Have you induced and still delivered without an epidural?

Posted by
By: ErikaCC BY 2.0
I’m 13 weeks pregnant and I recently found out that due to a few pre-existing medical conditions, it’s very possible the birth of my child will have to be induced at 38 or 39 weeks. I’ve been hoping to deliver without the aid of pain medication, and now I’m not sure this will be possible.

I’m interested in hearing from multiple parties — women who have been induced and either delivered with or without the aid of an epidural. — Moni

A few unmedicated childbirth tales:

Comments on Have you induced and still delivered without an epidural?

  1. I started to leak fluid just before 36 weeks and did not go into labor for 3 days. During that time my midwife recommended acupuncture to start labor. There’s no way to know for sure if that was what started my labor or if it was just my body, but I went into labor within 12 hours of having the acupuncture and was able to have an unmedicated water birth. Don’t know if this would be an option for you, but there could be ways to induce labor other than medications which might make it more difficult to deliver without pain meds.

    • I’m not sure about how your doctor/midwife feels about natural ways to induce, but birth was hurried along naturally for a long time before modern medicine, so it is possible. If you’re interested in reading about some of the herbs that can do this, Susun Weed is an incredible resource (www.susunweed.com). Then, of course, discuss with your doctor/midwife.

    • Regarding natural labor induction: keep in mind, it may not work. I’ve come to accept that with practically anything in life, there are no guarantees.

      I had had a minor leak around 36-37 weeks that healed up but left pooled fluid sitting on top of my cervix, which came out around 37.5 weeks and gave a very good impression of water breaking (even though my membranes were actually intact). Nobody knew that this is what had happened, just that it seemed like my water broke and then I didn’t go into labor. Over the next two and a half days, we first waited for labor, and then attempted to induce labor using acupuncture, blue and black cohosh, and horseradish (because eating spicy foods was one of the things that I had heard was supposed to help). Nothing worked, because my body was not ready for real labor. The blue and black cohosh induced unproductive contractions, which were painful but were never regular and didn’t move things along at all. I stayed 1 cm dilated the entire time.

      When I finally agreed to go to the hospital to get induced (because the amount of time between “water breaking” and labor was getting dangerous for infection), we found out that my membranes were not broken, and then pieced together what must have happened with the pool of fluid. (The nurses at the hospital clearly thought I was delusional about the amniotic fluid having left my body, and suggested I had just peed myself; sorry, I can feel what hole fluid comes out of, and pee doesn’t have white flecks of vernix in it.) In the end, I was lucky in that I didn’t need the pitocin induction, and was allowed to go into labor on my own (which started up the next day, go figure) and have my desired unmedicated birth.

      My take-away from my own experience here: if my body is not ready to go into labor, then the natural induction methods are not going to work.

  2. I was induced at 40W4d and 41w with both of my children and had no pain medication for either deilvery. They say it hurts more than regular contractions when you are induced with pitocin (which is the route i went) but honestly I have nothing to compare it to so sure it hurt, but it’s labor so i was expecting that anyways. My first labor was 27 hours long with 2 hours of pushing and my second was 10 hours with like 5 minutes of pushing, i was able to get through it both times by using breathing techniques, getting in the tub and walking the halls, basically anything you could do when you go in for labor without being induced. I am a big advocate of as little intervention as possible so as soon as i found out i had to be induced with pitocin I was motivated to still do my best with that goal. If that’s what you want to do it’s certainly worth a try.

    • Basically my exact experience, only three times over. Like you, having nothing to compare it to, it was hard to say if it was “worse” than natural labor with no pain meds.

  3. I was induced with both of my babies and had an epidural with the first and not with the second. I think my story is probably typical, if anything about birth is ever typical. I needed a great deal of pitocin the first time, and did 8 hours of labor unmedicated, 4 more medicated but no epidural, and then I chose an epidural and had my daughter less than 2 hours later (not the 8 more they’d predicted). With my son, I was induced again and just as the contractions were getting tougher to take I decided to request an epidural, and wouldn’t you know it, I had him 20 minutes later (just as they’d placed the spinal but before the meds had kicked in).

