Have you induced and still delivered without an epidural?

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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. Not sure what else to add that hasn’t been stated already.
    Yes, it can be done. I’m proof of that. Will you have a doula? If I didn’t have my doula, I think my story would be different. She was supportive and basically gave me a 3 hour massage to ease the pain. Good luck!

  2. My water broke and contractions hadn’t legitimately started almost 24 hours later so we opted for Cervadil. It took 4 doses over 12 hours before active labor kicked in. I asked for an epidural during transition but my nurse held me off and I got through it with just a small dose of Fentanyl. I was in active labor for 4 hours and only pushed for maybe 10 minutes. It took a long time to get going but once it did, it was hard and fast. I didn’t come out of it completely drug free but I am super happy with my experience.

  3. I agree with so many other ladies, there are ways to do whatever you want and ways to get whatever you need and you will have an amazing birth I’m sure, even if the plan changes from your ideal. I highly recommend you seek a doula who is comfortable and familiar with inductions and the various scenarios that can accompany an induction in whatever birth setting you choose. Doulas can help you keep your goal of avoiding pain medication and can support and advocate for you if you feel like changing that plan too. You are in control of your body, your birth. Lots of love and luck your way!

  4. My water broke the day before my due date but I wasn’t dialating so I was put on Pitocin without an epidural. The active labor was intense but not unmanageable. Our daughter was 8 pounds 14 ounces and there was only minimal tearing. I think most women can deliver without any pain medication if they believe they can. Good luck in your pregnancy and know that you can do it!

    • Hmm, I was 100% convinced I could. Turns out I was wrong. These things take you by surprise.

  5. It depends on a lot. My mom was induced with both my sister and I, and she didn’t have time for an epidural either time. Having said that, she loooved the entonox and still recommends it 22 years later. Also, look into alternative induction methods. Massage, acupuncture, pedicures and good old fashioned sex are all options! Best of luck, mama!

  6. my first birth was 24 1/2 hours, 3 1/2 hours of pushing, no pain meds. my son was 10 lbs 1 oz (and he was 9 days early!). he got stuck in the birth canal on his way out and stopped having a heart beat or oxygen for six minutes. my dula (who is well over 200 lbs pounds by the way) had to put her full weight on my stomach while the doctor reached in with his hands and pulled just to get him out. i had 22 stitches after he was born and tore in four different places.

    my second was transverse twins so i had no choice to but to have a c-section. i chose a spinal. the spinal made me have a huge pounding head ache and it felt like someone was pounding on my shoulders with a baseball bat as hard at they could. i even started to get tunnel vision. i was completely numb where they were cutting me. after i itched like crazy for two days and wanted to jump out of a window just to make it stop. it isn’t any fun to itch when you can really move!

    my fourth pregnancy, fifth child was supposed to be a vbac but i moved in the middle of my pregnancy to a town that didn’t support vbacs. i was very sad that i had to do another c-section. because of my reaction to the spinal i chose to do an epidural (forgetting that they don’t work on me) and had to sit there through the whole c-section feeling EVERYTHING. i seriously thought i was going to go insane. it was so unbearable! i wanted to get up and run out of there or asked to get knocked out so i didn’t have to feel anything. thankfully c-sections are very fast, so by the time i was at my breaking point to no return, they were done.

    my third pregnancy, fourth child… i was induced with pitocin. my labor was 3 1/2 hours, four pushes. done. no tears. no damage. the first words out of my mouth afterwards was, “that was it?”. i got up five minutes later like nothing happened and never once felt like i gave birth. out of all my other labors, the contractions were the worst! it was so painful! more painful than any of my other labors! the pitocin makes them stronger, longer, and back to back. i was on my hands and knees from them crying! and nothing can distract you from them! i tried the epidural but it didn’t do anything for me. i could still feel them at full force. thankfully my labor was so short that i did not have to endure them for very long.

    the thing is with you is you will know when you are going through labor when you can’t handle it anymore and you pain meds or if you can keep going without one. you can’t know any of that until you are there in that very moment going through it. some people opt for an epidural right away so they can enjoy their labor and live in every moment and avoid suffering all together, some people try to go natural and end up not, some people are able to go natural. none of them are wrong, none of them are bad, and none of them make your labor or you any less or weak. everyone does what is right for them and not what is right for you. you will figure out what is right for you and what you want, and what ever that is will be right just for you. you best bet is to be as educated as much as possible on the different ways to cope with pain, different types of pain meds, different birth plans, all the different types of deliveries, on dula services, the birthing process, and so on. be as proactive as possible and make the best decision for you based on what works for you.

