Labor without an epidural – A wimp’s perspective

Do you think you could never give birth without an epidural? Labor without an epidural is possible – even for people like me with low pain tolerance!

labor without an epidural

Note: I sincerely hope that no c-section moms, or any moms who have recieved epidurals for one reason or another, feel that I am in any way implying that their experiences were somehow less than mine. That is in no way my intent. I admire the fact that c-section moms have to survive major surgery and a far more difficult recovery – and I hope I make it clear in this post that I definitely *wanted* an epidural for myself! I am simply trying to communicate that natural labor, if it is possible for a mama, will be a blessing to her – and it’s not just for “tough” or “strong” women! I also want to add that now that I went through labor a second time, and it was SO much easier – if you can keep your water intact until the very end, DO IT!!! My water broke on it’s own with my DD in the early stages of labor, and the pain and intensity of that labor was WAY worse than what I had with my son, when I didn’t have my water broken until it was time to push! Yes, breaking the water speeds labor up, but keeping it intact makes for far, far, FAR more manageable pain!

I am not tough. Seriously. A friend once volunteered to give me a deep-tissue massage, and a few minutes in, I was begging her to stop. I’ve decided I wanted to start running several times, then quit because I hated that scraping feeling in my lungs and that soreness in my legs. Also embarrassing is how frequently I burst into sobs when I hear even the most cliched of country sob-songs. Yeah. Not tough.

It was truly baffling, then, to have so many of my far-tougher friends respond with dropped jaws when they found out that I’d delivered K without an epidural.

Women I highly admire – women who have run marathons (a.k.a. “the worst form of self-torture”), women who’ve survived major surgeries (the very thought of scalpels and needles sends me twitching), women who handle stresses and trials with a grace I truly hope I can someday approach – all astounded at the thought of going through labor without an epidural. I can’t tell you how many times I heard the words, “I could never do that.”

Yeah, me neither. Seriously.

In fact, if I hadn’t had a homebirth, I’d have definitely had an epidural – or, like, fifteen. I’ve heard of mamas that did the Bradley Method, or hypnosis, or Lamaze, and had such lovely, peaceful labors. A friend of mine raved about how “beautiful” her natural labor was, and what a great experience it was spiritually. Our midwife did recommend these classes and techniques to us – but we couldn’t afford them, so I decided to try to skate by based on what I learned from Youtube videos.

I do not recommend that. Take the classes.

If you’ve read my homebirth story, then you know that I did *not* enjoy the experience of my first labor. I was unprepared for what was happening. I was worried. I hated the pain. I informed my hubby that we would not be having any more children (I meant it, too – but that obviously didn’t work out for me, did it?) I definitely didn’t see anything “beautiful” or “spiritual” about it – at least, not until the end.

It may sound strange to find beauty in pain, but it was there. Enduring pain – and not just any pain, but the greatest pain that a human woman can endure – for the benefit of another human being is a way of truly experiencing sacrificial love. To Christians, sacrificial love is the ultimate goal – the thing we all hope someday, somehow, to achieve. True love, according to my faith, is to be able to truly love others so much that we would be willing to endure just about anything for them (which is why Christians the world over cherish the outwardly grisly events of Christ’s death by crucifixion).

Not that anyone would ever want to endure any kind of pain for any reason - but if you want to grow, it’s going to hurt. The body must endure the pain of exercise in order to become stronger. The brain must endure the pain of study in order to learn (oh, college. I can still feel the migraines). Pain makes you stronger, if you accept it and don’t quit.

Somewhere in the worst part of my labor, I lost awareness of what was happening around me, and only knew what was happening within. I couldn’t have heard or focused on anything anyone around me was saying - but I could still hear that quiet voice of God whispering, “Stop fighting the pain and accept it. Someday, you will need to know that you did this – that you were capable of accepting this.”

I know I will, too. Someday, K will do something that hurts me – so badly that my heart will break. I don’t mean that she’ll do something terrible and wind up in prison or something; I mean that she’ll break my heart just by growing up. It’s heartbreaking to think of her leaving for college, as proud as I’d be. It’s heartbreaking to imagine her deciding she wants to apply for a job in Venezuela or Madagascar or something. I always wanted to be off on crazy, not-always-safe adventures when I was younger, and she’ll probably take after me. It’ll be heartbreaking to watch her go, and to know deep down inside, “She’s not ever going to come back to me, is she?” Someday, I’ll be someone she comes to see on visits. It’s the most heartbreaking thing I can think of.

That day is still a long way off. I would much rather live in this moment and enjoy her now, when she loves my kisses and cuddles and doesn’t even get embarrassed by them, than dread the coming of that awful day. I love this time she and I have – but in the back of my mind, I always know we don’t have forever.

And I know I’m capable of getting through it, just as I was able to survive the physical pain of bringing her into the world.

This isn’t to say that moms who never feel the pain of labor, for one reason or another, love their children less -  I only mean to say that recognizing my opportunity to suffer for her confirmed something my heart needed to know. I endured because I took comfort in knowing, without a doubt, that I am strong enough to survive.  Therefore, I am strong enough for all the pain that is yet to come.

I’ve heard so many good reasons for epidurals (not the least of which was my SIL’s reason – a 72 hour labor that just wore her body out too much. I’ve told her repeatedly that she DID her time. Several times over, in fact), but the only reason that saddens me is how many women simply don’t think they can do it.

For any mama in good health without complications to doubt her abilities to endure pain just makes me so sad. Why aren’t we women a little more empowered? Why don’t we even believe in ourselves enough to try? How is it possible that our “girl power!” culture is also telling women that they just “can’t” get through the pain of labor without an epidural?

This is going to sound really stupid, and I know it, but here goes: If I can do it, anyone can (Anyone who is low-risk, in good health, and has an uncomplicated pregnancy and delivery, I mean). So many of my strong, fierce, otherwise-confident friends never even tried to deliver without an epidural because they were so sure that they’d fail – and hey, maybe they would have. I almost definitely would have. But going into anything expecting failure doesn’t seem like a very wise idea – it seems like a sad one.