    But you know, my story is just my story. It’s not a prescription for someone else, a goal to achieve, or an experience to avoid. It was my real life; it was how my real babies got born. I learned so much from each birth that I would not trade any second of how either one happened – the stuff that scared me, the stuff that gave me deep joy, and the stuff I did that surprised me. I wish you the same feelings regardless of how you greet your little one. Best of luck with everything!

  4. I had pitocin for both births, the first due to water breaking and absolutely no contractions starting, the second four weeks before the due date due to low amniotic fluid and likely growth restriction. Pitocin is no joke– I agree with the above poster that it’s tricky when you have nothing to compare it to, but from every description I’ve heard/read of contractions without pitocin, I’m left to believe that when induced in that way, labor can be significantly more painful. Breathing and any other technique i had prepared were not even slightly an option(and i have really good pain tolerance) and after 6-8 hours of trying to avoid the epidural, I opted for it for both births. I don’t say any of this to terrify you, but I wanted to be honest and hope that is helpful. Now having said that, there ended up being an area of my lower body, by the front of my left hip, that the epidural had no effect on, leaving me feeling ‘everything’ but only in this one concentrated area. That apparently doesn’t happen often, but is possible. And the epidural also wore off early in my birth last month, so I was able to feel quite a bit and delivered my second girl in 20 minutes. When all is said and done, I wouldn’t change a thing about either birth experience.

    All that to say, you really never know what you will face in the moment, and I wish you luck, good health and a positive experience.

    • Basically second everything here. I had an epidural after pitocin despite my plan to give natural a try…I was that mom pleading for it. I then slept until it was time to push and then enjoyed the process very much. Looking back I realize that birth doesn’t have to be about challenging yourself with feats of strength. Whatever it takes to make the process enjoyable.

      • This was also my experience. I wouldn’t change a single thing, but hindsight tells me that I may not have needed the epidural if I had been better rested going into the process (I had been too excited about meeting our baby to sleep the night before). My pain tolerance is usually quite high, but I was so tired and my coping skills were depleted. I opted for an epidural so I could nap a bit & be more present when it came time to push & ultimately meet my baby. I have absolutely no regrets at all about this decision, but I am hoping to try again for an unmedicated birth if we are lucky enough to get pregnant a second time.

  5. This probably isn’t helpful as it’s not first hand but my mom had pitocin with my brother and no pain meds….just wanted to say that it can be done in general so don’t despair about it being impossible, etc.

    Good luck!!

  6. Yes! I was induced at 37 weeks due to high blood pressure. I started with Cervadil and that got me to 3 cm so I didn’t need the planned Foley’s bulb which is another non-Pit option. Then I had a low-dose of Pitocin and I also had to have mag-sulfate for the BP issue. I hit a wall with the pit (your contractions are pretty much constant on Pit) and had a dose of a mild narcotic called Nubain which gave me about an hour of rest and helped prepare me for the last stage. The highest my BP got was 175 over 96 and the rumors were that my midwife and doula were avoiding the attending OB who would’ve wanted me to go in for ceserean, but after 24 hours of labor and 30 minutes of pushing, I gave birth without an epidural. What made the difference for me was the Hypnobirthing tapes I had listened to during pregnancy, the evening primrose oil I had begun taking to soften my cervix and having a kick ass birthing team that helped me stay calm, focused and gave me tough love when I needed it. You can do it. But if it doesn’t work out, that’s okay too because you’ll have a beautiful baby in your arms. Good luck!

  7. I have had 3 children born via induction with Pitocin…I used no medication with my first son 9lb 4oz and 15 hours of labor, the second son 7lbs 8oz , I opted for an epidural…which “went in wrong” and didn’t work so I had it redone and as soon as it was in the second time, they laid me down and he was crowning so I had to push through complete numbness…I did not enjoy that , my final child 8lbs 10oz 12 hours of labor, I opted for the epidural at my Dr’s insistence because I was getting super worn out after about 9 hours…and again it was not right…this time it only numbed the left half of my body….they had me on my side in the hopes it would “drift” over…it didn’t and that my friends was the worse labor ever!!! I wouldn’t have one again even if my Dr felt like I was tiring, my last labor would have been way easier had I opted to follow my gut and skip it. I can t began to describe how terrible it was being numb on one side and feeling like my body was being ripped apart on the other!

