medicated vs. unmedicated childbirth

“Every delivery is different that’s why it’s so great to have options.”

A few weeks ago I shared my WHY behind my unmedicated deliveries. I had so much great conversation behind the scenes after that, but one thing that was resoundingly clear is that many women don’t know what the pros and cons of delivery really are. How can they make an informed decision when the cold, hard, amazing, incredible truth isn’t plain to see?

SO! I surveyed as many women as would oblige me, but they all had one thing in common: ALL had experienced both unmedicated AND medicated deliveries. Each of these responders has done it both ways (including C-Section, because I categorize that as a medicated childbirth, not something else or other.) I felt that was really the only fair way to write this post as I can wax poetic about my deliveries all day, but I only know one way. So as you read these responses please know these are from real live women with real live feelings who have experienced the joy and pain and highs and lows of childbirth and were kind enough to share their thoughts! SO many had the same answers so you won’t see duplicates reflected, just starred if they were said often. Unmedicated vs. Medicated Childbirth

PROS of UNMEDICATED

The overall labor experience was much faster than when medicated. (Nearly 80% of responses said this!)

“I felt like it was a incredible task that everyone is the room had to come together to make it successful. My husband was totally involved in every single moment. I needed him and felt our connection grow through the experience. Even though it was excruciating pain, I felt so free. I could move how I wanted, when I wanted, and felt so much support in doing so. And the moment my son was born it was the most euphoric, perfect, overwhelming feeling in the world. Honestly, heaven on earth. I felt so empowered as a woman.. like I could do anything. I remember looking at my son and just sobbing saying, “we did it.” And how very true that was because WE, him and I, my little baby, conquered birth together. Also… a few minutes later I stood up, walked to the bathroom and peed… also very freeing!”

“I felt like a million bucks the second that baby was out and it was great to be able to immediately take care of myself as needed instead of relying on so much assistance.”

“I loved being able to move right after he was born. Walk, feel, go potty, plus the adrenaline of what I had just done!”

“The connection with my husband. He stayed focused on me for my entire 20 hour labor, helping me every step of the way. It felt like we brought our son into the world together!”

“The experience was the most spiritual of my life. And my husband would never tell me how to deliver but he did say he felt more involved and useful and connected to me and our baby.”

“I loved how quickly I could get up and move around and shower. My body recovered much quicker and my post labor aches and pains were much much lighter than with an epidural.”

“There was sort of an adrenal rush after. Like a birthing high!”

“I wanted to be fully present and I was. I wanted To FEEL everything my body was meant to do and I did. I wanted to be able to listen to my body and respond to what it needed, not what the doctor was telling me to do. Also a huge factor: My recovery was a faction of the time, like a millisecond compared with my medicated births. For example, I may have taken one ibuprofen after my natural birth. (2 medicated, one natural. I wanted all natural but didn’t make it the first two times) Side note: I used a Dr for the first and Midwives for the last two and hat difference was also like night and day.”

*”I felt both times that my recovery was better, I had more energy afterwards and my milk came in faster. I felt more of the joy and relief in the experience. I felt so strong!”

*I feel like a badass.

“I felt so empowered being able to tell when my body was going from early labor-transition-full dilation. It was so incredible feeling so connected to my body in such a primal way. I was completely unaware of anything else going on around me…it was just me, and my baby.”

“Every decision was very educated and informed. Every decision was made by me and my husband. My midwife was always clear on our options and then followed that with different ways to educate us to make our own decisions. I never felt blind. I felt empowered. I felt prepared! My last two (unmedicated) births were truly beautiful! It was so incredible to be in an environment that I felt completely loved, supported and cared for. I finally felt like I had the tools to find myself. To find my courage and my womanhood! It was finally the spiritual experience that I yearned for!!”

“I feel like I had more energy after my unmedicated births or maybe even just more confidence. It was easier to get through nursing and sleepless nights when I reminded myself of the pain and struggle I just survived, not that delivery anyway you do it isn’t amazing but for me the reminder that I just did something so hard made it easier to get through each hard moment after.”

