What do women want in childbirth? Pain relief!


A few weeks ago I wrote about the farce that is the World Health Organization recommendations Intrapartum care for a positive childbirth experience. How could the WHO determine what women consider a positive birth experience? Surely they asked women, right.

No, they didn’t. They asked midwives to opine on what THEY believe women want and, predictably they insist that women what midwives offer. According to the press release:

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”Will never give birth naturally again. Even if I have to pay for csection, I will.”[/pullquote]

Many women want a natural birth and prefer to rely on their bodies to give birth to their baby without the aid of medical intervention.

That is nothing more than self-serving bullshit. If you want to know what women want in labor it makes sense to look at what women themselves say.

Consider this thread on the UK mothering website Mumsnet. Keep in mind that all women received midwife care.

This is the original post:

Had DS a month ago tomorrow and the labour was the most horrendous experience I’ve ever been through.

Even my mum who has had 5 children described it as traumatic…

Has anyone else felt the same? Gotten over it? Done it again?!?’

The 320 responses are illuminating. Here are 20:

1. “My DD2 wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t been guaranteed a CS for a second baby…”

2. “My labour was 26h of pure painful hell (I was convinced I will die from pain/heart attack) only to have an Emergency section at the end of it. Recovery in hospital was awful, they totally did not care.”

3. “I was injured so badly the first time I was told I’m not allowed to have a vaginal birth ever again. I had more babies because I knew it would be a c-section (and my breach twins made sure of that anyway).”

4. “I had a traumatic first birth including 3rd degree tear. I had an elective csection for my second child 4 years later and it was fantastic. It was a really positive experience all round (recovery took longer but wasn’t overly painful)…”

5. “Totally felt like that and still can’t ‘put myself’ in the memories of DS1’s birth, it was horrific. Elective C section for DS2 was a wonderful, calm experience, no more traumatic than a dental check up. If you do come around to wanting a second, I highly recommend looking into a ELCS.”

6. “My first was a horror show. Induced at ten days over, hours of agony with the midwives telling me I wasn’t even in labour yet and to basically get a grip … followed by epidural that didn’t fully work so still pain on one side…labour lasted 36 hours then baby was tugged out by a bloke with bulging muscles and one foot on the bed for leverage. Baby born with cuts and bruises from forceps and I was stitched from here to kingdom come while a cleaner had to get a mop and bucket to clear up the blood.”

7. “My labour was 50 hrs of hell, ending in an episiotomy and forceps in theatre… I couldn’t discuss my labour/birth for weeks without crying.

We had to take him back to the same hospital for physio (he was stuck, hence the 50 hrs, bad neck) and I had a panic attack in the car when we drove past the parking spot we parked in when I went to deliver.”

8. “The whole setup at the moment is really patronising to women and far too Pollyanna ish. The idea that ANY birth can be ok if you just breathe/don’t technique does women a gross disservice. It leaves women shocked and traumatised when things go wrong and makes them think it’s their fault for not following method x enough.

The type of birth you get is basically down to how the baby lies on the day plus the interaction with your own anatomy. From the get go, some births are going to be easier and some harder. Some will never be ok without intervention. And those women are often the ones ending up with pnd because they think they should have been able to breathe through it. There’s FAR too much pressure on women to ‘do it naturally’ when this is just not the best way for all women.”

9. “[W]ill never give birth naturally again. Even if I have to pay for csection, I will.”

10. “DD has just turned seven. I would rather die than go through childbirth/sick baby in NICU etc again. Though I don’t have flashbacks any more so that’s something.

… I genuinely would kill myself if I got pregnant.”

11. “I gave birth in France … The midwife told us a lot of it was down to luck – the length of labour you could expect, the size of the baby in relation to to the size of your pelvis and the baby’s position. That’s why you are offered excellent pain relief options in France and most women have an epidural (which contrary to everything I’d heard from an NCT friend in the UK didn’t slow things down and make it more difficult to push – it just made everything more tolerable). The aim there is to make everything as quick and painless as possible so you can get back to normal ASAP – they even throw in a course of pelvic physio for all new mums.”

12. “I wasn’t afraid of giving birth. However the birth was horrific from start to finish, dc and I were severely let down, the staff were awful (except the midwives who delivered dc in the end) and put us both in danger, the pain was horrific and their failings continued after baby was born.”

13. “I had my daughter 6 years ago and I have not forgotten the trauma I went through. I would love another baby and so would my partner but I am so scared! I still have problems now because I was pushing for so long (3hrs) I ended up with an anal fissure which has never healed. I’m never pushing anything out of there again.