I would give any mom who was in my smooth-pregnancy shoes the same advice: Try it. Try natural. Your body CAN endure the pain (even if it turns out that it can’t endure the labor without intervention). You will never regret surviving the pain of a natural labor. Rather, you will come out on the other side cherishing the opportunity God gave you to learn how strong you and your body are.

You can do this. You’re a mama-bear. You are strong – I can almost guarantee you’re stronger than me. Trust that you were made fearfully and wonderfully, and can birth that baby, no matter how much it hurts.

I hope more mamas give natural labor a try! Don’t be afraid to do things you were born capable of doing!

Jaime W. (461 Posts)

Jaime is a Christian, a wife, a mom, a writer, an illustrator, and an aspiring homesteader. She loves trying to find new ways to save money and resources--but also save her time, so she can spend as much as possible with her family! !

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  1. I had my first 4 naturally and the last 2 with an epidural. I found that each labor was more painful than the last—the uterus has to work harder because it’s been stretched. It’s not to say that I couldn’t have gone through without the epidurals, because I could have, I’d done it 4 times previously and I was so happy about that. But by babys number 5 and 6, I was older and I knew what I was in for as far as nursing and dealing with all the other children—so I wanted to take it easy. I’m glad I made that decision–it worked out the best for me!

  2. I loved this post & held back my postpartum hormonal tears the whole time! I am 12 days postpartum from the birth of my son, my first child. I went into labor with the intent & goal of having an unmedicated delivery–no epidural/no IV meds…and I’m happy to say I DID IT!!!

    I, like you, found that zone where nothing around me mattered at all and simply focused on what was going on within & before I knew it, it was time to push. I am so thrilled about how things went & I feel so blessed & thankful to God for our healthy little boy. I wish more mammas would read this and remember that GIRL POWER ;) you can do it mammas!!!

  3. Ahhh, GIRL POWER – that’s it! You nailed it! All our lives we’re screaming and shouting this mantra, and then by the time we’re ready to do the one thing our bodies were made for, we’ve been convinced by the powers that be, that we’re not strong enough. I call BS. We ARE strong enough. We just have to think that we’re strong enough and actually try to be it. Like you said, we can’t go into something expecting failure. And by pre-scheduling c-sections and deciding before labor even starts that we’re going to get an epidural, we’re doing just that – setting ourselves up for failure!

    I’m pregnant with my 2nd and I had my 1st completely unmedicated without any interventions. Like you, my water broke very early (as I was leaving for the birth center) and my labor progressed SO FAST from that point – very intense and fast paced. DS was out within 4 hours (in addition to the 3 hours of laboring at home). I knew from before that we were going completely natural. I read so much and watched so many videos and mentally prepared myself for the reality of labor. I must have read Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth a million times during my pregnancy. Reading stories of other women who’ve done it was the best thing I could ever recommend to an expecting mama.

    It’s so awesome that you had your babies at home! With this one, we will go to the birth center again, but I think for the next one (God-willing), we will try for a home birth. :)

    • Well said!! :)

    • Tiffany says:

      I love your posted! I look all over for posts about natural birth. I have two older boys and did epidurals with them both. My second birth was so quick I probably could have gone non medicated. Happy to say I’m pregnant with my third and I am really trying for no medications. I like you have absolutely NO tolerance to pain. I do hope I can make it all the way.

  4. I had my daughter at a freestanding birth center on purpose because I knew the epidural would be too readily given at any instance of whining were I at a hospital. Turns out I actually have a high pain tolerance and didn’t cry out for one until she was nearly earthside. I’ll be having a home birth any day now, and I relish in the knowledge that I can totally do it without pain meds. Sacrificing in labor is the first and most important step in learning to love your child. It’s not supposed to be easy, just a reminder of what love is.

  5. What a great post! I had to have c-sections with both my kids and in no way found this post offensive. In fact, I wish I would have read something like this before having my first. It wouldn’t have changed the fact that I had to have a c-section, but it would have changed my perspective. I walked in saying I *will* have an epidural but now I think ~ had I not have had to have a c-section, I could have done it without the epidural. Thanks for sharing!

  6. I did not take any classes. I had a planned home birth without any medical interventions. The birth of my daughter was absolutely wonderful!

  7. This is a beautiful post. I wish more women would support new moms to be in telling them how wonderful it can be naturally. C-sections and epidurals, while needed in rare cases, carry more risks than benefits for the majority of us. I didn’t take childbirth classes with our first and ended up in the hospital with a medically induced shoulder dystocia and a baby with a broken collar bone. With our second, I still went to the hospital (should have stayed home!) but I had done my research and hired a doula, too.

    Labor contractions WITH Pitocin and pain meds are a hell of a lot worse than dealing with labor contractions WITHOUT Pitocin OR pain meds. That surprised me. But we had her totally naturally and it was amazing! <3

    • I think you are right about the pitocin! I had my first (and only so far) child on June 25, 2013. I was actually due on June 14th, and at my 39 week check up my doctor talked to me about inducing me the day after my due date if I did not begin to dilate soon (I was not dilated AT ALL and had NO pain). I looked at him like he had two heads when he talked about inducing me so early! I told him I was going to wait at LEAST one week after my due date to even THINK about inducing because I was all for the natural birth with no epidural. Well I got away with this for nine days after my due date, and on the 10th day when I still had no pain and was not dilated (not even 1 cm), my doctor said it was not recommendable to wait any longer. So I went in for my induction at 5:00 p.m. on June 24th. I definitely feel that the contractions were more painful with the pitocin. My water finally broke at 2:30 a.m., and I was SLOWLY dilating. I got an epidural at around 12:00 p.m. the next day (the needle was not as bad as I thought). By 5:00 p.m. the next day (June 25th) I had been stuck at 8 cm for about 4 hours. My doctor informed me that the pitocin was slowing the baby’s heart rate down, and I was already exhausted from being there for so long without being able to eat and just receiving pitocin. My doctor said, “We can either keep giving you the pitocin to try to get you to 10 cm, but it is affecting the baby, or we can perform a c-section. So of course I said the c-section because I was already having a fit that the baby’s heart rate was slowing. Needless to say, I did NOT enjoy the c-section at all. I lost more blood than women normally do, and I felt like my insides were being ripped out of me. I was in and out, and do not remember the whole thing, but the recovery was slow as well.