  8. I had 2 unmedicated home births with my first 2 pregnancies. My 3rd was an induced hospital birth and yup still unmedicated. Honestly it wasn’t that it was *harder* then the other 2 it’s just a different kind of labor.

    I’m a VERY firm believer that you can do ANYTHING you put your mind to. People laughed when I said I wasn’t using drugs the first time. When it came around the second time it was “WOW bet you’re going for the drugs after your last birth.” Then when I was going in to be induced it was “You’ll never survive pitocin! NO ONE SURVIVES PITOCIN!” as long as you have a good supportive team and you REALLY make sure your wishes for no drugs comes through pre-labor you should do great

    • Thank you so much for that! I have this combination of being super stubborn and having a really high pain tolerance, so I feel like if I can just go into it knowing that it IS possible (hence my OBF question), I can set my mind to it and do it. Even knowing that there is no shame in having to ask for medication in the end.

  9. I was induced at 42 weeks and was able to hold out for about 30 hours without a epidural. It then took baby another 8 hours to arrive. I never told anyone that the epi had worn off %95 by the time I was ready to push. The epi was enough to give me a couple hours of sleep and enough energy to push. The fact that I was able to feel the pushing process was uplifting to me and it made me feel closer to the “natural” birth experience that I so badly wanted.

    Induced labor is really different from an uninduced labor. You go to a level 8-10 on the pain scale quickly very when you’re on Pitocin and it can feel like you’re in transition for the length of your labor. Contractions can last longer. It is impossible to predict each individual birth but if I had to do it over I would chose the epidural knowing that it wore off before the baby got here and that I absolutely needed the energy that it gave me.

    I have a baby on the way at the end of July so we’ll see what happens. My hopes are for quick labors for everyone!

  10. I had an elective induction at 39w 2days with my youngest (#3) and had requested an epidural as soon as they would let me have it, since with my second I wanted one but by the time everything was ready it was too late to give me one, and there was no way I was going through that again! Regardless though, induction doesn’t automatically mean you walk in and they start pitocin. I came in the evening before and they placed a foley catheter. Basically they insert a little balloon into the cervix (I was 1cm but no labour at all at this point), then they inflate it with water, and the pressure of the water slowly mechanically dilates you to about 4cm. They sent me home and it fell out at about 6am the next morning. I wasn’t feeling anything, so we wandered back to the hospital around 10am, they hooked me up to a monitor and discovered that I was actually in labour, just not feeling much of anything yet. That was all the “induction” that I needed, and it was my choice to have the epidural. Now granted, you may need more intervention (ie, pitocin, which I’ve only had after an epidural was already working), but you may not. My sister-in-law was induced at 42 weeks, and had cervadil, which started her labour natually. She had no pain meds at all, and delivered my 10lb nephew.

    So it is possible to induce without meds, depending on circumstances, but frankly, I’d never have a non-epidural birth again if I could help it. I’ve had 2 with epidurals and one without, and I enjoyed the experience and so much more when the pain tapered off enough with the epidural to stop me throwing up. Apparently that’s how my body chooses to react to pain, because with my first, I threw up constantly, like for 7 hours, until the epidural, and with my second, I couldnt’ stop throwing up until he was born. It was not fun. I remember telling my husband that I could handle the contractions or I could handle the puking, but I couldn’t do both at the same time. Just personal experience, but having my last one 5 months ago was wonderful. It was a low dose epidural, I could still tell when I was having a contraction, and she was out in about 2 pushes. The best part: stitches afterwards, which I had with all three, were not noticable with the epidural, instead of more painful than labour, which is how it felt with my second one. Just a thought – if you can do it without meds, all the power to you, but if you decide that you want some pain medication, don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for it.

    Good luck, and induction really isn’t that bad!

    • That’s super interesting! I had no idea there were other options to actually get the process started. I have a fantastic set of midwives at my clinic, and I know for sure that if I do end up needing induction, they’ll give me plenty of options.

