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Natural birth vs Epidural assisted delivery: Which is right for you? (+ real moms compare the two)

natural births

All you really want as a mom is a healthy baby. Ultimately, regardless of whether it is a boy or a girl, a vaginal birth or a caesarean section (C-Section), a natural birth vs. epidural-assisted birth, you want a healthy baby. 

Natural childbirth can be defined as delivery of your baby “without surgical intervention, use of instruments, induction, or anaesthesia”. An epidural is an injection into your back to numb pain from the waist down. Some women aim to have as natural a delivery as possible while for others, giving birth naturally is not the goal but it happens anyway. Childbirth hardly ever goes according to plan and usually has a few surprises here and there. In making a birth plan, women will sometimes have the debate of natural birth vs. epidural-assisted birth. There are benefits or advantages to both. Let us go through only a few of them below.

READ: A Birthing Playlist for all stages of your labour

*Before we go any further, please remember to take your own doctor’s advice over anything you read or see online!*

natural birth vs epidural

Reasons to have a natural birth

1. Feeling it all

While some might go for an epidural for this reason, maybe it is the reason why you would rather have a natural birth. Doing it naturally means that you get to feel the entire process of pushing your baby out into the world. You may even be able to accurately tell each time it is alright to push because you can actually feel your contractions. 

2. Avoiding the risks of medication

All anaesthesia come with risks. The risks associated with the medications themselves and then also with administering them. For example, as  low as the risks are of epidurals, they include allergic reactions, low blood pressure, nerve damage and nauseousness. Giving birth naturally means that you do not have to worry about all these risks.

READ: How to relax before you give birth

3. High chances of a quick recovery 

One of the benefits of natural birth is that, after a natural delivery, you have a better chance of recovering quickly from your birthing experience. You are not numb from any anaesthesia therefore you can move around freely.. Unless you have some tearing, you do not have any major recovery time to worry about and can relax and enjoy your baby. 

Click here to visit GivingBirthNaturally.com.

Recovery after an epidural may not be as swift because you first need to have the anasthesia wear off and then may also be dealing with reactions to the epidural. Of course, the risks of any reactions are low and epidurals absolutely have their benefits.

Benefits of getting an epidural

natural birth vs epidural

1. Managing your pain

Of course, this is the biggest reason why any woman would get an epidural. Relief from the pain of labour means that you can take the time to absorb your environment and the people around you while you are in labour. Not only are you numb to the pain of contractions before delivery but you are also numb to all the vaginal examinations that seem to happen before you are told it is time to push. Those can sometimes feel more excruciating and uncomfortable than contractions so it is relief to avoid the pain of that as well. 

2. Saving your energy for the hard work

A major advantage of getting an epidural is that you might then be given the opportunity to rest and maybe even sleep through your contractions and labour before the point of delivery. Contractions can take a lot of energy out of you. Getting a break and calming down before you start to push may make pushing easier for you.

RELATED: 17 Things I Wish I Knew Before Going into Labour

3. In case of an emergency c-section…

You would already be attached to your anasthesia and your anesthesiologist could simply numb you through your epidural. The epidural is just topped up for the emergency caesarean section.

If you are one of those moms who never even considered a natural birth and opted for an epidural, you definitely had these advantages available to you. 

Why were you bent on getting an epidural? Was it because of a fear of pain?


How painful is a natural birth?

Well, how can anyone truly measure pain? All pain is subjective. It depends on your pain threshold. Once you know that you are not getting an epidural and are in the throes of delivery, you get through the pain no matter what. Yes, some people will tell you that you forget the pain as soon as your baby is born but that is not always the case. You might remember the pain all too clearly but find that you are glad to have been able to feel any amount of pain because you also felt in control of your birth.

Going for birthing classes can also be invaluable in teaching you to manage your natural birth pain better. Online childbirth classes are especially useful and convenient when you are unable to physically attend birthing classes for any reason. Giving Birth Naturally is an online childbirth class that empowers women to trust their bodies in childbirth. You have access to resources on anything you require from labour positions to natural pain pain relief and unsafe medications.

giving birth naturally

Is a natural birth better for the baby?

Many would argue that having a natural birth plan in place is indeed better for the baby. An unmedicated birth means that you are not exposing your baby to any medication and some believe that your baby will therefore be born more alert and overall, healthier. There are lower risks of problems or any side effects developing for the baby when there is no medication involved. Side effects of medicated births, according to scientific research, range from breathing difficulties to difficulty with breastfeeding. 

Natural birth vs. epidural recovery

The majority of information that you find will tell you that the recovery period for a natural birth is shorter and easier. People may neglect to mention that with a natural birth, if you have severe tearing, healing is unlikely to be quite so quick. 

With an epidural, you may find that you had sufficient time to regain your energy before you started to push, therefore you have more energy available after delivery to move around and enjoy your baby as well. 

READ: How to pack a realistic C-Section Hospital Bag

When you have a natural birth though, there are no medications that your body needs to recover from and no side effects from medications that you may be dealing with over a period of time that you should be spending focused on your life with your new baby.

Reading the experiences of other moms who have gone through both natural births and epidural births can help you make up your mind about the natural birth vs. epidural debate for yourself.