  8. My husband and I read this the day after I gave birth to our daughter. (She is now two weeks old.) We had a home birth, and I delivered her naturally. We both cried reading what you wrote about your time with K not lasting for ever.

    I completely relate to what you said about accepting the pain. My little girl deserved at least an attempt at a healthy, natural birth. It’s extremely empowering knowing that even though there were several moments when I didn’t think I was going to make it, I DID it! I actually did it, and I did the best thing I knew how to do for my daughter! Having my baby naturally was the hardest, most painful, most worthwhile thing I have ever done, and I know that (as long as I’m low risk) I will have the rest of our children naturally.

  9. I have given bith to 4 babies (1 in Heaven) and only with my 1st one did I have the epidural. Yes, it hurt, yes, it is intense without the epidural (and with my last baby, no IV meds either!), but when we have our last baby, I am gonna try to do it again without. It is so worth it!! The recovery time is practically nothing and I felt so strong and powerful :)

  10. Love this! I had my first baby without an epidural, and it was an induction! My second I didn’t prepare as I should have and ended up with back labor that I couldn’t handle so I ended up with an epidural.

    For those reading comments: Do your homework! Take the classes (Bradley is what I used the first time, all I did was read the book, there were no classes available locally at the time)! You never know how strong you are until you try!

  11. Great post! Had an epidural with my little guy but I do think I could’ve gone without it (and din’t like that it made my legs COMPLETELY numb). Maybe next time I’ll go without it. Thanks for the encouragement!

  12. My little one is due to be here until June 4th and I have been wanting to do natural labor since I found out I was pregnant. My concern was that I just wouldn’t be able to handle it and I’ll give in and opt for the epidural once I get to the hospital. I’m keeping your post as a reminder that I can do this; thank you so much for the encouragement!

  13. I had an epidural administered during the labor of my son. He is my first and only child. The experience of administering the epidural was absolutely TERRIBLE! So much pain. What should have taken 10 minutes, took an hour. My back was prepped 3 times and I was “stuck” a total of 8 times. All while shooting nerve pain was going down my leg. We thought it was finally done when just enough relief was felt for me to regain some composure. This only lasted about 10 minutes and then the pain was in full effect. My epidural failed and I gave birth to my son with full sensation. I too focused on the end result – finally seeing my beautiful baby. Somehow I made it through. With future births I believe I will turn down the option of the epidural because it was more tormenting than the actual birth in my particular situation. Natural and BEAUTIFUL it will be!!

  14. Misty King says:

    I have had three epiduralss and one natural birth with no pain meds, and I mean not even a Tylenol….I wouldn’t wish that kind of pain on anyone, and cannot for the life of me understand why anyone would want to subject themselves to that kind of pain when they can have relief with an epidural. The end result is exactly the same either way, a beautiful baby. My 4th child came so quickly I almost a delivered in the car and had no choice of epidural or not. With my 5th pregnancy my doctor has already scheduled an induction at 39 weeks to keep the baby from being born on the way to the hospital.

    • Hi Misty! I guess “to each their own” would have to be my reply! I had a lot of thought behind my decision, but this post was mostly written to encourage mothers who *want* a drug-free delivery, but are afraid that they can’t do it. Congratulations on your little one!

    • Hi Misty,
      Sadly, the result is often *not* the same when women get epidurals. First off, the baby is exposed to the drugs. Not a healthy beginning. Secondly, women who have epidurals have a much, much higher risk for complications and c-sections. Very unhealthy for both mama and baby.
      Even if there are no extreme, immediate and obvious complications from an epidural, they cause longer labors (an average of an extra hour), they usually reduce blood flow to the baby due to lower blood pressure (less oxygen to the baby) and they reduce the effectiveness of pushing, which is more traumatic for baby. If you truly believe that avoiding pain is top priority, you really need to educate yourself on the very real and life-threatening risks to your baby and yourself. Here are more details and links to the statistics. I hope this help you and your future children.

      • Justyn,

        If you are going to dispense your medical “expertise” to other women, please use information that is based on scientific evidence and not from a website that is preaching their religious beliefs instead of accurate, medically researched findings. Seriously, some of the “evidence” from this link that you provided involve the phrase “I know someone who…”, which is not a scientific assessment by any means. The truth is, if you are giving birth at a reputable hospital, the risks of an epidural are extremely minimal and the staff will monitor the mother constantly to ensure that she (and the baby) are not experiencing any dangerous side effects. You are obviously entitled to your own personal beliefs, but please do not push these beliefs as being scientific fact when they are not. Also, to make other moms feel bad because they disagree with your beliefs (which, again, are not based on medical evidence) is sickening.

        • Nancy,
          I agree that information should be from real scientific evidence, not beliefs, or stories from someone you know. But, just to let you know, much of what Justyn said, is actually true.

          This is directly from the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology:

          When compared with the group receiving narcotic analgesia (n = 45), the group receiving epidural analgesia (n = 48) had a significant prolongation in the first and second stages of labor, an increased requirement for oxytocin augmentation, and a significant slowing in the rate of cervical dilatation. Epidural analgesia was associated with a significant increase in malposition (4.4% vs 18.8%, p < 0.05). Cesarean delivery occurred more frequently in the epidural group (2.2% vs 25%, p < 0.05), primarily related to an increase in cesarean section for dystocia (2.2% vs 16.7%, p < 0.05).

          And this from American Family Physician..

          Hypotension, transient changes in the fetal heart rate tracing and severe headache caused by inadvertent dural puncture are the most common side effects. Other more serious and rare complications may occur, including permanent neurologic injury and death.