My sisters both had planned sections and their experiences were so lovely…”

14. “The pregnancy was hell
The birth was hell
The post-birth recovery was hell
Breastfeeding was hell
The sleep deprivation was hell
The PND/PTSD was hell
The SIDS anxiety was hell
The colic and reflux was hell
The loss of my identity was hell
The loneliness was hell
The impact it had on my relationship with DH was hell

Don’t get me wrong, my child is my life, my world and my everything. I don’t regret him…”

15. “I didn’t see it coming AT ALL. I just feel naive now. I had a great pregnancy, spent hours preparing a hypnobirth, thought I’d be on my birthing ball or bobbing around in the pool. Nothing went to plan. Nothing. We both nearly died. I ended up having an emergency c-section and my heart nearly gave out … and the pain after that – fuck me – (gallons and gallons of water and blood shooting out of a tear in my scar for weeks afterwards). It was awful. I felt like a proper dick at the two-page birthing plan I wrote full of hippy-dippy, yoghurt-knitting, dolphin-singing malarky. I thought acupuncture would get me through the pain…”

16. “It took me over a year to even contemplate having sex again. And I’d decided that I’d only have another child if I could have an ELCS. We had money saved for house restorations which we would have spent on private care had I not been granted one on the NHS …”

17. “I knew in a flash I would never be able to go through it again as soon as it was over. I was in that much agony that I was literally convulsing and my head was repeatedly and uncontrollably hitting the side of the birthing pool, I eventually gave up trying not to scream, as it was impossible not to, it was coming out like a reflex action like when you vomit. there was a couple of points where I struggled to keep my head above the water as the violence of the pain was moving my body about uncontrollably. The midwives repeatedly refused my requests for pain relief throughout the entire labour as it was still apparently too early…..she then shot out. For days after, all up the back of my head and neck felt like it had been hit with a baseball bat! 4 years later, I am never going back.”

19. “I had PTSD following the birth of my son. Long, neglected labour and frankly abuse midwife. I went in excited to be giving birth and having a baby and came out a changed person… Fast forward 9 years later and I did do it again … I did Hypnobirthing, worked on my birth anxiety and…. daughter was born prematurely at 33 weeks by EMCS!!! Despite that though it was a much, much more positive experience and one I can live with.”

20. “I’d consider doing it again if:
– guaranteed an elcs
– wouldn’t go to a hospital signed up to the Baby Friendly Initiative
– would buy in help after the birth as it was such a struggle with no family support”

What made these births traumatic? Although a few of the 320 comments referred to unwanted interventions, most — like those I quoted above — found the agonizing pain to be particularly traumatic. In some cases women were refused epidural anesthesia; in some case the epidural didn’t work; and in some case women were forced to rely on the far less effective method of breathing nitrous oxide.

Another theme that emerges is how subsequent deliveries were far better for two main reasons; either they were less painful or they were C-sections, often elective.

I challenge anyone to read all 320 comments and conclude that most women want to give birth naturally without interventions. That’s a lie created by midwives to promote themselves.

Many of the commenters did give birth naturally and without interventions and they’ve been suffering from the mental and physical consequences ever since.

64 Responses to “What do women want in childbirth? Pain relief!”

  1. Who?
    March 13, 2018 at 7:06 am #

    My 2c on the labour pain v contractions discussion.

    ‘Pain’ is an entirely insufficient, inadequate and frankly feeble and imposter-ish word to describe the intimate, toe-curling excruciation of labour. So many different kinds of hurt-Braxton Hicks, first stage, transition, second stage, crowning then the afterpains. And with the second one, the afterpains were so much worse.

    I had six hour labours both times from ouch to baby, and minimal drama both times.

    While it lasts, it really hurts. Really, really hurts.

  2. The Vitaphone Queen
    March 10, 2018 at 1:04 pm #

    When do they want it?


  3. March 10, 2018 at 7:28 am #

    It must be remembered, though, that second and subsequent labors differ from first births in several significant physiological ways. It isn’t a given that if the first was awful, the next birth will be awful, too, unless it is a C/S. I’m not an NCB-at-all-costs person, and a great believer in the need for adequate analgesia, but I think many women truly do not know what labor is going to be like, and are naively optimistic and then are shocked, and that’s part of the problem. It’s not helped by anti-analgesic ideology.

    • ukay
      March 10, 2018 at 5:27 pm #

      Nobody tells us how bad labour will be. It is all an empowering experience that can be breathed through. At all the birth prep classes and midwife appointments they made the pain sound no stronger than could be managed by a tub of hot water. Women are not naive, they are being lied to.