  7. Induced. Epidural. Don’t regret a thing. Second baby c-section. Do regret not getting 2nd opinion for that. Ob had me scheduled for it as soon as i was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Baby 1 was 9.1 oz, baby 2 was 9.10 oz. Remain openminded and seek 2nd opinions.

  8. As you get closer to the due date get a second and maybe even a third opinion if induction is really necessary. Talk to a few people with a more holistic approach to birthing than a mainstream OB and get their opinion on your particular case. Many midwives will do a free consult and since they don’t get paid by insurance they have no incentive for more intervention, at the same time many do not have malpractice insurance and have some incentive towards caution.

  9. My water broke at 2:30 in the morning and while they said I was having contractions, I really didn’t feel anything. Not sure if this was a high tolerance for pain or what. They waited 6 hours before starting to push for pitocin. I pushed them off for probably 4 hours after that, but contractions were still non-existent to me and according to the monitors, not strengthening. Then they started the pic drip which was increased steadily for the next 12 hours. I managed pain with self hypnosis until I started having terrible back labor pain. Then I lost my focal point (my husband’s eyes) and it became much more challenging. I gave in and got 1 shot of stadol. It basically just knocked me out for the non-contraction time, so it just felt like one really long contraction. I did not continue with that at all! I continued labor naturally and my little girl arrive a few hours later. Total labor time before pic: 10 hours After pic: 12 hoursThere was only 6 minutes of pushing.

    I’m 20 weeks along for my second pregnancy and the only plan change is to have a doula to do pressure point massage for the back labor while I do the self hypnosis with the aid of my husband.

  10. It is possible! It is also possible for your body to take over and for the pitocin to be turned down. I know you’ve heard a million times that every body and every pregnancy is different. Just remember if you decide at any point to have pain meds that it is OK! Good luck.

  11. My first two were induced. With my first I finally opted for an epidural about 4 hours after they broke my water. I was contracting and it hurt like hell. It was my first and I had nothing to compare that pain to. Also I sort of panicked because with each contraction the pain was worse and I had no idea how bad it was going to get. After the epidural life was good. Until it wore off and just my luck, right in the middle of transition. They tried to give me more epidural but it didn’t take effect until the baby was already out. With my second I declined the pitocin so they just ruptured my membranes right off the bat. Four hours later I was holding my little one. I’m not saying it wasn’t really really painful but I got through it. With my third I went into natural labor the day after his due date. I had back labor which feels something akin to someone grabbing both of your hips and trying to rip them from your body. I chickened out and got the epidural fast. This time it worked all the way thorough. I never even pushed. My point is that it’s going to hurt, no matter what you do. The pushing doesn’t hurt all that bad in my opinion it’s the actual labor that’s sucks. Whatever you feel like you need is what’s best for you. Good luck!

  12. I had to be induced with both (pitocin) and ended having to have my membranes ruptured as well. No pain killers, no epidural. It hurt like hell though. It was really fast after my water broke (6hrs first, 3hrs the second). Right when I felt I couldn’t take it anymore, it was time to push.

  13. Statistically-speaking, induction is more successful and has lower interventions when it is performed later in pregnancy — the close the baby is to “done,” the more prepared your body is for labor, so an induced labor is likely to be less stressful (on the body). There’s a lot to be said for waiting as long as possible before an induction (using your best judgement and under the advice of your caregiver, of course). Similarly, if you have an epidural later in labor, it is less likely that everything will cascade towards a Cesarean.

    It’s definitely possible to have an induction without also having an epidural. Talk to your care provider, the hospital (on the tour? or if you’re doing a hospital-based childbirth class) and your doula, if you have one, about things to try that can help you avoid an epidural during an induction. A big one is the ability to move, which helps you cope with contractions. Ask about monitoring: is it mandatory? Can they do it at regular intervals instead of constantly? If it’s mandatory, do they have a mobile monitor you can request?