          Now, in no way am I saying this to make mother's who have had an epidural feel bad, or feel like they made the wrong choice. It is most certainly a personal choice. But every choice that is made during pregnancy and labor has a direct effect on the fetus, and an epidural is no different. Epidurals are GENERALLY safe for the mother and fetus, they would not be offered if this were not the case, but, they are not benign,

          No matter what you decide, natural, IV medication, or epidural, the most important part is to be WELL educated on the route that you are choosing.

        • Hi! So I did have an epidural and I regret it with every fiber of my being! I ended up with severe back spasms (felt like i was shot in the back and I am in no way exaggerating), for which they had to get someone to bring in delotted (spelling?) for releif, epidural headache, and two blood patches. Oh and then a leg blood clot which may or may not be related. All of which interfered with establishing breastfeeding. It also slowed my contractions to 5 mins apart! What the poster said about epidurals IS fact. Although the risk may be low it does happen. She was not pushing her beleifs on anyone, just providing her story :)

      • My epidural drastically increased the speed of my labor – after 21 hours of natural labor, I was only dilated to a 5, where I had been for several hours. Once I got my epidural, my baby was born after a total of 25 hours in labor. I think there was an hour in there between when I decided I wanted the epidural and when the on-call anesthesiologist (small town hospital) actually arrived, so my labor progressed to the point that I gave birth 3 hours after the epidural.

        As far as the effectiveness of pushing, after a 25 hour labor, I only had to push for 6 minutes.

        My baby had no problem with oxygen. She came screaming and healthy.

        Sometimes there are side-effects. Some people handle things differently than others – that goes for both natural birth and epidurals. But epidurals are definitely not all bad.

  15. I think this post was meant to encourage women who want to have natural births and that’s all, but Misty King, I would have to say as a mom of 2 (soon 3) with completely natural and home births, and as a doula who has attended countless births, deciding to get or not to get an epidural is not just about experiencing pain or not. Women choosing natural births are often influenced by the wealth of evidence showing that epidurals and other unnecessary interventions during pregnancy and birth may not be as safe for babies and moms as we think. Practically, I can say from experience that epidurals slow labor, can stop contractions, almost always require bolus injections of Pitocin to boost contractions- which often leads to fetal distress and statistically increases c-section rate of 50% (please keep that statistic in mind as you consider induction, and I would suggest watching The Business of Being Born). I’ve witnessed countless labors that get halted and often lead to “emergency” c-sections because the mom is not as able to move, walk, squat, dance, and do all the other things a laboring woman can do to help get the baby through the most difficult part of birth, which is the final decent through the last stations of the birth canal. It is unfair and biased based on your personal results to say that the end result is always the same, because almost all medical drugs and interventions for birth have side effects- sometimes mild, sometimes severe. There are countless women with horror stories of improperly administered epidurals, epidural injury, unnecessary traumatic c-sections, birth injury, postpartum depression, and many worse things. If you research the maternal mortality rates of the US- which has the highest epidural and c-section rates- it’s pathetic. We lose more moms and babies than almost every other developed nation. So, no, the result is not always a beautiful baby. The research shows very clearly that unmedicated births have fewer complications, fewer c-sections (obviously), faster recoveries, better breastfeeding rates, and many more superior results. It almost feels like you’re shaming women for wanting natural births, which is a personal decision, but also one that is based on absolutely reasonable evidence! I would NEVER judge a women (and as a doula I never do) for choosing an epidural or other birth intervention as long as she is fully informed of the possible side effects and other necessary information on the intervention. In my experience, though, most women are not informed by their health providers as they should be. They just go with the typical hospital procedures when the nurses simply say to them, “it’s best for the baby”…even though that is not always the case. Please consider your wording as it could be hurtful and frustrating for moms who didn’t have a perfect birth and baby after getting epidurals. The author and I agree, I believe, that there is no shame in getting epidurals. There is not shame in not getting one, either.

  16. Leslie Faith says:

    Thank you for sharing this amazing post! I am 33 weeks pregnant, taking a Hynobirthing class, and determined to have a drug-free birth. It has shocked me how many people criticize me for it and more or less laugh in my face like I’m a crazy person. I love reading these posts that emphasize how rewarding natural birth can be!!

  17. Great read! Before having our first little one, I had such a good feeling of labor and delivery. I trusted my body and mind to get through it without epidural. I knew I had it in me and I wasn’t scared. I honestly was more afraid of a 72hr labor or being drugged up to have a C-section, recover time for it, etc.. The feeling after having had an epi-free delivery was amazing and oh so very empowering. My husband, family and friends were so proud of me, but most importantly, I was proud I had taken that route after seeing my baby girl for the first time. All the pain was so well worth it and I felt great afterwards. I got off the bed as soon as my legs were no longer shaking lol

  18. I really needed to hear this! I am very early into my second pregnancy and had my first completely natural. Medically, epidurals are out of the question for me and I have found that I am (already) really scared to go threw it again. So thank you for your words!

  19. I’m 31 weeks with my first baby, and I plan on having a natural birth at a hospital, people keep laughing at my face, telling me I won’t handle it and I don’t know how painful it is. I find the fact that I don’t know more encouraging because I still don’t know my body strength, I haven’t tried, and I can’t give up without trying just because people around tell me it’s too hard. I also believe that every woman is different as we’ll as every birth. So we can’t judge each other on what we did or chose to do on our birth experience, but we should encourage each other to fulfill our goals.

  20. Such an encouraging post. I am not a mother but I am on my way. After careful research and being present in the delivery room for friends and family I truly want a home birth. Many of my friends and family think I am crazy but I want one. I will have a home birth and endure the bitersweet pain of childbirth. Thanks for sharing your story. Another reason to trust in myself that I can and I will have what I want.