      There is something about the puking combined with pain that I TOTALLY understand. I, also, can stand one or the other, but the two together are terrifying. 😛

  11. My water broke and I went 18 hours without labor really starting, so I had to be induced with Pitocin. Our goal had been a completely intervention-free hospital birth, so I tried to stay as close to that as possible by not accepting any pain medication. After they started the Pitocin I had about a 17 hour labor with an hour and a half of pushing. I managed to keep to my goal and not accept any medication but let me tell you, it was difficult. The contractions were very strong and did get pretty painful and for the first 8 hours or so I hardly dilated and was getting more than a little disheartened and exhausted. I didn’t know if I could make it.

    What got me through was my amazing birth team – my husband, mother, and mother-in-law. My husband and mother both really supported my goal of delivering med-free, and were there helping me, keeping me breathing and encouraging me, letting me lean on them and occasionally beat on them. My mother-in-law (a registered nurse) was able to keep communication with the hospital staff clear and effective and kind of provide a closer relationship with them. We also got really lucky in that we had a very supportive nurse for the last stretch who went out of her way to help us – she even stole a bed from another room to swap out with mine since it was the only one in the wing with a birthing bar to lean on!

    The other thing that helped was being educated about the process, knowing what was going on and keeping in mind that it wasn’t going to last forever. Reading other birth stories and becoming knowledgeable ahead of time gave me the confidence that if all these other women had done it, I could do it, too. (For example, when things were getting crazy-difficult and I threw up the first time I knew I was in transition – it gave me a boost because I knew it wouldn’t be long after that!)

    Despite how difficult it was, I got through it and got my amazing little baby boy in the end. Find the right people to support you (whether they are your friends and family or if you hire a doula or midwife that you trust) and keep in mind that it will pass and you can get through it, too!

  12. I had high blood pressure throughout my pregnancy and at 36w, my doctor decided they’d induce me at 38w because along with even higher blood pressure I was getting edema. They put me on blood pressure meds. We did Cervedil overnight which got me to 1cm. Then started the Pitocin drip and kept jacking that up. I used the birthing ball, the jacuzzi tub, help from my doula. After 8 hours I was at 6cm and it was too much for me at that point. I went with the epidural. 8 more hours later I was still at 6cm so I opted for the c-section (they would have allowed me to continue laboring overnight again if I wanted). All that said, I was mentally prepared for a long for that to be the final result and I’m happy with how things went. I still made my own decisions and the medical team supported me regardless of what my choices were.

  13. I have successfully delivered a beautiful little girl on two separate occasions after being induced. We don’t have the option for an epidural here, so that wasn’t even an option for me but needles freak me out so I would have most likely passed on that even if it was available. Happy to answer any questions or help soothe any fears you may have…just know this – You can do it!

  14. I was induced because I had pre-ecclampsia, 2.5 wks early. I was already in early labor, though, 3 cm dilated and like 75% effaced, I think, so that may have affected the rest of the birth.

    I was very upset because I had really, really wanted a totally unmedicated birth (had gone with midwives all the way up until the day before I delivered, when they said I had to see the OBGYN at the practice). Everything had been perfect up till two days before the birth, when my regular check up showed high BP and elevated protein levels.

    When I was sent over to the hospital I was absolutely terrified they would do a C-section; the doctor said they would do everything they could, but that she doubted my baby could withstand contractions for long (his heart rate was ridiculously high). However … they spent 4 hours stabilizing me (mag/sulfate and pitocin) and then sent me down to L&D.

    I made it through about 14 or 15 hours of the pit without an epidural. (Partly because it took like three hours to get it when I did ask for it!). After they broke my water, the pain became very intense (again, like others have said, contractions on pit are supposedly stronger than without, so it can be harder to take), and they were still not sure I could avoid a C-section, so my thought was, let me give myself every advantage I can here. The epidural allowed me to rest/doze for 2-3 hours, then I started pushing (despite the nurse’s command NOT to — like you can control that? Imagine the worst urge to go the bathroom you’ve ever had, times ten, and then someone shouting at you not to go!) and Baby appeared in 20 mins.

