Labor & Delivery

Hot Topic: Natural Birth

Choosing between getting an epidural or having a natural birth? Two experts weigh in on some big decision-making factors.Plus:How an Epidural WorksEpidural ComplicationsLabor Pain MedsAlternative Birth MethodsNatural Birth StoriesNatural Pain Relief

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Photo: Thinkstock / The Bump

Choosing between getting an epidural or having a natural birth? Two experts weigh in on some big decision-making factors.Plus:How an Epidural WorksEpidural ComplicationsLabor Pain MedsAlternative Birth MethodsNatural Birth StoriesNatural Pain Relief

Go Drug-Free
Titi  Otunla, CNM
The Epidural Is Safe
Laura Riley, MD

“Natural labor helps avoid unnecessary interventions. With an epidural, you can’t move around, and baby will need continuous monitoring. Your moving into a favorable position such as squatting, leaning or sitting helps your baby get into position more quickly, making labor go faster. For some women the epidural slows contractions, and medications such as Pitocin may be used to speed them up. When you can feel more, you can push more effectively; you’ll be less likely to have a bad tear or to need a vacuum or c-section. Unmedicated birth isn’t for all women. But those who do it feel more in touch with their bodies.”

“Some people can’t imagine going through the process without anesthesia. And the epidural is the safest option. There are very few side effects, aside from soreness where the epidural was given. Less than 1 percent of women get a spinal headache. Many do get a fever, for which we’d prescribe antibiotics. There are other pain medications you can receive through an IV, but those make some moms loopy or groggy. There is no data that suggests an epidural affects the baby, and there are certainly no long-term effects. There’s a debate about whether it slows labor down, but there are enough studies that show that’s not the case.”

Titi Otunla is a Certified Nurse-Midwife at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women, practicing within The Women’s Specialists of Houston Laura Riley, MD, is an ob-gyn, Director of Labor and Delivery at Massachusetts General Hospital and author of You & Your Baby: Pregnancy
By Elena Donovan Mauer