“Bleed less + you are checked less for progress since the physical evidence is all over your face. ;)”

— One of the questions I asked was if their feelings of Euphoria were higher in medicated or unmedicated births. 70% surveyed said feelings were higher in unmedicated and 30% said it was the same across the board. 0% said higher in medicated. —

Unmedicated vs. Medicated ChildbirthPROS of MEDICATED

“I felt much more relaxed. I was able to joke and laugh with the staff… it was a joyful room. I felt like i was able to be much more present with medication.”

“Having the epidural gave me a sense of peace because I didn’t know how to be during the pain and when the baby actually came out.”

“My baby finally arrived! My Dr was willing to give me very low dose of the epidural so I still felt pushing and contractions which was nice. Also I had to have stitches, and I’m glad I was numb for that!!”

“The best thing was after the epidural getting to rest and take a nap / save up energy before pushing.”

“Calm and controlled labor.”

“I was more rested and mindful of the pushing process. The entire room felt calmer during each push that brought me closer to my daughter.”

“Just the chillness of it all. Laying there chatting with your husband about how excited you are about having a baby instead of focusing on working through the pain with your husband doing his best to help. For me the excitement is higher because I’m not in pain, and it allows me to really soak up that brand new baby when they lay him/her on my chest. I know some women describe natural birth as peaceful, but maybe I was too much a whimp. The epidural route definitely felt peaceful to me.”

Less anxiety in spouse or partner.

“I was able to focus more on the joy of birthing another baby and feel more connected to my husband during labor. I also felt more in control of the entire experience simply because I wasn’t focusing entirely on my own body. I felt energized and amazing afterwards instead of just exhausted.”

“Planned C-Section takes all the stress out of planning for childcare, being physically and emotionally ready, feeling more control leading up to delivery where I never felt that way before.”

Unmedicated vs. Medicated ChildbirthCONS of UNMEDICATED

Pain. 100% said this.

“Your spouse or support system dealing with you being in pain.”

“Faster deliveries. It sounds like a Pro, but if you’re not ready for it (or you husband or doula isn’t there yet) it can be so stressful.” Of those surveyed several births went much quicker than anticipated and the stress and anxiety of not being able to mentally prepare to deliver can be overwhelming (Edit: I can vouch for this as it’s happened to me, too!)

“After delivery my body went into almost a shock. I shook so bad that I couldn’t hold my brand new little love. I was wrapped with heat blankets.” (Edit: This happened to me with my first as well. I shook for 30+ minutes but it helped after I ate and got blankets on. Luckily he was getting his bath so I didn’t feel like I couldn’t hold him.)

“Not as joyful or light of an experience. It’s an intensity I’ve never felt until she was delivered.”

Treatment by hospital staff — “Unmedicated in a hospital, there was a feeling of judgment and like I was doing something wrong. That I was hurting my baby by waiting to give her the first bath immediately after birth. Just the lack of support from the people who were supposed to be there to care for me.”

“Transitioning (or dilating through 7 to 10 cm) When you start to say “I can’t do this” I bet 1 million dollars you’re transitioning. All women have different reactions to this intense time but typically the contractions get longer and closer together, you feel like you’re not getting a break or can’t get comfortable.”

“That burning ring of Fire is legit 😂.” (That would be the feeling when your baby’s head crowns.)

Unmedicated vs. Medicated ChildbirthCONS of MEDICATED

Longer delivery or slowed delivery once the epidural was in. (70% of responses)

Slower to progress is attributed to why medicated births have higher rates of C-Section. Cited from this source.

“I didn’t get to experience the process as much… the machine would tell me when I was contracting, my doctor told me when my babies were crowning… I couldn’t tell myself and that sort of takes something away from childbirth.”

“The epidural took multiple attempts for success.”

“Since you can’t feel it, its hard to know what is going on. Like birth is being done or happening to you, not that you’re in charge.”

“Body aches for the week after – mostly in my back. I also don’t love that you can’t get up and showered for a long time after.”

“The pain in your spine AFTER you leave the hospital. I feel pressure in my spine, where the needle was inserted.”

“Things become part of the doctor’s schedule instead of yours” Edit: Lots of responses said they sat fully dilated for long periods of time until the doctor was ready to come in and deliver.

Longer pushing.

“A bad epidural is worse than no epidural.”

Epidural Side Effects: “Too numb” throwing up, headaches, nerve damage, pain, or numbness for days, week, some even had years after delivery.

“I can’t fully empty my bladder for a while after having and epidural.”

