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Epidural vs Natural Birth: What are the Differences?

Epidural vs Natural Birth: What are the Differences?

Pain during labor can be quite overwhelming, especially if it’s your first time being pregnant. This is also true with giving birth. Studies show that most pregnant mothers opt for a C-section delivery because of the fear of the pain that they will experience through natural delivery. However, there is also another way where you can give birth normally, while still not feeling that much pain. Learn the difference between epidural vs natural birth here. Learn as well the possible risks that you may encounter if you choose to use an epidural during your pregnancy period.

What is an Epidural Birth?

Before knowing what an epidural birth, we must first identify what an epidural is. An epidural is a procedure where medical health workers inject anesthesia into your spinal nerves located around your lower back.

Pregnant mothers usually ask for an epidural if the pain from the labor contractions becomes unbearable. Epidural is effective in numbing those nerves, thus blocking you from feeling the pain. Epidurals are also required when a mother undergoes a C-section delivery.

The same concept is true with epidural birth. Before delivering a baby naturally, a doctor injects an epidural into the mother’s spine. It will then take effect around 20 to 30 minutes after the injection of the anesthesia.

A lot of mothers prefer to have an epidural vs a normal birth because it simply makes labor and giving birth much easier. They might still feel pain during their pregnancy and delivery period. However, it tends to be not as painful as how it will usually feel.

Considerations for Epidural Birth

Mothers should be informed if they do opt for an epidural during their pregnancy. Although it does help ease the process, it still poses certain risks to both the mother and the baby.

The main difference between an epidural vs normal birth, aside from the pain relief, is that there’s the use of medicine in assisting the mother during the delivery of the baby.

Studies show that babies whose mothers use an epidural took a longer time to be delivered because the baby was not yet in the right position. Because of this, doctors tend to use other instruments to get the baby out successfully, like using vacuum suction.

More importantly, the use of epidurals has serious side effects on the mother. Most women who undergo epidural during their pregnancy period might experience one or two of the following:

  • Temporary weakness in the legs
  • Nausea and headache
  • Fever
  • Itchiness and irritation
  • Back pain
  • Difficulty breathing

Sometimes, the epidural doesn’t really take full effect and may even have no effect at all on some mothers. There are also some rare cases where the mother may experience excessive bleeding, especially around the injection site.

The mother may also experience trouble urinating and lower blood pressure, which can also affect the baby’s heart rate. The rarest complications that women could experience after using epidurals during their pregnancy are skin infections and permanent nerve damage.

Key Takeaways

There are pros and cons in choosing epidural vs natural birth, and vice versa. Some women prefer to go with natural delivery without the assistance of epidurals because they don’t want to experience the possible side effects of it.

However, there are also times when an epidural is needed for the mother to be able to safely deliver the baby without any problem.

More than just preferences, it’s also important to consult your doctor to know what is best for you. It is important to go and have frequent check-ups during your pregnancy as this will help your doctor and medical team come up with a pregnancy plan that best fits your case and condition.

Learn more about Labor and Delivery here.


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Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Labor and Delivery: Pain Medications, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/labor-and-delivery/in-depth/labor-and-delivery/art-20049326Accessed March 26, 2021

Pregnancy and birth: Epidurals and painkillers for labor pain relief, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279567/, Accessed March 26, 2021

Childbirth – pain relief options – Better Health Channel, https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/HealthyLiving/childbirth-pain-relief-optionsAccessed March 26, 2021

Epidurals (for Parents) – Aetna Better Health of Virginia (Medicaid) (kidshealth.org), https://kidshealth.org/AetnaBetterHealthVirginia/en/parents/epidurals.html, Accessed March 26, 2021

Epidural anaesthetic | healthdirect, https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/surgery/epidural-anaestheticAccessed March 26, 2021




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Written by Patrick Juanico Updated Apr 05
Fact Checked by Hello Doctor Medical Panel