Deciding whether to have an epidural or a “natural” drug-free birth? I will share my experiences and hopefully they will somehow help make your choice a bit easier to make. I had the epidural with my first delivery and second delivery was drug-free.
In an epidural birth, you will not feel below the waist; the only indication of a contraction will be the hardening of your belly; you will physically be more comfortable. You will however be hooked up to monitors and possibly require a catheter as you will not be able to get up or walk around. In a drug-free birth, you are aware of all that’s going on with your body. You will feel each wave of contraction and will most likely be very uncomfortable due to pain. However, there are less interventions and less monitoring. Each has its risks and benefits but neither really is BETTER perse. The Bump has a really good gist of the benefits of both.
I made my mind up to go natural my first pregnancy. WHY? Because everybody told me it was the right choice to do. My mother told me horror stories of Aunt So-and-So and cousin So-and-So who had the epidural and now blah-blah-blah (insert health issue). I read tons of personal experiences and researched all choices medically which led me to the conclusion that it usually is best to go drug-free anything so I opted for the natural route. 4cm dilated and I told my nurse between contractions that I was going drug-free. 6cm dilated, sweaty, and short of breath, I pushed my call button for that darn nurse who I imagined was becoming negligent. Sitting steady for the epidural placement was hard due to the contractions but after the initial pain and pressure of the insertion, and as the medication worked its magic, I could breathe again…and I slept. Yep, slept. I chatted with my husband and we napped and when I was 10cm, the doctor was called and I was told to push. I didn’t really know if I was pushing right or not but the baby came out quick. I ended up with a second degree tear and had many stitches. I was however, oblivious to the slight tugging I felt as the doctor was making his stitches due to the beautiful baby in my arms (and the epidural of course). It took about 8 hours later until I felt ok to stand up and use the restroom; I was light-headed and was on fall-risk precautions. Urinating took a lot of concentration since I was still regaining my sensations. It took me about 2 months to heal from the stitches and a month before I really stopped bleeding. But overall, I really enjoyed my delivery even though the physical recovery was long.
For my second baby, I went in 5cm dilated with the mindset of getting an epidural. Within 30 minutes, I was placed in a room and as the nurse was about to start the IV, I felt my contractions escalate quickly. I told her I felt a lot of pressure. 8cm–too late for an epidural… The the pain came so intense I couldn’t breathe properly and the room started to go black… I can hear the nurse’s voice like it was through a tunnel or like I was under water. I told her I was blacking out and she just kept telling me to concentrate on her voice and then for me to keep talking. I needed to push and she told me not to but there was no way I could’ve controlled it. Baby came out and my nurse must’ve been endowed with super speed because she was gowned within a minute and caught that baby. I was so numbed and shocked from that “ring of fire” moment, I felt like I shattered everything below my waist and died but I was still here. Then I caught my breath and my first sentence was, “Oh good, she made the cut off mark for the school year.” My husband and I shared a laugh. I had a first degree tear that was sewn up when the doctor arrived. Then I breastfed my baby and got up to urinate in the restroom before being wheeled to the postpartum unit. It took me only 3 days to stop bleeding.
Overall, even though the epidural seem to have prolonged my recovery, I enjoyed the actual experience of delivering. Delivery without drugs was extremely painful but it is indeed empowering afterwards just because you lived through something that felt like you couldn’t have survived. The recovery after a natural birth was quicker as well. All in all, it really just depends on your level of pain tolerance as each woman experiences labor differently. I’ve even heard of women who did not have much pain or even had an orgasm when the baby came out. Sounds absurd to me but it’s possible. The only thing I will suggest is that if you plan to get the epidural, you should wait out as long you can so that you can dilate more. Having an epidural can slow down the process and if you get it too soon, you may need to get pitocin or increase your chances of a vacuum birth or caesarean.
Let me know what your thoughts are on the subject as well as share your experiences so readers can benefit from them as well. Thanks for reading! ^_^