There are many different decisions a woman has to make when she finds out she’s expecting; it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Which things should I avoid? Which medications are safe to take? Will my baby breastfeed or bottle-feed? And, of course, one of the most difficult and controversial decisions: will I get an epidural or try for a natural birth?
There are several benefits as well as downsides for both medicated and natural birth. Ultimately, it comes down to a personal choice. Here we’ll discuss some of the pros and cons of each so you can compare them and make an informed decision for yourself.
More than 50% of women use epidural anesthesia, making it the most common way to give birth in America. There are a few kinds of epidurals including epidural blocks, walking epidurals and spinal epidurals. Some of the benefits of having an epidural include:
- They allow for more rest during labor, which helps with fatigue and irritability.
- They allow you to stay awake during a c-section (should you need one) and aid in pain relief during recovery.
- They reduce discomfort.
There are also possible risks involved in having an epidural, including:
- A sudden drop in mother’s blood pressure
- Slowed or ceasing labor
- Fluctuations in fetal heart rate
While the majority of women choose a medicated birth, many women decide they’d like to try a natural birth. Judith Lothian, doctor and childbirth educator, explains in her article Why Natural Childbirth, “Choosing natural childbirth means that women prepare for the birth of their babies confident in their own ability to give birth, being willing to feel contractions, and finding comfort in response to what they are feeling.” Natural birth has several benefits:
- It allows you to walk around and change positions.
- It allows you to work with your contractions, which can speed up labor and pushing.
- It can shorten recovery time compared to medicated birth.
Some of the disadvantages of natural childbirth include:
- Only minimal pain relief available through breathing techniques or changing positions
- More fatigue during labor
- Possible increase in blood loss
While there are both positive and negative aspects to consider for both options, the main idea to keep in mind is that there are two people involved in a birth: both mother and baby. The primary goal is to get both you and your child through the process safely, so whatever your birth plan looks like, prepare yourself for the possibility of change during the labor or delivery process.