Experiences from real moms who have had both an epidural-assisted birth and a natural birth

Gale had a natural birth after C-Section birth because her third baby came too quickly to get an anaesthesiologist:

My first epidural…was well worth it. Even though the needle hit a nerve going in (worst pain of my entire life, but over quickly), I’m glad I got it. I felt no pain during the three hours of labor of my 10 lb 3 oz son, even though they had to give me an episiotomy and use suction to get him out. And while the pushing sensation was duller than non-medicated birth, without that pain I was able to still sense when I needed to push (unlike the half-medicated birth of my 2nd born).

My third came so quick there was no time to get the anesthesiologist there, but this was also a good birth experience. My husband rubbed my back the entire time, save for the last stages of pushing when I was on my back, and that helped immensely. The pain was more intense at the very end but so was the sensation to push, and I think that helped the baby come more quickly.

medicated birth

Samantha would give birth naturally if she was to have another baby:

I’ve had 4 births (first with an epidural, next 3 without), and they were all different.If I were to have another baby, I would go unmedicated again. There’s many potential benefits for mom and baby, and recovery is so much easier!At the same time, it’s a personal choice and I certainly don’t judge other moms either way.

Lacy’s experience was much like the research shows: her recovery from natural birth was faster than for her medicated births. She also has a little natural birth tip!

I have had 3 epidural births, and one natural birth. For me the natural birth was far easier to manage pain wise because I also had no Pitocin with this one. For my body, a contraction on Pitocin was unmanageable, but a contraction with no Pitocin was painful, but not unmanageable. Also, for my natural birth, labor was much faster and recovery was easier. I was able to get up and go to the bathroom within 30 minutes of giving birth and I stayed at the hospital for only about 36 hours.

With my first (of which I had an epidural) one of my legs stayed numb for hours upon hours, leaving me stuck in the bed and on a catheter. I don’t regret my epidurals, what I regret is being induced. I was induced with my first 2, and by far the labor was harder and more painful, leaving an epidural as the only sane option for me. My third was the best – not induced plus I had an epidural PLUS I had midwives, and I would suggest all 3 of the above! 

With my last there was no time for an epidural. My labor progressed very quickly and with less pain then the others, which I believe was because I had been drinking tons of red raspberry leaf tea. I highly recommend the tea! In the end, everyone’s bodies are different, but each delivery is different as well. 2 out of 4 of mine also came with back labor, and I found counter pressure with a tennis ball more effective at pain relief than the epidural. Don’t let anyone else tell you what your body needs. I would suggest letting your own body be your guide.

Click here to visit GivingBirthNaturally.com.

Clarissa would also rather choose a natural birth over an epidural:

After having a pretty bad labor experience with my firstborn, I read several books and tried to soak in as much information as possible in preparation for my second labor. While the epidural the first time certainly helped BIG TIME with the pain, I was essentially paralyzed and unable to help labor move along through changing physical positions. I learned that the pelvis is much more closed when we are laying down (that’s why birthing balls are so wonderful!).

With my second birth, I really wanted to experience it naturally – simply to be able to listen to my body and birth in whatever position I felt intuitively would help. My hospital actually offered laughing gas, which I highly recommend. It only affects you while you are breathing it in, and it doesn’t reach your baby. I ended up having precipitous labor (read: very fast!) that consolidated ALL of my labor pain and contractions into less than 2 hours. This resulted in much more intense pain than normal. However, the laughing gas ended up being perfect.

I was able to move and feel my body, but the gas gave me an almost out of body experience that helped me mentally get through it. The best past? An hour after my baby was born, I was walking around and taking a shower! With the epidural, I was stuck in bed with a catheter for 12+ hours. With a natural birth, the pain was surreal, but my body literally felt back to normal afterwards.

After experiencing both, I would definitely pursue a natural birth for any future children, while baring in mind that plans can change and a healthy mom and baby are the ultimate goal.

Only you can decide what best for you and your baby: a natural birth vs. an epidural assisted delivery. Learn what your options are, weigh them thoroughly, take a decision but leave room to change your mind…or for your baby to change your entire birth plan for you!

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8 thoughts on “Natural birth vs Epidural assisted delivery: Which is right for you? (+ real moms compare the two)”

  1. These are all great points. At the time of birth I think every mom should choose the option that fits them best. I chose an option that was best for me and I don’t regret it at all.

  2. Kari

    I’m so glad that in this day and she we have the choice to do what’s right for us! No matter what you choose you are amazing!!!

  3. These are great tips for expecting moms. And very well written, the mom should take the call.

  4. I wanted a natural birth but there were complications and the doctors decided to have an emergency C-section. I would love to have another baby soon though.

  5. Great unbiased information! Ours was kinda a combo of the 2. Went natural, but because baby was sunny side up and ended up getting stuck, the pain became too unbearable to push, so the midwife just did a spot injection for in the lower back. Because it wasn’t an epidural, I was still able to experience the intensity of everything else, but didn’t have to suffer through back labor. It was still emotionally hard to accept any ‘assistance,’ but our son is healthy as a clam, and that’s what matters! This article is a good reminder to be open and flexible with your birth plan!

    1. Kin Unplugged

      That’s so interesting! I’d love to know what kind of injection that was. I’m sure Google will give me a clue 😀

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