as extremely strong pressure (which is why next time I want to use hypnobabies).  It wasn't until I was in the bathroom alone and I started to shake uncontrollably (again, something my birth class SHOULD have instructed was transition).  I become scared and saw the fear in my husbands eyes.  Shortly after, the nurse asked me my pain scale and thats when I realized I was actually feeling pain and if I was only at a 6/10 then this was going to get worse and I panicked (enter a great reason to have a doula!).  Turns out the anesthesiologist was standing right outside my room so I caved for the epi.  I loved it, not going to lie.  Loved it until I started to itch all over my body.  For the rest of my labor I scratched my skin almost until it bled.  It was miserable.  In between pushes I fiercely scratched my face, neck and chest.  I had a difficult time also getting in tune with my body during pushing and wasn't very effective until I told them to turn down/off my epi and after another 10 minutes I finally felt my body take over and push.  From the supine position in bed plus the pitocin and epi my DD had heart decelerations so the NICU attended my birth..... she was fine but forceps and csection were treats thrown my way if I didn't get her out ASAP -> which led to my 2nd degree tear and bilateral urethral tears (which were more painful than the 2nd degree, labor and birth combined!).  I also hemorrhaged (my induction with pitocin contributed along with my OB trying to speed up the delivery of my placenta) and required IV fluid boluses to keep my blood pressure up, cytotec per rectum and more pitocin.  When I started to bleed they took my baby out of my arms until it resolved.  I had major bonding issues and truly felt disconnected to her and my entire labor.  

    I was a low risk labor turned high risk.  There was no reason for me to be induced.   

    Anywho, long story.  Sorry if you were looking for quick and brief.  :) 

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  • I'm a Ftm, so keep that in mind. My plan is to go natural. I've cared for patients in post partum who have done it both ways, and since pp and l and d are on the same unit, I've been around during labor for both. Some women do great with an epidural. Some women have horrible lasting headaches, pain, we have to catherize them again after we remove the catheter because they still aren't peeing. The women who are able to go natural seem to recover faster and have less tearing, because they can feel how hard to push. They don't say it doesn't hurt, just it didn't hurt as much as they expected except for crowning, but that was a short time.
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  • I'm a FTM as well and I think this post is great. After doing some research on meds and interventions, we decided to plan for a natural birth. I'm not a big fan of medication as it is and once I started to do some reading I wasn't comfortable with the options out there for induction and pain management. I recommend doing a lot of reading. Ina May Gaskin's Guide to Childbirth is a favorite so far simply because of the birth stories - empowering! I haven't reached the second half of the book which seems to go into a deeper explanation of child birth, the body, interventions, etc. I also have the Business of Being Born and Natural Hospital Birth to read next. I think this decision is a very personal one and you shouldn't feel pressured into one way or the other.  Gather all the information you can and you'll probably find yourself leaning one way for the other.
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  • I had an epi with my first (planned) and went natural with my second (also planned). Sure, the pain involved was much more intense with the second, but the recovery was also a breeze and I felt like myself again pretty much right away. I was up and walking and active again within hours. This obviously isn't the case for everyone, but not having an epi saved me from an emergency c-section, too. It was good to have complete control over my body and the position I was pushing in.
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  • kcs7kcs7
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    Thank you ladies for sharing! I find every post very useful to read!! :) I will continue doing more reading and thank you too for the book suggestions in there.

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  • I have only had a med-free birth and plan to do so again. I think epidurals can be helpful and appropriate in the right situations but there are serious risks and side effects that should be considered. Personally I think its better to try and go as long as possible without one. You may be surprised at what you can do. If while in labor you really feel like you need one for your specific situation then I don't think there is any shame in that.

    I think your approach is really smart. By doing your research you will be able to make an educated decision about what is best for you and your baby.

