Are you a pregnant mama trying to decide between going for a natural birth or opting for the epidural? If so, I’ve put together this post just for you!
I’ve had both experiences and there are definitely marked differences between them. Although I wanted all of my births to be natural, I’m actually glad I have the birth experiences I’ve had (I’ve had a c-section as well) because I’ve been able to help a lot of other mamas make informed decisions.
When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I knew nothing whatsoever about birth preparation. I didn’t even know it was a thing. Aside from prayer, I just pretty much trusted the expertise of my doctor and the nurses at the hospital. And to be honest, they were awesome and very accommodating!
My first birth was the one with the epidural. And overall, it was an amazing birth. I didn’t feel any pain, just pressure. I was up and moving around very soon after I delivered, and my recovery was very quick.
But by the time I was pregnant for the third time, I wasn’t in as good of shape as I was during my first pregnancy. Physically I was very different, and I also had the responsibility of two young children as well.
Because my second birth ended in a c-section (more about that here), my option was to either have another c-section or try for a VBAC. Now if you’ve ever had a c-section, then you know how challenging the recovery is (especially if you have other little kids to take care of). I knew I didn’t want to do that again because of the toll it had taken both on me personally and on my husband.
So I spent a lot of my pregnancy researching and learning. And the more I learned, the more confident I became that I could not only have a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean), but a natural one at that. I began to believe and trust in my body’s ability to birth my baby. I also committed this to God in prayer and asked Him to see me through to a successful end.
And when it actually came time to birth my baby, my experience was as different as night and day from my epidural birth. So different that it shocked me (and my doctor…more on that below). So different, in fact, that I decided to write a whole blog post about it. 🙂
Here are the 3 biggest differences between my epidural birth and natural birth. I hope they help you make a guided, informed decision about your birth as well!
Nurse awareness, for me, was the #1 difference between an epidural and natural birth.
During my epidural birth, the nurses woke me up from sleep to tell me it was time to push my baby out. They then proceeded to tell me to push, and I did so for about 30 minutes. I couldn’t really feel what I was doing, and they kept telling me I needed to push harder and harder.
In other words, it was completely nurse-led and nurse-guided.
I remember just being completely out of tune with what was going on in my body because I couldn’t feel anything. And all the nurses and the doctor telling me what to do made me seriously think that I couldn’t birth a baby without their intervention.
But boy, were my natural births so different!
When I was in labor with my third daughter and finally felt the need to push, it’s like my body just took over. My doctor, whom I love and respect, was not in the room because he assumed I still had a while to go. I completely pushed my baby’s head out on my own. When the nurse realized what was happening, she tried to tell me to stop pushing so she could go get him, but I honestly don’t think I could have stopped if I tried!
The same situation happened again in my fourth birth. After my son’s head was birthed (which again, I did on my own), one of the nurses got in my face and started telling me aggressively to push. And no disrespect if you’re a nurse, but I wanted to laugh because I was thinking, I’ve already pushed the head out on my own….I’m pretty sure I’ve got this ma’am. But this nurse was determined for me to get the baby out, which I understand, so I gave a little push just to satisfy her. When the next contraction came, though, I birthed the rest of my son’s body.
I found it quite humorous (again, no disrespect if you’re a nurse) that my body was completely doing it’s own thing and neither the nurses nor I could stop it. So to sum it up…
Epidural birth: nurses in tune with my body, me out of tune
Natural birth: nurses out of tune with my body, me in tune
As I previously mentioned, I was pushing with my first daughter for 30+ minutes. It really didn’t feel like that long, but since the epidural was blocking my connection with what was going on in my body, I didn’t exactly know what I was doing.
I had a friend who pushed for over 3 hours and finally had to get her son vacuumed out so she could avoid a c-section. Yikes.
Natural birth is waaaaaay different, though.
It took me approximately 5 minutes to birth both my son and daughter. I feel like when your body is just at the point of being ready on its own with no interventions, it happens so much faster. No pushing forever and no nurse or doctor-led stuff. Your body is pre-programmed to do this!
There’s something special that natural birth mamas experience called a “birth high”. It’s where you have this rush of what feels like adrenaline after you give birth and it gives you a supply of energy for the next several hours. It’s one of the most amazing feelings I’ve ever experienced!
I didn’t get to experience this with my first two births, so I didn’t even know this existed. I learned that medical interventions like epidurals and other pain meds can block your body’s release of this hormone (makes sense). So you can imagine how pleasantly surprised I was after my third daughter was born and I got to experience it for the first time! I felt like I was floating on clouds, mentally and emotionally. I knew I should have been exhausted (having had very little sleep before active labor started) but I couldn’t have gone to sleep if I tried!
I’ve heard this hormonal rush described as “love hormones” that get released that are supposed to help you and your baby bond. I’m not sure on the scientifics of this, but the best way I could describe it would be that there was a fountain of joy overflowing in me.
Because of all the positive things I experienced during my natural births, I would without question opt for one if I were to get pregnant again. But I realize that the foundation for my success in natural birth was me trusting and believing that my body had the God-given ability to birth my baby on its own.
While I only discussed three differences, I hope this gives you a little taste of the difference between and epidural birth and a natural birth. I congratulate you for seeking to gain knowledge and understanding in this area, and I pray that you are able to have the birth you desire!