    If you’re writing a short birth plan, consider including a request that you not be offered pain medication. Maybe have a safe word with your partner and/or doula that means, “No, really, I do want the epidural for serious.” If you are not planning to have a doula, I highly recommend that your partner (or whoever will be with you at the birth) read the book “The Birth Partner.” Learning about pain coping techniques that your partner can help you implement could go a long way towards helping you avoid an epidural.

    ALL that being said: Epidurals are useful medical tools and they have a place. If you get to a place where an epidural makes sense, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that whatsoever.

  14. You guys are all fantastic – thank you so much for your support. I feel like now I am more confident that I CAN do it without pain medication if I do end up induced – but at the same time, I won’t feel so bad if I do end up asking for medication.

    A couple things I didn’t mention in my question – my prenatal care is all with midwives, I go to a practice with three rotating midwives (by the end, I will have seen them all, but I won’t know which will deliver the baby). So, I’m very confident in my support system – I know they won’t push me into anything I don’t want without a very good reason. I will deliver in the hospital regardless, that’s where the midwives in my clinic all deliver the babies, so I don’t have to worry about being shifted somewhere else if things take a turn, which is really reassuring.

    I’m confident in everyone around me, my husband, my midwives, my family – I’m just not so confident in myself. 🙁 But I’m definitely feeling more uplifted now!

    You’ve all given me a great list of questions to ask my midwife next week when I go in as well. Thank you again!

    – Moni

  15. I was induced with pitocin at 40 weeks 4 days. I’d been 3 cm dilated 3 weeks in a row. I did it because my mom was staying with us for a month and half the month was over.

    I went in at 7 and they started IV fluids and pitocin. I didn’t really notice the contractions, they broke my water around noon, then I noticed. The doctor had offered an epidural before breaking the water and I declined.

    There were things I was able to do to maintain mobility, like pushing the IV and using a mobile monitor. It was annoying sometimes but walking around the maternity ward kept me occupied, and seemed to make labor progress pretty well. After three laps post water break I was done walking, and tried the bathroom and different positions in the bed or standing until I didn’t trust myself to walk across the room to go to the bathroom. When the nurse finally came in with a bedpan (they were in the middle of a c-section) she left quite alarmed and came back with the medical team to me asking “so I can push now”? This was at 4 o’clock, he was delivered at 4:15 with like two pushes during one contraction.

    It is not only possible to give birth without pain meds when induced, I would choose to do it again in a few weeks (May due date for my second) if this little goober hasn’t come out just so she won’t get too big for me.

  16. My water broke and I had GBS. When I didn’t go into labour for about 10 hours or so, they induced with pitocin. I did it without the epidural. I took a hit of fentanyl during transition.

    My advice? Make sure you can move around! I was strapped to the bed with monitors, so I pretended to have to pee like every half hour. Standing up was glorious, and actually my contractions would pick up sometimes when I stood up.

  17. Every woman and every labor is different–as our stories here attest–but I gave birth to our daughter without pain medication after reluctantly having my labor “jumpstarted” with Pitocin. The contractions were incredible and would come, full-strength, out of nowhere, but right about the time I started to question whether I’d be able to power through, someone told me it was time to start pushing…

  18. As has already been stated, every woman’s body is different. With my daughter, I was induced at 42wks beginning with the foley the night before, then starting pitocin that morning. While on the pitocin, I couldn’t feel the contractions. The nurses kept looking at the monitor and looking at me like I was crazy saying, “you can’t feel that?” After about 4 hrs, they turned the pit off. Within 30-min I started to feel the contractions and my midwife decided to leave the pit off and I got to labor the rest of the time drug free. The pitocin was started at 8am, turned off around 12:30, I felt contractions around 1:00 and delivered at 6:30. Anything can happen. Good luck!

