Are you trying to avoid a cesarean?  One way to help you to achieve that goal is to avoid using an epidural.  But you must take a childbirth class, like the Bradley Method, that gives you all the tools and techniques to be able to cope during your labor.  Here is some information that might help you decide what kind of a birth you want for your baby.

67% of women giving birth in a hospital will choose to have an epidural to relieve some or all the pain from their labor. 
READ MY POST – Epidurals – What You Need to Know

  • But is an epidural your only option?
  • Are there risks to getting an epidural for pain relief?

Like any medical procedure in any medical situation, there are pros and cons or benefits and risks.  The options available for regional anesthesia to most mothers in hospitals are an epidural, a spinal, or a combined spinal-epidural.

  1. Epidural – Anesthetic is inserted through the dura into the spinal cord that numbs the mother from the waist down. “Epidural medications fall into a class of drugs called local anesthetics (examples include: bupivacaine, chloroprocaine, and lidocaine) and can be delivered in combination with narcotics (examples include: fentanyl and sufentanil) in order to decrease the required dose of local anesthetic.”
  2. Spinal – “Spinal cord and the nerves are contained in a sac of cerebrospinal fluid. The space around this sac is the epidural space. Spinal anesthesia involves the injection of numbing medicine directly into the fluid sac. Epidurals involve the injection into the space outside the sac (epidural space).”

Weighing the Risks and the Benefits:


  • Local anesthesia can provide effective pain relief.
  • Epidurals are considered generally safe for mother and her baby.
  • Commonly available
  • If the need for a cesarean arises, mother is already medicated


  • Your movement is restricted
  • It can slow down and prolong your labor, instigating the need for other medications to speed up the labor.
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Increased difficulty pushing, thus the need for vacuum extractor or forceps to help with delivery of the baby.
  • Prolonged use can cause fever in the mother.
  • Leads to medicalization of birth because of the need for other interventions and restrictions.

If you do opt for the epidural, take advantage of these tips:

  1. Postpone the use of an epidural until you are at least 6 cm dilated, and your contractions are 3 minutes apart, one minute long, for at least 2 hours. to decrease risks of ending up with a Cesarean.
  2. Inform your care provider and nurses that you want to delay the epidural.
  3. If you do opt for the epidural, ask your nurses to help you move and change position every 30 minutes to help baby continue to rotate and descend.

What can I do to cope until it’s time for my epidural?

  1. Hire a doula
  2. Move, move, then move some more. Climb stairs. Sit on a birth ball. Rest.
  3. Change positions at least every 30 minutes.
  4. Use deep slow abdominal breathing.
  5. Get in the shower or a bath if available. Water reduces pain dramatically.
  6. Use cold packs, warm packs, and/or a TENS unit.
  7. Use massage and touch to reduce your perception of pain.

Ask your care provider these questions:

  • What are the potential side effects and risks to both me and my baby from the use of an epidural?
  • What pain management alternatives are available at your birth place?
  • Does the nursing staff have time to provide support for women laboring without an epidural?
  • Do you support me using a doula?
  • What do you believe about natural birth? What is your opinion?

    Epidurals – 7 Questions and Answers