  21. I have to agree with Misty above. I went into my induction (I was very overdue) with the mindset to try for a natural, but if I felt I needed the epidural, there’s no shame in it. I had taken the baby classes and spoken with my doctor about it and had not learned of any ill effects to the baby. I was aware that my legs would be numb, and the chance of hitting a nerve, and a possible epidural migraine. As it ended up, I didn’t even get drugs to induce me because my water popped as I got up from the hospital bed. I went from 0-6cm in about an hour, when I begged for the epidural, and I was so thankful for it. I didn’t feel like a failure at all for not doing natural labor because that was my choice at that time. I know if I had to, I could do natural, but the epidural let me enjoy the experience and soak up every minute of it. And it didn’t last very many minutes, it was a 4 hour delivery from start to finish!
    This was a great article, but I don’t think taking an epidural when the pain gets tough is “failing”. And to me it seems a little crazy to not have an epidural just to prove to yourself you are strong. I had to have an episiotomy as well though and I will never forget the sound, can’t imagine the pain!
    And for you mom’s birthing at home, you are so brave, but I don’t understand why you would risk the “what ifs” and have no emergency help on hand, but life altering minutes away! Seems like risking yours and ÿour baby’s health just for a better atmosphere experience. . . Sorry I had to bring that up, but it’s so baffling to me!

    • Maggie,
      Like Misty, your personal epidural experience does not change the reality and statistics of it. Roz pretty much said it all in a comment above so i don’t need to get into the specifics again. Saying that birthing medicated and unmedicated produces the exact same results is factually incorrect so I hope you don’t agree with that. She did not say that it makes you a failure if you get one. She said you set yourself up for failure if you go in with mindset of failure or that your not capable of doing what your body was created to do before you even try. She said to try it! She didn’t criticize anybody who got one. She even gave a disclaimer. She also is not saying to get an epidural just to say your strong. Unmedicated births is proven to be the safest way for baby and mom ( Of course if your low-risk, or don’t have any complications or things like that) and also just simply naturally what we created to do. Like Roz said American pushes the medicated route more than any other country and in return has rediculously higher fetal deaths and complications. I believe that is why she is encouraging unmedicated births. She is just telling us that we are strong and the rewarding feeling of strength in the end, never saying that that is solely the reason why we should not have an epidural.

    • Maggie, one other point to bring up about the “safety” of hospitals when giving birth … do you know how many hospitals fail “infection prevention standards?” If you are having a low-risk, uncomplicated birth, you are at least as safe (if not more so) having the baby outside the hospital (birthing center, home birth). You make it sound like it’s a selfish decision all in the name of “atmosphere,” but the truth is that harsh lights in most hospitals can stall or even stop birth (think of wolves having cubs in caves … that is how birth was designed to happen). Having a ton of unfamiliar faces running in and out of the room you are trying to labor in can stall the process (and lead to an unnecessary C-Section). Bacteria and infection can affect mom and baby in a hospital setting. Hospital “protocol” can interfere with breastfeeding, bonding, etc. I personally don’t judge people who choose to have a baby in a hospital, but I do think it is ignorant to imply that it is the only “safe” option and that mothers who choose outside a hospital are doing so for only selfish reasons. We are all trying to what we think is best for our unborn children as well … we are not “risking [ours] and [our] baby’s health just for a better atmosphere experience”

      • Molly

        FYI, the hospital I will giving birth at has dimming lights in the birthing rooms, has one midwife per mom-to-be and a strict policy where only the father of the baby and, and at a special request, one other person allowed in the room… I can play music, walk around, use their pilates ball, use the bath for water pain relief and/or water birth.. all the while being seconds away from emergency medical assistance. I chose this over a home birth or birthing centre because to me it is the safest option for myself and baby. So saying all that bull about the lighting and people coming in and out of the room all the time.. actually makes me laugh… hospitals have this image because of stereotypical people..
        And guess what…my Gynae/Obgyn is pro natural birth, he supports the choice of unmedicated births too…. the hospital I’m going to is also PRO BREASTFEEDING, imagine that.

        So as awesome as you feel about bringing down hospitals and people who choose to birth in them… just be careful what you say, have your opinion, but tread gently and know your facts first. Also.. don’t generalise.. it’s not cool.

        • Not sure why you think I’m bringing down hospitals or people who choose to birth there. All I said in my response is that there are plenty of reasons to birth outside of them that are not “selfish.” I’m extremely glad that you have found the best solution for you and wish you all the best, just like I would to any mother. To each her own. I specifically said: “I personally don’t judge people who choose to have a baby in a hospital, ”

          Please read my response carefully before attacking what I’ve said as being negative toward any group of people or generalizing. I was extremely careful NOT to do so.

  22. I really needed this!

  23. My son will be one year old in the sixteenth of February. When I was pregnant with him my husband and I decoded to try a natural birth. We did not expect my labor to last almost three days. I hadn’t slept in thirty hours during my labor and asked for an epidural so that I could rest. There was nothing wrong with the epidural except for how it made me feel. Like I was drugged and unable to move. I greatly regret my decision to have an epidural. While I got the rest that I craved, my labor lasted longer, and my mucles didn’t want to work. The doctors said they’d do a c section, I flatly refused. B was fine, and so was I. The epidural wore off after three hours of pushing. I didnt have any problems once the epidural wore off. Never again will I get an epidural unless I have complications that make one more safe than not having one.

  24. This is a great article! I have so many friends that tell me they don’t know how I gave birth without an epidural with my first. I had latent labor for ten days before my water broke. My doctor, who I had just met because I was switched from a midwife program because the hospital ended it, decided to induce me because the next doctor didn’t want to miss his golfing tournament (I’m not kidding)advised an epidural. I already decided to have a natural labor so I refused. My husband who is like Stoic in How to Train Your Dragon in physique was my spokesman and helped me get what I wanted. I labored naturally with an induction and back labor. Nurses were coming in to watch because apparently it had never been done in that L&D. I didn’t do it to prove I was strong or capable, but because I wanted to know fully what the pain of labor and recovery was and if I would rather have epidurals when I had any more children. I was with my mother when she gave birth with her sixth child and the epidural did not go well (she had an allergic reaction). I felt fantastic after and my recovery was quick.
    My second was a long labor ( she was tangled in her cord). My midwife advised an epidural after 24 hours of hard labor and stuck at an 8, and baby at station +2. After a few hours of sleep and throwing up because of the epidural, baby girl was finally born.
    Having both a natural and epidural, I would stick with the natural. I felt amazing after the birth, and recovery was quicker. My sister in law on the orher hand loves her epidurals. We support one another in our decisions.

