How to Avoid Getting an Epidural During Labor & Delivery

A friend who was pregnant with her first baby was discussing her birth plan and mentioned she wanted to avoid getting an epidural during the birth of her child.



avoiding an epidural


When I questioned how she would go about avoiding an epidural during labor, one thing became abundantly clear to me:  She didn’t have a plan.

I don’t mean a birth plan.

I mean a plan of action during labor to manage contractions  to avoid sucummbing to an epidural.

I know many mom’s like her.

I have had five vaginal births without an epidural, and I have learned if you want to avoid getting an epidural during labor, then planning is key.

Let’s first discuss why one wouldn’t want an epidural, after all I know many moms who have had a great birth experience after getting an epidural.


There are several reasons why I don’t get an epidural.

When I took maternal-child nursing during my fourth semester in nursing school, I had a well educated instructor who introduced me to the reality of labor and delivery in hospitals versus free-standing birthing centers; and of the difference in approach between OB-GYNs and Midwives.

In addition, I worked for two years on a maternity unit as well as occasionally floating to labor and delivery, so I was very familiar with the downsides of getting an epidural.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I knew I had to have a plan to manage my labor and birth,  in order to avoid getting an epidural.

I recalled seeing women in labor admitted to labor rooms, and when turning down the option of an epidural, the nurse would laugh and say “we’ll see how long you last.”

This was painful to witness, and sure enough after being strapped to the bed on a continuous fetal monitor, with no alternate comfort measures, they would succumb and have the epidural inserted for relief.


importance of planning for birth


I developed a three-fold plan:


  1. Educate myself on different labor coping mechanisms
  2. Hire a doula to labor with me
  3. Choose a midwife to attend my birth


Lets discuss these three components:


Learn about labor and childbirth


little boy


Take childbirth classes, read books, or watch youtube videos to educate yourself on the different stages of labor, what to expect at each phase, and what your option are during labor and delivery.

There are different approaches to managing labor, so educating yourself about the different methods is important to ensure you make the decision that’s best for you.


Doulas can make all the difference in the kind of birth experience you have

With my first birth I spent money on a highly recommended doula, despite the fact we were on a tight budget.

My husband was very supportive of hiring a doula, and we felt it was an important investment.

I had a meeting with our doula before my due date so we could discuss my birth plan, and she informed me what she could offer me.

I labored for the first few hours with my husband at my side using lamaze breathing techniques I had learned.

When the contractions became more intense, I called my doula to come over and I labored at home for the next hour or so.

My doula brought some fresh ideas for coping with the intensifying contractions, and she contacted my midwife to let her know where I was up to.  They decided together when it was time to head over to the hospital.

When I arrived at the hospital I was already 8cm dilated, and I labored in the tub which  my doula procured for me.

I had a great drug-free birth, and my baby emerged alert and looking around in wonder.

I felt great and well enough to get up soon after and shower.

I know from first-hand experiece what a big asset doulas can be.




They provide peace of mind in the time leading up to birth; That you will have the assistance and support you need to safely bring your baby into the world.

Choose a midwife to attend your birth

Midwives support natural childbirth and trust that women are strong and capable of birthing their babies with minimal interventions.

They provide support and encouragement and are open to alternative coping techniques during labor and delivery.

If you are more comfortable having an OB-GYN attend your birth, speak with them early on in your pregnancy in order to ascertain their comfort level with your birth plan.

I know several women who found out too close to their due dates that their doctor had a differing view on what their birth should look like.

If having a drug-free labor is a priority for you, planning ahead may make all the difference.

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  • Reply Christina

    Nicely said! I have two girls, one born with the epidural against my desire–but I learned too late that you don’t just waltz into L&D without that plan. We learned from this mistake with our second. Hired a doula and midwife and, since there were no complications indicated, chose to birth at home with a rented birthing tub. Took an intensive birthing hypnosis class that time and I am happy to say I had an insanely faster recovery and a wide awake baby with no complications–I’ll never know what cocktail of drugs was in that epidural the first time and it makes me wonder if my daughter’s eye nerve palsy is related to that or not. I cannot thank you enough for writing this from your medical perspective.

    August 17, 2016 at 6:51 am
    • Reply

      I’m sorry you had that bad experience the first time. It’s hard to say when something happens if it is related to a birth experience, but I am glad it worked out for you the second time.
      Thank you for writing in and sharing your experience.

      September 26, 2016 at 1:06 pm
  • Reply Amanda

    Great points! I had a natural birth center birth with my first and an unmedicated induction with my second. Having a plan is key!!

    January 9, 2017 at 9:31 pm
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