      • March 11, 2018 at 1:09 am #

        We were taught [and this was in a progressive nursing school in the 60s] that it was psychologically important to never refer to labor pains but only to contractions in discussions with patients.

        I remember asking a woman if her contractions were strong, and she replied, “I dunno if the damned contractions are bad, but these here paaaains is turrible!!!”

        • ukay
          March 11, 2018 at 4:58 am #

          How would it be psychologically beneficient? Even if you call it by another name, it is what it is: excruciating pain. This is a lay perspective, but I would imagine that rebranding it makes everything worse by denying what women actually experienced. The French approach described by one of the women Dr. Tuteur cites seems so much more sensible and humane.

          • March 11, 2018 at 10:55 am #

            I learned decades ago to speak the language the patient knows best, not the most politically correct language

          • Daleth
            March 12, 2018 at 9:43 am #

            I hope you’re saying that you learned decades ago to start saying “pain” instead of “contractions,” despite your earlier training to the contrary. 100% of English-speaking women know what “pain” means. Less than 100% know what “contractions” mean, and still less than that would use “contractions” to describe what they’re feeling when they’re experiencing labor pain.

          • March 13, 2018 at 3:42 am #

            When in the UK studying to be a midwife, I remember asking a woman when she became pregnant, only to be met by a blank stare. When I revised the question to “When did you FALL pregnant?” she understood me. I’d never thought of “falling”!

          • Daleth
            March 13, 2018 at 9:23 am #

            Good god! I know they usually say “fall pregnant,” but how hard is it to parse the phrase “become pregnant”?!

        • Banrion
          March 12, 2018 at 7:46 am #

          So you admit that you know you used minimizing and misleading language to further your belief that women should be able to just breath through it. You made a career out of gaslighting women.

          • March 13, 2018 at 3:57 am #

            Lamaze began as something else entirely to what it has become. One also has to remember that, prior to epidurals — and I’d been working in L&D for several years before the precursor to that, the caudal, was introduced — was IV “twilight sleep”. This meant the mother woke up with little or no memory of having given birth, and the baby was often suffering from depressed respirations. It was that, or breathing one’s way through labor.

            I’m talking about the 60s and early 70s, remember. OB has moved on a bit since then.

          • seenthelight
            April 2, 2018 at 10:07 pm #

            My grandma had four babies under twilight, and loved it. Having done an intentional drug free birth myself, I’m in her camp now. If that was still the only pain relief available today, I’d choose it over the terror of labor.

    • no
      March 10, 2018 at 6:17 pm #

      How many horrific vaginal births must a woman suffer through before she’s allowed to learn from the experience and get a c-section?

    • Merrie
      March 10, 2018 at 11:59 pm #

      What drives me crazy is stories by the NCB whackjobs along the lines of “I had a horrible first birth in the hospital with epidural and augmentation and etc. etc. etc. and I didn’t want any of that again so for my second birth I had a home waterbirth with Hypnobabies and it was amazing and beautiful and so much easier than my first birth so clearly hospitals are horrible and I didn’t really need all those interventions” with no mention that maybe the second birth was easier because they had already given birth before!

      • Cat
        March 11, 2018 at 6:51 am #

        Yes, exactly this. I’ve long suspected that that’s part of the reason why hypnobirthing gets such an insane amount of love: in my experience, a lot of women try hypnobirthing with their second child because their first labour was hell and they want to learn some relaxation techniques to help with their terror of giving birth again. The second birth is a completely different experience for all kinds of reasons, including the fact that the woman knows what to expect this time round, but she gives the hypnobirthing sole credit and goes round telling all her friends that it’s a miracle technique. Actually, as hypnobirthing becomes more mainstream and more women are encouraged to try it with their first baby, I’ve started to hear more mixed reviews (along the lines of “the breathing techniques were quite helpful in the early stages so it wasn’t a complete waste of money, but I loved my epidural”).

      • Kelly
        March 11, 2018 at 8:33 pm #

        My first birth was 26 hours of real labor with a night of “fake” labor the night before. I had a pretty straightforward delivery in general but I had stitches, was sore from trying to deal with the pain, and was tired as hell. My second came in less than three hours and I had one stitch and barely had any recovery in my nether regions. I absolutely hate how they don’t take into account that subsequent births tend to be much easier than the first one. If they had gone to the hospital the second time, it would have been just as easy as their home birth.

      • joe
        March 24, 2018 at 12:20 am #

        Gee I would think that a Hospital is safer because if something goes wrong, and it does happen, the at least you can get help quickly, just my two cents worth. Can’t beat breast milk.