    So … the epidural wasn’t in my system too long (I didn’t get the headache; I was pretty loopy from the mag/sulfite, and also probably being up like 40 hrs and over the moon with new-baby-excitement :). Baby wasn’t too terribly affected (he was sleepy and jaundiced, but may not have been because of the epidural). At the point when the doctor actually says “worst case scenario, you and the baby both die” your priorities get rearranged very fast! I don’t have negative feelings about the birth at all. The baby was perfect, I healed quickly, and I didn’t have a c-section (I was particularly terrified because I’ve never had any kind of surgery in my life; this might not have been so scary to me if I had!). While I’d love to avoid induction and an epidural next time, I don’t have any regrets. And while I loved the midwives, all the doctors were wonderful and really took my wishes into consideration (nobody offered me pain medication at any time, until I asked for it).

    If you are concerned about the effects of medication on you or the baby, I do recommend “Natural Hospital Birth: The Best of Both Worlds,” which is a great book (although I know we should avoid labeling birth natural/unnatural; I think the author is trying to conjure a certain image). Very good info, very balanced, and non-judgey. I did read, there or somewhere else, that delaying the epidural can also be a good option if that’s what you end up wanting to do. Good luck to you whatever happens!

  15. My wife was in labor for over 60 hours, very, very slowly progressing. We stayed at home for the first 5 days and then finally, at 4.5 cm, our midwives said they should break her water and do it at the hospital. In a few hours, she had dilated to 7, but then got stuck there for a few more hours. Then meconium came out, and they got nervous, and said we had to make an intervention. We tried nipple stimulation with our breast pump, and it helped, but was working very slowly. We decided to go with pitocin. My wife was incredibly strong and brave and did rugby squats for some incredible length of time.
    Anyway, she did it, with no pitocin, while being beyond exhausted from the week of hard labor. I don’t know if I could do what she did, and I have no clue whether anyone else could, but my wife did and I will always be impressed by that.

  16. I had to have pitocin and I requested an epidural for both of my children. I won’t go into the extent of why…but here is something that happened with my second.

    After the second epidural was placed (the first did not work). My contractions intensified so much that even with the epidural I was breathing through the contractions. I dilated from 6cm to 10cm in 3 HUGE contractions. Contractions that I am sure I would have survived without the epidural…but would have been exhausting after 3 days of prodromal labor.

    Then came the pushing. I felt not the “ring of fire”, but the urge to push, and I felt my daughter slide into this world. One contraction for her head, and one contraction for her body. Mid-contraction as I pulled in more breath to push again I could feel her half in and half out of me.

    This was the most amazing and glorious feeling. I know it is a feeling I may never have again, and I attribute this sensation to the epidural. I was not struggling with focusing on pain reduction, and breathing to miss out on this moment.

    I am not an advocate for choosing the kind of childbirth that works best for the woman. Due to complications I may never have a birth that is unassisted. As a woman who wanted a natural childbirth I got something glorious, and maybe an experience I would not have had if I went naturally.

    Good luck to you! May your child come into this world happy and healthy.

  17. Due to my husband being in the Marines, I was induced at 40 weeks and 1 day. I did not have an epidural. It was very painful, but well worth it. I bounced back much more quickly then I did with my daughter.

  18. I was put on pitocin 12 hours into labor because my water had broken and my contractions stalled. From the beginning I knew that I didn’t want an epidural or any pain meds, so even with the pitocin it didn’t even cross my mind. The pain was, well, painful, but it honestly wasn’t even the worst pain I’ve ever experienced, and I just kept remembering that every contraction was bringing me closer to meeting my baby : ) It was “good” pain. Pushing felt AMAZING and the ring of fire part was so short and inconsequential to the overall experience. After it was over I felt like I had conquered 10 mountains, and the best part was being able to WALK to my room afterwards and then devour a giant sandwich.