  19. Everyone is different, but I really hope that you get to have the birth that you want.

    I had midwife-based care in a hospital setting. I wasn’t induced, but I did have my waters broken with both babies and had pitocin augmentation with my second baby because my contractions began to slow and there was a little bit of staining. I chose to have the membranes stripped with the first, because she tried to be born in the caul and it was like trying to push out a water balloon. With the second, I didn’t want a repeat of the frustration and so opted to have my waters broken when I arrived (I was 5 cm dilated and mostly effaced). As for the pitocin, it didn’t make any difference to the pain levels for me, and I didn’t require any further intervention. I have back labours so I do a lot of walking to help manage that, but I’m lucky enough that the pain is equal to a bout of stomach flu. I don’t bother with drugs because I have a very high tolerance to painkillers/anaesthetics, and it’s not an overwhelming pain.

    Now, I would say that my labours are easy because they are for me. Having read up on everything to refresh my memory since we’re expecting our third baby in July, I found out that I was lucky to not need (more) interventions. Both of our babies were Persistent Occiput Posterior Position deliveries, both with an arm up near their faces and one with (loose) nuchal cord. So, it is totally do-able to birth easily despite complications and intervention, without drugs, and without fuss and stress.

  20. With my first daughter I was terribly sick. Threw up everyday of my pregnancy at least 2-3 times. Between my 37 and 38 week appointment I had lost 10 lbs I was at 3 cm and at the end of my rope! I was induced with pitocin at 39 weeks with no pain meds. I was in labor for 5 hours and pushed for 30 minutes. It was not as hard as I thought it would be. My only advice is keep moving and if you are able to get in water it helps

  21. I was two weeks late… induced and did opt for epidural but it pooled the first time, the second time around five cm it only made the right side of my body numb and felt everything on left side. Third epidural worked like a charm, and I was able to get rest. Girl, you can do it just prepare yourself with how to deal with a great amount of pain. Meds make your body go into labor when its not ready… its severe honestly.

  22. For my first birth, I went into labor naturally eight days after the due date. I had a last-minute epidural and I had a really positive experience. It dulled the pain but I could still feel everything that was going on. There weren’t any negative side effects, I didn’t feel “high”, and I could walk right afterwards.

    For my second birth, I was induced at 38 weeks because my blood pressure was too high (so it was a planned induction, even though I found out about it less than 24 hours beforehand). I was given an epidural, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t work. I’ve never had an unmedicated birth to compare it to, but there wasn’t the decrease in pain like there was the first time. The nurses were teaching me breathing techniques “in the moment” and they definitely helped. In my experience, induced labor was much more painful than uninduced labor (even though that might have been because they didn’t let me leave the bed when I was induced and I had to stay in a certain position so that the monitor would work).

    Obviously, I survived having an induced birth where the epidural didn’t work (and the baby was 10lbs 9oz!) and I wasn’t traumatized or anything, but I definitely want to try an epidural for my third kid. I recovered pretty quickly after both births and I didn’t notice any difference in that area.

  23. after trying every natural method anyone could think of (acupuncture 3 times, castor oil, black cohosh, etc etc) i was induced with cervidil and then pitocin at 42w, and did not get an epidural – but I sure would ave taken one, if it had been offered! I was glad that my husband and midwife knew that I really wanted a nonmedicated birth, and were able to talk me down.

  24. I would encourage you to have 3 plans. Who knows – you may go into labor early (it could happen!). Plan 1. Your ideal, natural without pain meds; be prepared with whatever meditations and partner support you think is going to give you the best chance of doing it natural. Even if they induce you — give it a try! Plan 2. You just couldn’t take it and you give into the epidural (don’t blame yourself! Don’t let anyone make you feel bad about making this decision!). Plan 3. Something happens and your OB/midwife says you need an emergency c-section. I actually had 2 c-sections, and I was glad that my husband and I had talked about it as a possibility because we did not want the babies to go to the nursery (we wanted to keep them with us the entire hospital course) and we were able to keep them with us. If there was a medical reason for them to take the baby to the NICU, we would have been fine with that — but the babies were healthy once born. Once it was determined that I needed a c-section, my husband made clear to the team that, unless there was a medical reason to take the baby to the NICU, he would keep the baby while they sowed me back together – and that is exactly what he did. Ultimately, don’t stress too much about this – you will be a great parent, regardless of your delivery story.

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