  25. “Someday, K will do something that hurts me – so badly that my heart will break. I don’t mean that she’ll do something terrible and wind up in prison or something; I mean that she’ll break my heart just by growing up. It’s heartbreaking to think of her leaving for college, as proud as I’d be. It’s heartbreaking to imagine her deciding she wants to apply for a job in Venezuela or Madagascar or something. I always wanted to be off on crazy, not-always-safe adventures when I was younger, and she’ll probably take after me. It’ll be heartbreaking to watch her go, and to know deep down inside, “She’s not ever going to come back to me, is she?” Someday, I’ll be someone she comes to see on visits. It’s the most heartbreaking thing I can think of.”

    I’m nearly 39 weeks pregnant and this just about broke my not-even-a-mommy-yet heart! This was just a beautiful post. I’m so excited, scared, thrilled, anxious, and up for the challenge of my natural water birth.

  26. In labor with my first I begged for an epidural, but only after I had a nurse tell me “oh honey, you have so much further to go”. I really feel that if she had used words of encouragement, I may have been able to make it! Although yes, the relief was MIND BLOWINGLY AMAZING, the epidural slowed dow my labor drastically which of course meant… petocin. She ended up being a forceps delivery and I hemorrhaged badly after.
    My second girl I decided to try the natural route. What really helped was getting in the tub on all fours and growling like a tiger lol. I went from 6cm to 10cm within 15 minutes and she literally flew out of me before they could break the bed down or get the Doctor in the room! Oh, and she was born with the bag of waters around her intact as my water never broke. That was pretty cool!
    Now pregnant with my 3rd I plan to try natural again. My recovery time was AMAZING with my second. I had loads of energy and felt immediate relief from all pain as soon as she was born, much different from how fatigued I felt after all the drugs. I also feel that labor is much quicker if you can focus and try to go the natural route. At least for me, the epidural put a dead stop to all progress.

  27. I am 27 wks pregnant with my first! This article is very encouraging! I am at a midwife clinic and am planning on a natural birth! I am taking classes and reading up on as much as possible. I have always had a positive idea of the entire process of childbirth. I have amazing support from all the women around me. My mother in particular who has had 5 children, all of them natural and loved it! I am very relaxed and have a mind set of letting my body do what it was made to do without intervening! I am very excited and I know it will be worth the exhaustion and intensity!! The movie ‘The Buisiness of Being Born’ was very helpful!

  28. K. Moran says:

    I’m 29 weeks pregnant with my first baby boy, and only 19.. Once I found out that I was pregnant, I told my husband I wanted a natural birth. We are also believers, so I believed as much as I do now that God made the female body for birth! My family has not been supportive (well in the part of my non-medicated choices) they’ll laugh when I talk about my desire to give birth without any pitocin, without the epidural, or any other medication! But studying the Bradley Method I have seen what epidurals actually do to the yet to be born baby, that epidural DOES effect baby. If you don’t have any complications, try going natural! There are obviously circumstances for emergency c-sections, I’m grateful that we have that for those scary situations! I also cried when you were talking about your baby girl leaving… I can’t think about the day my son will go off and fufill his calling, I know he will do something amazing, but I just want to hold him in my arms forever. Amazing article! God bless you and your family:)

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  30. Thank you so much for this post! I am three months pregnant(first time) and really want to deliver naturally. The thought of the pain terrifies me but this was so encouraging. I love the parrellism to Christ’s pain. Everyone acts like wanting to have a completely drug free child birth is crazy and silly when you can just get a shot but I hate the idea of going 9 months being SO careful of what I put in my body, then at the very end being pumped full of narcotics?! Once again, thank you, it’s nice to know there are women like me out there (who HATE running lol) that are willing to go through the pain.

  31. I’m a 25 year old, I had my first baby its a boy. I found out about my pregnancy at 20 weeks
    And gave birth at 33 weeks. It was a natural birth real quick and easy, but before I got there I ddnt knw what to expect, we had no medical aid still don’t have. At first I thought its my kidneys paining coz just the day before I went to the clinic for my checkup. I only relised that I’m in labour when there was a fluid running down my legs, like I’m peeing but I can’t controle it. I informed my husband who at the time was not speaking to me. He thought I’m joking. This happend in the afternoon past 2. I only got 2 the hospital past 5, and there too they didn’t take me seriouse I remember the one nurse shouting telling me 2 open how will I give birth, while three others at the same time tried to get a artery for the drip. They askd a lot of questions. When they finally learnt I’m giving birth premature they sent me 2 another hospital in the next town. Because “they don’t have the equipment for premature babies”. At the next hospital first question was ” is that your real hair?” Lol. Then finally I ws theire first priority. I popped out my baby and tho we had to stay there for a month I wouldn’t change that. My baby was in good hands and so was I. The painfull thing for me was the recovery. This was my experience I knw there are other ladies who has gone through worse. God alone know how strong we can be as women coz He made us.

  32. Hi there! I noticed your mention of Christianity and actually wanted to invite you to a Bible study group I have on facebook, just entitled Bible Study.

  33. Love it! I am 21 years old and 28 weeks pregnant with my first baby! I am so happy to hear this positive encouragement. I plan on having an unmedicated birth in a birthing center (inside a hospital incase there are any complications) and I can’t wait. I’ve been reading a lot and watching a lot of unmedicated births to prepare my mind mentality, because I already know that physically my body can do it because that’s what God created it to do. I’ve been trying to do things that will ease the pain as much as possible, like walking and squatting, because I too hate pain lol. But I know I can do it and my childs health is more important than any pain I could ever go through. I promised myself I will not opt to put my baby and my self at a higher risk for so much just to get out of a struggle that was ordained for us to go through. The scariest risk of mine is the epidural interfering with breast feeding because of other complications. Breast feeding is so important to me because it’s so much healthier physically and mentally. It’s also more healthier short-term and long-term. I can’t willingly let anything increase my chances of not being able to do it. I’m sure it is easier said than done but I am praying for success in my endurance and I’m praying for no complications that will give me no choice! Thank you again for your encouragement!