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  • ash484ash484
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    I haven't had both experiences (yet) but I had an epi with DS and am planning on going natural this time around. I feel guilty saying this, but I did zero research on any kind of meds and their side affects. I just went into it expecting an epi, because that seemed like "the norm". DS had heart rate problems right off the bat to the point where I could tell people were a little worried. Here's my story (I'll try to keep it short!) I went into the hospital at 3 cm and 80% effaced. They broke my water, I got an epi at 4 cm after about an hour (I went as long as I could, then they scared me into getting it asap or else I may not be able to get it at all) I got it and like I said, LO had heart rate problems right away, so they had me roll onto my left side which helped a little, but the epi ended up going to that side, so I felt every contraction on my right side! So weird. Then 30 minutes later I felt like I needed to push! I went from a 4 to a 10 dilation in 30 minutes (my family is known for quicker births so I don't think that was a side effect from anything) I pushed a few times, LO was almost out, but was in distress, so they had to use a vacuum to get him out on the last push. I thought that everything that happened was because I had exercised the night before to get labor going (I was 38w4d when he was born), but looking back I realize those are 2 main side effects from the epi. I felt horrible when I realized that! My main reason for looking into natural was to be sure THIS time around my LO comes out ready to breastfeed, no grogginess at all. Because my DS was SUPER groggy after birth and we had a lot of latching problems. But after reading the other side effects, I feel even more motivated about not doing any meds. Anyway - Good luck to you!! I haven't gone natural yet, but for my situation and body I really feel like it's the way to go this time around!
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  • I had an epi with DS#1 and went natural with DS#2.  There were plusses and minuses of both.  I don't know if it was just the personality of my boys, but DS#2 was way more alert and latched like a champ right after birth, while DS#1 was just more sleepy generally.  (I'm not trying to start a debate - I'm just presenting *my* experience.)  On the other hand, I did not experience the quick recovery from a natural birth that many people describe.  In fact, my recovery from the natural birth was much more difficult.  But I'm fairly sure that I'm unusual in that regard.  But a few things have me going natural again this time:

    1.  It just wasn't as bad as I was expecting to be.

    2.  My mom had both of her kids without any meds and, if she can do it, so can I :)

    3.  After getting the epi, I had a couple of epi side effects that I would prefer to not have again (nothing serious, just a little fever during/after delivery that caused them to monitor DS#1 more closely than they otherwise would have; and a weird swelling in my legs/feet that lasted for about a week after delivery - apparently it's from all the fluids they push with the epi.  Really strange to have, especially since I never had edema during pregnancy...)

    So I do think that an dpi is fine, useful, whatever.  And I am totally not judgmental about people who have them (if this labor totally stinks, I may have one again!)  But if this delivery is anything like my last, I just don't see the need.  Good luck with your decision!

  • I had an epi with DS and I can tell you I HATED it. I will never do it again. I was naive and uninformed when I had DS and had never done any research into natural med free birth. I assumed I'd get an epi because thats what people did. And why go through pain if you don't have to? When I got the epi I was terrified that they would do something wrong when putting it in. They didn't. But after that I couldn't feel a thing. Nothing. no contractions, no pressure, not a single thing. The nurses had to come in and turn me every 20 minutes....left, back, right, back, etc. Every time they turned me I got sick. The fact that I couldn't feel my legs fraked me out. But mostly the whole thing just made me throw up constantly. When it came time to push I had no idea, couldn't feel the baby moving down. They had to tell me when the contractions were and when to push by watching the monitor. Not everyone's experience is like this, but I will never get an epi again.
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  • I planned to go natural for as long as that was what was working for me and the baby.  I had read all about both epis and natural births, and my husband is a neonatologist, so he had lots of great articles for me to read. In the end, he really supported whatever decision I made--but he didn't believe that the epidural posed nearly the risks that I had read about in some of the natural birthing books and websites. 

    My water broke early in the morning at 40+3 days.  I hung out at home for about 3 hours, then went to the hospital (my husband's only non-negotiable item was that we had to be in a hospital with a NICU available--just in case).  It turns out there was some meconium in my fluid and I wasn't dilating, so they hooked up a low dose of pitocin.  I labored for several hours without any progress at all.  After about 4 hours of the most intense pain and misery I have ever experienced (and I am a former college athlete that has pushed my body pretty far in the name of training and competition) and all my "coping strategies" not doing a thing to touch the pain, I asked for the epidural. 

    It was amazing.  Took away the pain, but not the sensation.  Could still move my legs.  In just 3.5 hours filled with beautiful hanging out with my husband and family, I went from a 3 to a 10.  I could feel each contraction, but in a way that didn't hurt--just felt like Braxton Hicks contractions.

    I could feel the need to push, but it didn't "hurt."  I pushed 4 times over the course of about 10 minutes and our baby was born!  A tear in between a first and second degree that was stitched up without any pain/problems.

    I was up walking around that same evening.  Discharged in under 48 hours.  Took a family walk down the street the day I was discharged.  Super, incredibly easy recovery.  Baby was so very alert when she came out and breastfeeding was great--did it until she weaned at 15 months.

