A Tale Of Two Labors: Epidural Vs. Non-Medicated Birth


A Tale Of Two Labors: Epidural Vs. Non-Medicated Birth

Let me start this story by prefacing two points:

1) One of these birth stories is mine (Julia’s), and one is my sister Emily’s.

2) One of these is not better than the other. In fact, we were both happiest with how our own labor experiences went! The reason I thought they were interesting to compare is because after hearing about my sister’s experience, I was amazed at what a different experience we had. I feel like the biggest differences were what we could feel and our concept of time passing.

Labor #1: Emily, induced with an epidural (10 days past due date)

Emily was pregnant with a girl, who ended up weighing 9lbs. This was her first child.


Despite being 10 days past her due date, Emily had yet to dilate or experience a contraction. She checked into Labor and Delivery at her scheduled induction time of 5:30am.

  • Soon after Emily and her husband checked in, they started her on Cervidil to soften the cervix.
  • Around 11:30am or noon she received more Cervidil.
  • Emily remembers being hooked up to an IV for fluids, and having to take the pole with her to the restroom.
  • Started Pitocin to try to begin contractions.
  • Emily’s doctor broke her water around 5pm, at which time she started to feel contractions. After breaking her water, Emily’s Dr. upped the Pitocin.
  • Emily had wanted to feel the contractions and then decide if she needed an epidural or not.
  • The contractions were extremely painful, so she requested an epidural. This arrived around 6:30pm.
  • After receiving the epidural, things immediately became much more bearable. Emily was able to relax and let the Pitocin do its thing. The nurse did have to move her around a bit to spread the anesthesia to both sides. At this point, she was hooked up to the epidural, IV, and catheter from what she remembers. She was numb from the waist down.
  • Emily was able to sleep and watch Netflix while waiting to dilate completely, which took several hours.
  • When the day shift nurse left, she told Emily and her husband she would be surprised if the baby arrived before she returned the next morning at 7am.
  • They continued to check Emily for dilation, and had her use the peanut ball in the bed for a bit.
  • Emily had to wear an oxygen mask because the baby’s heart rate dropped a little.
  • She started pushing around 11:30pm, and her baby girl arrived after about 40 minutes of pushing, at 12:23am. Emily remembers having the shakes before or after having her. She also remembers that confetti was falling on the tv in the background, because the college football championships had just ended!
  • Emily had zero regrets asking for the epidural, especially once the baby weighed in at 9lbs. and she kept hearing her doctor ask for more stitches!
  • Emily recently had a similar induction and epidural labor with her second child.

Labor #2: Julia, spontaneous with no epidural (10 days past due date)

Julia was pregnant with a boy, who ended up weighing 7lbs, 15oz. Her doctor had scheduled her for an induction date at midnight, ten days past her due date. This was her first child.


Julia’s doctor had scheduled her an induction date with a midnight check-in, ten days past her due date. (It happened to be the midnight after Easter Sunday.)

  • On Friday night, two days before her scheduled induction date, Julia started experiencing her first contractions. They probably occurred every ten minutes or so all night, while Julia dozed in a recliner in the living room and watched old episodes of Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Julia had heard from the midwives at her OB practice to use the 4-1-1 rule, meaning to go to the hospital when contractions were coming regularly 4 minutes apart, lasting at least 1 minute, for at least 1 hour.
  • Saturday, Julia didn’t have hardly any contractions during the day, so she forced her husband to go to the wedding he was a groomsman in, while she went to her parents’ house and was basically waited on hand and foot all day — haha! (Does it get better than that??)
  • Saturday evening, contractions started up again, still about 10-15 minutes apart, and lasted all night. She again sat in the recliner and “watched” tv while timing contractions. They continued all day Easter Sunday.
  • By Sunday evening, contractions were occurring about every 7 minutes, and then 5. Once they got to 4-5 minutes apart, Julia and her husband drove to the hospital, which was about 20 minutes away.
  • Julia was shocked that her contractions weren’t really painful, more like a pressure she had to breathe through. She used yoga breathing techniques to get through them. Had they actually been painful, she probably would have insisted on going to the hospital a lot sooner!
  • When she arrived at Labor and Delivery, the nurse at the desk asked if she was here for her induction, but Julia informed them he was well on his way! They got her in a room and hooked her up to monitor her contractions. The nurse, who had been there for 50 years and was amazing, informed her she probably could have come in sooner.
  • Julia was at 4cm, so the nurse had her sit on the birthing ball for a while. (Julia had already mentioned to her doctor and the nurse that she preferred not to have an epidural unless it got really painful, because she hated needles.)
  • Since at this point she had not slept in three nights, the nurse gave Julia something to make her drowsy; she didn’t sleep but kind of dozed for 2 minutes at a time between contractions.
  • Around 8am, the drowsiness had worn off and she was around 7-8 cm dilated, so they broke her water.
  • Julia does not remember much between 8am and about 10:45am, when she felt the urge to push, due to the frequency of contractions.
  • It took a little bit for the doctor to get to the room, so the nurse was trying to have her breathe through the urges to push until he arrived. He basically got there just in time to birth the baby around 11am. A nurse asked Julia if she wanted a mirror to see what was going on; she did not, and thought that sounded insane because of how hard she was having to concentrate to breathe and push.
  • The baby was placed on Julia’s chest, and she was so tired she mainly was worried about dropping him! She does not remember feeling anything when they stitched her second degree tear — maybe they used a local anesthetic?
  • Since she hadn’t been hooked up to anything, Julia was able to sit up and later walk around without much trouble. She took Extra Strength Tylenol for pain management following the birth.
  • Although she didn’t have an IV or epidural or anything, she did have a saline lock placed in her wrist in case of emergency during labor. She was not against necessary medical intervention in the slightest, she just really hates needles and wanted to avoid them if possible.
  • Julia really enjoyed her labor process, and hopes to repeat it in a couple weeks if possible with baby number two! She is also open to an epidural if this time turns out to be way more painful than the first.

Have you experienced an epidural birth and a non-medicated birth? How would you compare the two?


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