“I felt so claustrophobic the moment they hooked me up to all the different machines. I had two bands wrapped around my stomach to monitor each baby’s heartbeat, my IV in my arm, and the epidural hanging from my back. I felt trapped and it made me panic A LOT. I was uncomfortable and couldn’t move the way I wanted to. I also felt like that birth was just a waiting game. No one worked together to make it happen. I laid there. My husband fell asleep. And a nurse came in every couple hours to check me. There wasn’t much emotion until the babies were actually coming out. And when they were born, I felt a moment of disconnect. As much as I hate admitting it, it’s true. It took me a second for my brain to wrap around the fact that the two humans that lived inside me were now outside of my body. And then once my epidural wore off I felt like I got hit by a semi truck. I felt crippled. I couldn’t walk and could barely breathe on my own. The recovery was really hard on me and as dramatic as it sounds, I feel like I can still feel the spot where they put my epidural… granted I have an unbelievable fear of needles!”

“I didn’t feel like I was in control of my body and couldn’t help the labor progress. I felt groggy afterwards and more “numb” to the whole experience. My milk was slower to come in than my unmedicated births.”Medicated vs. Unmedicated

RECOVERY:

To generalize all those surveyed: the immediate effects and recovery were better with unmedicated, although over time the recoveries evened out with the exception of body aches for medicated/epidural. *This is not including C-Section recoveries which were longer and harder, or those who tore or who had episiotomies or those who had body shakes due to shock — which can happen in both medicated and unmedicated deliveries.

Almost all who had PPD post-birth had little to do with the type of delivery and almost all to do with living environment. Not having a support system nearby, living away from family, having multiple children and not able to catch up on sleep, or the temperament of the baby itself.

ADVICE for UNMEDICATED

I’d definitely have more of a plan and understanding of the natural stages of birth. Having had medicated prior, i didn’t really know what I was in for 100%.

Tell your staff as soon as possible that you plan on delivering without medication. Even ask before go in who they’d recommend. Having a supportive staff is crucial.

Finding your center when things progress quickly. How to react and move through things when the timeline is sped up!

Hypnobirthing classes, relaxation tapes, a doula, something extra to help you get through the intense parts.

If you’re at peace with a medicated birth and you stay calm throughout it, things tend to be easier recovering. Doesnt mean it’s easy, but think of adding a hard recovery with unstable emotions vs. a tougher recovery with a positive mindset and emotions. One is definitely easier. And I believe we learn more from being positive and can see what needs to be different for another birth experience to be more positive.

— I hope this helps lay out some of the realities of delivery, things you can expect or prepare for either way. Reading the PRO list for both had me weepy. It is such a beautiful experience and you can see that no matter how you deliver. I hope the CON list doesn’t terrify anyone too much, but merely informs. You can’t always control your situation, but you can be informed and understand your options. I kept these women private, but I want to thank them all for taking the time to submit this survey!! — xo Emily

Comments

  1. on May 3, 2018 at 8:20 am said:

    Love this post so much! I think this is so helpful for women!

  2. on May 3, 2018 at 10:26 am said:

    I’m so glad you put this together! And I loved reading all the different experiences! It’s so helpful and insightful! 👌🏼 I loved hearing more about both sides of things in an open/unbiased way like this! Love! ❤️❤️❤️

  3. Stephanie:
    on May 3, 2018 at 10:34 pm said:

    I had 2 hospital births and 3 Home. None medicated so I didn’t do your survey. But I wanted to share that one of my sisters had a c section where the pain med didn’t numb her. Not sure why. But they had started so had to finish. Another sister had an epidural that just made her unable to respond. She felt all contractions and had to hear people comment on how peaceful she was. She got no empathy whatsoever. But felt everything. My oldest sister is a lay midwife so by the time I was having children I had some knowledge. It was more difficult for my husband because at home he felt more responsibility than in the hospital. We were blessed at both but I prefer Home.

    • Small Fry:
      on May 4, 2018 at 4:44 pm said:

      Oh MY GOSH! That is the scariest thing I’ve ever heard, but it also happened to my friend Crystal. Her epidural did the same thing but she said she couldn’t breathe or tell anyone she couldn’t’ breathe until she passed out. So much of my choice was that with unmedicated i know what to expect – pain. Medication has SO many other variables I couldn’t bring myself to risk!!

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