  34. I’m sorry- but I never once have ever felt that go girl power when it comes to child birth. No one pushed an epidural on me, I was told it was my decision alone, even at the hospital at 9 cm. My doctors told me I could do it no matter what decision I made and I agree. What I do hear from society is a constant bombardment that all natural makes you a woman. It’s ludicrous and we need to just start encouraging each other to be ourselves and comfortable in our own skin and if that means natural childbirth great, if not- that’s great, too. There is nothing wrong with an epidural and there is nothing wrong with un medicated childbirth. You had a child! let’s encourage each other to go girl no matter what decision we make as it pertains to child birth. So you go ladies! You did it, no matter what way that is- our children and birthing experience are a blessing no matter what.

  35. This post definitely made me cry!! Lol, but what you are saying is so similar to my recent birth 8 weeks ago. I was in the hospital and decided that just like my other two deliveries I was gonna tough it out as long as I could and then tap out when it was too much to bear and get an epidural. Just like another momma commented all of it was tolerable until the very end and that’s when I started tapping out. To mine and my boyfriend’s surprise things progressed very quickly and epidural guy got tied up in a surgery on another floor :/. Anyway my doctor looked at me and said I need you to stop panicking we are gonna have to do this the old fashioned way now. I feel so much fear it was unbearable but I looked over at him probably with a crazy look in my eyes and said I can’t do this, he replied with you were built specifically for this moment, you were made to do this you can do it. That was the motivation I needed cause I did it. I had one job at that moment and I focused on getting my baby girl out so I could hold her in my arms. Now looking back cause I am also a huge wimp, I’m so glad I did it natural and it actually wasn’t as bad as I had thought it would be. I loved your story cause I can relate so much!!! :)

  36. 8 months ago gave birth to my second baby at home with the help of a wonderful midwife. It never cross my mind to get an epidural. The pain was doable, the worse lasted less than 10 minutes while crowning. I want to do it again. I felt empowered by the experience.

  37. This was the greatest post. It truly made me feel what I’m planning to do in May is the right thing. I’m getting put down in a way that I can’t do it from my mother because she said hers was so bad and she needed an epidural then I can’t do it. This just empowered me more. Thank you so much ! Our little Lillian will be here in May !

  38. I am expecting no. 1, and have done my homework and have decided on a natural birth. It is SO discouraging to hear from nearly everyone I talk to that I “won’t get a medal for not having meds” or “Just to say you’re strong.” When the fact is I just want what is best for me and for my child. The evidence supports my decision, but it seems that common ideas don’t and it makes me so very sad. It was so encouraging to read that it can be done, women have done it, and it’s what we were made to do! Never would I knock anyone for making a different decision, and in return all I ask is that no one knock mine. Same for birthing location. Most women who birth at home have done their homework, and studies show that in low risk pregnancies with a skilled attendant that it is as safe (or safer at times) than a hospital delivery. Again, would never knock women who feel more comfortable in a hospital, but again, in return, I ask that they don’t knock women who choose to birth at home. We should be supporting each other, no matter what our personal choices are. We are all bringing life into the world, and performing a miracle in the process, and all of us just want what is best for our babies!! Girl Power! no matter what that means to you. :)

  39. Elizabeth says:

    Hi. I loved reading this and didn’t find it offensive at all. I had my first with an epidural and just found out yesterday I’m expecting my second. The first thing I started thinking about was labor and how whether or not I would consider getting it again the second time around. I, deep down, don’t feel like I’m one of those women who “needs” to experience a natural labor to feel empowered. I’m in my third year of medical school. My first was born at the beginning of my second year and now my second with be born at the beginning of my fourth year. My husband is active duty military and I’ve had to spend months away from him and manage to get through it all. All of that makes me feel empowered and like I can accomplish anything I’m willing to endure. When I did my OB/GYN and Family Medicine rotations I was present at dozens of births and saw a variety of those with and without epidurals, and also plenty of c-sections, and I have to say that EVERY SINGLE birth I witnessed was beautiful. It never got old for me. I loved it.

    The hardest part for me has been the feeling that my mother (who had five babies naturally) seems to think I wimped out by getting an epidural. She never outright said that to me but has accidentally let it slip out a couple times. Plus, when I was at the hospital when I told her I got the epidural she looked at me and said, “oh” in a disappointed tone. As a (soon to be) physician I am very well aware of the risks AND benefits of epidurals and I would counsel patients that (for healthy low-risk pregnancies) the only thing that really matters is what’s important TO YOU. And, the funny thing is that although I tell myself and other women this, my own mother’s disappointment weighs heavy on me. I can’t help it. I’m embarrassed to say that this one opinion of hers affects me. I wish I didn’t care but deep down I do. I don’t know how much this is going to affect my second birth but I just hope that when that time comes I’ll have the strength to stick to what’s important to me. I may actually end up wanting to have that natural birth or maybe the epidural fails (it does sometimes happen!), and for that I appreciate articles like this one, so thank you for writing this.

  40. I really liked this article. I think it is very easy to forget that women were made to do this. I am currently 34 weeks pregnant with my first and I want more then anything to be able to do a natural birth. Will I get to, most likely no. I have had heart complications my whole life and by the age of 20 had been hospitalized for cardiac arrest 5 times. Being pregnant in itself was a risk and threw my heart out of rhythm. I love my OB who is going to let me try under the watch of a cardiologist. Even so, first sign of cardiac distress from myself or the baby will lead to a c-section. Which I am okay with, I don’t want my daughter deprived of her mother for my pride, her safety comes first.
    I’m saddened to hear that many women were laughed at or mocked when they said they wanted natural. My family was concerned, but they have very good reason. If your healthy I feel you should at least try, you might surprise yourself. That being said, I have felt the sting from the opposite side. When I tell people I know who had all natural that I am a possible c-section they treat me like an ignorant child. I have had women tell me that I should just do it anyway and that my doctor doesn’t know what she is talking about. I have even had people go as far to say you can’t really die in child birth, which is inaccurate to say the least. So just know that as a woman and and mother, you will most likely be discriminated against no matter which way you choose. The point is that mother and baby are healthy and happy. Don’t let fear or pride rule your birthing experience.
    Good luck mamas!

