Natural Birth vs. Epidural

When you are pregnant, you may have a lot of questions about natural birth and epidural. You can be nervous about feeling the pain when having childbirth, and also hear that the birthing process goes faster without an epidural and you will be more alert after the baby is born. The answers in the article below are some of the things that can help you make the decision about how you want to experience the birth of your baby.

Natural Birth vs. Epidural Overview

Natural childbirth is a vaginal birth by the choice of the mother with no medications for pain relief. Mom uses techniques to manage pain and contractions, such as deep breathing, massage, positioning and meditation.

Epidural anesthesia is one of the most chosen ways to relieve the pain of labor and childbirth. It involves inserting a catheter into the area around the spine to block sensation to the lower body. It relieves the pain, but does not take away all the feeling. The drugs used are anesthetic drugs usually a type of lidocaine. This is usually mixed with a pain reliever like fentanyl.

Natural Birth vs. Epidural—Advantages & Disadvantages

1. Natural Birth vs. Epidural: Advantages

Natural Birth


You will be able to walk, eat and drink during labor and right after childbirth.

It helps lower high blood pressure.

Natural birth is safer. There are no invasive techniques that carry risks of side-effects for you and baby.

If your labor is moving slowly, it will help you get rest in between contractions.

It provides you a sense of accomplishment for giving birth without the help of pain medications.

It gives a better birth experience to women with low pain tolerance.

You will be able to move around and find the most comfortable position. No loss of feeling when it is time to push.

You can still be awake and participate in the birthing process actively.

There are lower risks for interventions like Pitocin, forceps, or need for a catheter.

If you have to go in for a cesarean, the epidural will help with pain during recovery.

Your partner can be more involved in helping with pain management.

If you become exhausted, epidurals will help relieve fatigue and irritability.

Natural methods like techniques for relaxation are also beneficial during the postpartum period.

The technology of epidural anesthesia used in childbirth is being refined constantly, and practitioners that are very skilled can give you a very positive experience.

2. Natural Birth vs. Epidural: Disadvantages

Natural Birth


It does not eliminate the pain of childbirth.

There are some occasions when it doesn’t work, or relieve the pain enough or not at all. The anesthesiologist may have to re-do the epidural if the placement is not right.

You will have to use good techniques to deal with the pain in order to tolerate it and focus on the birth.

The procedure takes around 20 minutes to do and then another 20 to start feeling the effects. If it is given too late, it often doesn’t even start working in time.

Prolonged labor without pain relief can be tiring.

It’s got some possible side effects such as fever, itching, chills or headache. Headaches occur when the spinal sac is punctured.

If there are complications and you need a cesarean, they will have to put a catheter in your spine anyway.

After the catheter is inserted, you will not be able to get out of bed, not even to use the restroom.

Sometimes, excessive pain in labor can stall childbirth. Relaxed moms tend to deliver faster.

You may not feel urges to urinate before or after your baby is born and may need a catheter.

If this is your first baby, you may not be aware of how bad the pain of childbirth actually is. If you wait too long, it may be too late to change your mind if you are close to delivering.

You and the baby will have to be monitored for changes in vital signs.

Your partner may not get a break and feel exhausted.

It may slow your labor and you may need Pitocin to speed up contractions.


You may not feel the urge to push when it is time.


Baby can flip into a breech position.


Although it’s very rare, there’s a possibility that nerve damage occurs on legs and/or feet.

Who Is Not A Situable Candidate for Epidural?

Anyone can very easily have a natural birth, but not everyone can have an epidural. There are some instances you should not have epidural anesthesia and it is important to understand what those are. For the safety of you and your baby, you can’t have an epidural under the following circumstances:

  • If you are on blood thinners, there can be a risk of bleeding during needle insertion.
  • Your platelet count is low. It could increase the risk of bleeding and cesarean. This is actually a pretty common occurrence, but it can be treated prior to delivery with steroid medications to raise the platelet counts to normal.
  • You are hemorrhaging and in shock. An epidural can lower your blood pressure too much.
  • You are suffering an infection. An epidural can increase the risk of meningitis.
  • You are not 4 centimeters dilated. An epidural can stall labor if you are not dilated enough.
  • You’re almost ready to deliver. If your labor is progressing quickly, there is no time for an epidural.