  19. Hi,
    Not sure if your interested in an answer from the other side, but Im a Midwife in the UK (we manage all of pregnancy and birth and post-delivery care and only ask docs to get involved if needed)
    There are quite a few stages of induction, some ladies need only the first step, some need everything. And in my experience there is no rule, everyone copes differently with pain and labour. It’s true what these lovely ladies are saying ; the drip (pitocin in the US?) can be harsh, coz it’s job is to artificial create contractions when your body might not be ready. But again, its all perceptive, some women cope with this well, and some find it very painful.
    I hate to be a typical ‘professional’ about it, but my genuine advice is:
    – Dont worry too much, you’ve got your whole pregnancy to enjoy before you get to labour, and your body may kickstart it itself.
    – Read up on pain relief options, both medical and alternative (do you have TENS in the US?)
    – Keep a really really open mind, I know it can be scary to go into hospital and labour without a defined plan, but the truth is its not a pain or situation that can be mimicked or fully understood till your in it. Just be aware of your options, have a discussion with our birth partners beforehand, keep communication open with your doc/midwife/nurse and see how it goes. Only you will know how you are coping and what you need at the time.
    I hope this helps a little, the very best of luck.

  20. I was induced with pitocin at 40 weeks. The tricky part of pitocin is you have to be continuously monitored (straps to monitor baby’s heart rate and your contractions) which at some hospitals can really affect your ability to be able to do other pain relief techniques. I labored without pain meds for 16 hours until I basically just couldn’t take it any more. To this day, I don’t regret my epidural one bit. I don’t know what non-pitocin contractions feel like, but I was in such horrible pain I couldn’t get myself out of it, even with a doula. The hospital I chose does a “walking epidural” so it’s light on meds and doesn’t take away all the pain, but most of it. And it made the rest of my labor so much more bearable. I labored for 8 more hours and pushed for 30 minutes. I got out of bed and walked to go to the bathroom 30 minutes after delivering my daughter.

    If people ask me about it, I just suggest you sketch out what you really want during your birth but understand things change and it’s ok. Try to go without an epidural, do your research on pain coping techniques, get a doula, etc. But if the never ending ricocheting contractions become too much for you, allow yourself the option of picking an epidural. I wish I would have done it a few hours sooner.

  21. I am type 2 diabetic and was induced at 39w6d. 33 hours of pit. No pain meds.

    Yes. It’s possible.

  22. I was induced with at 39 weeks 5 days, 24 hours or so after my waters broke. After that I had no further medication for the about 22 hours it took until my son was born, which included almost 4 hours of pushing. I was able to finally push him out after the nurses and midwife got to the end of their shift, and and a new team came in who were all infinitely more compatible with me somehow. It was exhausting, and yes, painful, but not unmanageable. I found a birthing ball really helpful, I sat on it almost the whole time and bounced through the contractions. In between I could read magazines and talk with my husband.

  23. I wasn’t induced, but my labor stalled after 2 days and I opted to get a pitocin drip to help move things along (after trying a few natural methods). Despite that, I still managed to deliver without an epideral (another 24 hours later!) You CAN do it!

  24. I have had 1 child and was induced the day after my due date. I went for 6 hours with a Pitocin drip and no epidural, until I was vomitting from the pain and couldn’t stop, and couldn’t breathe well because I was vomitting and then felt like I was suffocating. *Could* I have decided not to get an epidural? Probably. I mean, I certainly wouldn’t have died. However, it felt to me like a giant had be gripped in his fist and was crushing me as hard as he could without actually killing me. I decided on an epidural when my husband asked the nicest nurse I had to check my dilation and I had not dilated a single centimeter since arriving at the hospital. I couldn’t take it anymore. I got the epidural and had my son a tad less than 3 hours later. I do still wonder what if I hadn’t gotten the epidural, would I have only had 3 more hours to endure? But deep down I believe that even if a psychic had been in that room telling me that with 100% certainty I’d have my child in 3 hours, epidural or not, I still would have opted for the epidural.

    All that being said, that was MY experience, YOUR experience will be totally different. Your body will react differently to the Pitocin than mine did, you will have different doctors, you have different reasons for inducing and for wanting to birth unmedicated. I absolutely believe you CAN do it if you choose to, and if you choose not to, everything will still be okay.

Read more comments

Comments are closed.