  41. I hoped to go natural with my baby girl, and my doctor and hospital were very supportive of that. 21 hours in, though, having been in labor all night long and not slept or eaten (apparently now the latest word from the American Academy of Anesthesiologists is that it IS good to eat during labor. Go figure), I was weak and exhausted, only 5 cm dilated, and completely unable to relax. The only things I could possibly think about by that point was how much pain I was in, how tired I was, and how hungry I was. At that point I decided to go ahead and get the epidural (which still took a while after that since our small-town hospital only had an Anesthesiologist on call). Once the pain was taken care of, and I was actually able to rest a little bit, my mind was actually capable of looking forward to meeting my baby. I had no side effects except for being cold and itchy while the epidural was actually running – which I considered a small price to pay compared to what I’d been feeling. My body worked much more quickly once it actually relaxed, and pushing only took 6 minutes! My baby came out perfectly healthy with no cause for concern.

    My sister-in-law gave birth to her first child with an epidural and her second naturally, only because he came so fast. She talks a lot about how she recovered so much better after the natural labor. On the other hand, my mom gave birth to 5 kids naturally, had way easier labors than I did, and she had me scared of getting an epidural. I think when she saw me in labor, she understood a bit more why I decided to go for the epidural! But she was shocked when two days later I was carrying my baby around in the car seat without a problem. I recovered from my medicated labor way easier than she did from her natural labors.

    I’m currently expecting my second baby, and while I understand that sometimes an epidural isn’t an option or the best option, I honestly will not be fighting the urge to get an epidural nearly as hard as I did the first time around. I honestly had no regrets about my epidural, and see no reason (for myself anyway – I know other women have a lot more side effects with epidurals) to consider natural birth so superior to a birth with an epidural. I’ll try to go long enough at least to let my body get a good start before the epidural, see how things are progressing from there, and not feel a bit bad about easing the pain to help my body relax and allow my mind to look forward to meeting my little one.

  42. My epidural saved me from having a c-section. I don’t feel that I was a wimp during labor and I often feel that their is a huge divide between mothers who think that if you get an epidural vs. natural delivery you are less than. I was in labor a very long time before I got my epidural and it is really disappointing when anyone that I talk to try’s to diminish my experience because I “gave in” to an epidural. What I don’t understand and continue to not understand is if someone is given the drug pitocin or any other drug to induce labor there is no stigma, but with an epidural some how I am less than. Girl power = supporting one another not trying to prove that some how you are better than. My 4 and a half year old is a healthy and intelligent little girl. No negative effects from the epidural that really saved me from a c- section. I’m about to go through it again in a few weeks and I know I will not be against getting an epidural. It helped me the first time. I also have to say that I was not free of pin or pressure with it. It is not exactly like taking a vacation at a 5 star hotel with or without an epidural. I just want to end with “girl power” to all of the mommas who endure all that is pregnancy and motherhood. We should be part of a beatiful club that unites.

    • Brandie says:

      Thank you! I, too, am overwhelmed with the feelings of judgement emanating from this post. Saying “I had a natural birth so I was more tuned in to my birth” or “true love” is willing to endure pain for the people you love the most. I even saw someone talk about getting the epidural at the first bit of “whining”, “pumped full of narcotics” but no judgement. “It’s not supposed to be easy, just a reminder of what love is” so we took the easy way out? We aren’t aware of love because we did it differently?

      But no judgement.

  43. Lovely post! I was induced on pitocin drip at 41 weeks due to a minor risk because of cord attachment location. Fortunately, I ran across a couple of stories of people who had been induced and labored with no pain meds, and that knowledge combined with my own mindset going in allowed me to labor with no meds (other than the pitocin drip that I was not thrilled to have). I “was started” at 8am and gave birth at 2am that next morning, and I wouldn’t have changed a thing. It was what I wanted and believe was best for us. Cheers to everyone’s personal decisions, but also thank you to people writing articles like this sharing their experiences and thus inspiring others to feel like they have options and he ability to do things the way they want.

  44. My husband and I did the Bradley method. I felt prepared, but unfortunately I was taken from my birth center by ambulance to the local hospital because my daughter was stuck. I delivered her completely naturally with the help of a vacuum, but altogether ended up pushing for 5 hours! I have a high pain tolerance and actually never felt like I needed an epidural. I would love to try a homebirth, but now I’m scared it might happen again. They never explained to me why I couldn’t get her out on my own. We’re currently trying for number two, and I really hope this will be a better birth experience! I would do it all over again, true, but hopefully it will be better!!

  45. I dont EVER leave comments on anything but this moved me so much! I have a now 7 month old but during my whole pregnancy i was dead set on not having an epidural and the only person who supported my decison and believed in me as much as i believed in myself was my husband. Even my nurses doubted me, tried to convince me to get an epidural and told me not to be a hero. It was so difficult to explain to everyone exactly what you just explained so beautifully. Unfortunately after 46 hours of labor i was forced to have a c-section. I gave it my all! Now i know with my next baby exactly what to do and how to handle the situation…..thank you so much for your words of encouragement!!!

  46. Thank you for writing this. I just recently went through my third labor. My first two were in the states where epidurals are strong and I felt no pain. My third was in Germany. I did technically have an epidural but found out that they only give small doses so when it came time for labor it had all worn off. My water broke and literally within a min it was time to push. I was not mentally prepared for the pain I was experiencing. I feel like I could have handled it better but I’m also proud of the fact that I made it through it without passing out (I almost did a few times til my husband focused me). Reading your post has made me realize that it was a good thing. Although I don’t know if I’d want to do it again and will probably opt for an epidural (in the states).

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