    I have the same plan with #2 due this October.  I will go in with a fully open mind, but if I experience the same pain that I did the first time around (realizing that each labor is different and this one might be more like the more subtle pain/pressure that I read about on this board all the time), I will be glad to get an epidural, as it actually progressed my labor very quickly with no adverse effects.

  • CLLDLLCLLDLL
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    I had an epi with DS1 and went natural with DS2.

    Pros of the epi: I didn't get a chance to feel the intense contractions in active labor.  Therefore I didn't have the chance to get nervous and possibly tense up and fight against the contractions.  I didn't get tired out by the pain.

    Cons: I had no idea when I was having a contrax and there had to be told when to push.  I tore, and I think it's because I pushed too hard or at the wrong time. I had some swelling post epi. I had to have the standard IV/fluids and therefore had to be "tied" to the IV pole and in bed the whole time. The blood pressure cuff going of every 15 minutes.  The epi slowed my progress down during early labor.   DS was very sleepy during the first 24 hours of life.  Obviously I don't know that the epi caused this, but it could have. 

    Pros of going natural:  I felt in control of what was happening the whole time.  I was able to tell when to push and how hard.  I was up and walking literally an hour after birth.  I went home from the hospital about 30 hours after birth - could have gone sooner, but DS2 was circumcised and needed to wait till 24 hour mark for that to happen + recovery time. Birth took 4 hours from 1st contraction to last push.  It was so empowering to be able to work with my body & have the birth I wanted.

    Cons of going natural: The nerves/anticipation leading up to birth - not knowing if I'd be able to do it med free or not.   

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  • kcs7kcs7
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    Thank you ladies for sharing all the experiences! One thing is for sure, every one can have a completely different experience, for sure! That encourages me though, to remember that while I am going to make my decision and try my best to follow on a certain course, I will have no shame or remorse should things change and go differently. So I hope anyway. :) thanks again!!

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  • skioskio
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    I had an epi with DD1. It slowed my labor. I got pitocin, which put some stress on both baby and I. Ended up with a c/s...but I should say that I don't blame the epi. While yes, I do think the medical interventions led me down that road, it was my own lack of preparedness and knowledge about the interventions that I blame. Not being able to move from my back on the bed was a definite part if the downfall, though, because her head was tilted and I believe that being able to move would've helped that.

    I had a med free VBAC with DD2. It was insanely hard. But I was scared of the repercussions of intervention again, so I was very prepared and it led to success. My labor was 11 hours and being able to change positions often was key in getting her to properly descend.

    Kudos for doing your homework! ;]
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  • My first birth I wanted to have a natural birth. I labored for 8 hours without medication, mostly at home. But then my water broke, and when we went to the hospital I wasn't progressing past 1cm. The OB came in, examined me, and said, "Well, you're probably going to need a c-section but we can try to induce." I decided that I didn't want to try and make the decisions I needed to make without some sort of pain relief--which I would probably need anyway, since there was no way I was doing pitocin without an epidural!--so I got the epi. 

    Pre-epi: laboring at home was great. I was able to manage my pain pretty effectively. Obviously my experience is limited since I never made it to transition etc, but what I found was that once I went to the hospital laboring became MUCH harder. I was hooked up to an IV and fetal monitor and had to stay in the hospital bed and it sucked. 

     Post-epi: I was worried that getting an epidural would somehow detract from the birth, that I would somehow experience it less. That ended up being a silly fear, at least for me. It was certainly different, but I certainly still knew I was in labor! I felt the contractions very clearly. I was able to doze off around 1 am which was so helpful since I had to start pushing at 4am and I know I would have been exhausted. I woke up when LO very suddenly dropped and turned and engaged my cervix. (At least that's what I assume happened, I felt SOMETHING very clearly.) I had also been afraid that the epidural would make it hard to push, but it wore off enough that I was able to work with my contractions very easily. 

    So, my experience was positive, even though it wasn't what I wanted to begin with. I do have a friend who got an epidural and it made her reverse progress, resulting in a c-section, and she also got one of those awful headaches that happen to some people. So much of it really just depends on how your body reacts.  

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  • I started labor on a Thursday and didn't have my daughter until Saturday night. I also wasn't admitted into the hospital until Friday late afternoon. And because the hospital was so crowded I was put on a floor to wait for a LD room to become free! That didn't come until Saturday morning around 5:30 am. By that time Saturday morning I was willing to take anything for the pain because it had been almost 3 days of labor contractions! It was so worth it and it was done right! I was able to move my legs and able to feel contractions when it came time to push. I had intended on not having an epi but caved 3 days into it haha!
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