    • Tigger_the_Wing
      March 11, 2018 at 1:42 pm #

      ‘Many women’? Nobody can visualise pain when it isn’t actually happening. If you have never broken your femur, you simply have no way of knowing what that pain will be like; and telling you when you have just broken it that it is only painful because it’s a shock would not amuse you in the slightest. If you’ve never been in labour, you cannot possibly imagine what it will be like. Don’t blame the pain on mothers’ ignorance, blame their ignorance on decades of propaganda telling them that labour isn’t painful. Labour is painful – sometimes unbearably so – and no woman should ever be encouraged to say in advance that she’d prefer not to have pain relief.

      In some ways, my labours were less painful than my periods were – because the contractions were of finite length, with rests in between, unlike period cramps which lasted for hours without respite. But nothing, nothing – not even a prior delivery – could have prepared me for the agony of an emergency forceps delivery.

      The only labour which was less painful than the preceding one(s) was my fourth – because I had an epidural.

    • crazy mama, PhD
      March 11, 2018 at 1:50 pm #

      Wait, are you implying that CS are awful?

      • March 11, 2018 at 6:31 pm #

        Not at all. I had 48 hours of strong contractions with #1, without even a centimeter of dilatation before I threw a major and deliberately hysterical tantrum to get into the OR. #2 saw me at 40 weeks with a completely unripe cervix — the OB said “You don’t have a cervix, you have a steel security door”, and had no labor at all before my C/S, and #3 was elective C/S at 38 weeks.

        Note that I’m not only a CNM, but a certified Lamaze instructor [from back in the 60s], in those days an advocate of NCB [a more benign form then then now], and had uneventful pregnancies and expected easy births. Ha! So all my births were C/Ss.

        My recoveries from C/Ss were all very easy. Due to my mother’s terminal illness, I flew alone with my son from Israel to the US when he was 10 days old, so she could see her first grandchild before she died, and I felt perfectly OK.

  4. ukay
    March 10, 2018 at 5:43 am #

    In most of the traumatic birth stories I read or hear about, the perpetrators are midwives. Either by withholding care, ignoring womens‘ requests, being rough during examinations, misjudgment that leads to avoidable trauma or abrasive behaviour. I realize this is a subjective impression, but an impression nonetheless. And yet, midwife led birth is promoted as so much more empowering,

    • Tigger_the_Wing
      March 10, 2018 at 7:10 am #

      Indeed, I had an emergency forceps delivery with my second because the attending midwives refused to believe me when I said that my baby had somersaulted overnight (I had been in hospital for ten days at this point) and was no longer head down. The senior one claimed she could feel his nose(!)…

      They had to believe me when his feet appeared. No time for any pain relief, of course.

      • FallsAngel
        March 10, 2018 at 8:53 am #

        She probably felt his big toe!

        • Tigger_the_Wing
          March 12, 2018 at 8:46 am #

          Well, that’s what he and I both hope, anyway!

      • ukay
        March 10, 2018 at 5:20 pm #

        I am sorry that happened to you, it is so infuriating. I guess I hope in vain that you got an apology?!?

        • Tigger_the_Wing
          March 12, 2018 at 8:49 am #

          I think I may have got one in the chaos surrounding his birth, but if so I’ve long since forgotten it.

      • Anna
        March 12, 2018 at 12:32 am #

        Would feeling a nose presenting be a reassuring sign normally? I wouldnt think so but Im not medically trained.

        • March 12, 2018 at 7:14 am #

          It’s almost completely irrelevant, if not inaccurate. On PV exam the examiner should NOT be able to feel the nose. 1) Leopold’s Maneuvers, performed abdominally by someone experienced, can usually determine fetal lie or presentation. Any doubt, go to ultrasound. Or, just do an ultrasound. For a nose to be felt, not only do membranes be ruptured, the cervix has to be dilated, and the head deflexed (which isn’t good).

          • Tigger_the_Wing
            March 12, 2018 at 8:51 am #

            The hospital did have an ultrasound machine to my knowledge, in a different building, in 1984. If it were already there in 1982, early in the morning there would have been no-one around to operate it even if I’d been in a fit state to be moved.

          • March 13, 2018 at 3:50 am #

            Yes, I had much the same situation in 1980. There are benefits for a midwife [or a doctor, actually] to have trained before both ultrasound and fetal monitoring were invented. With proper experience, it is amazing the amount of knowledge you can obtain using your hands. We now rely on machines, which have definitely improved things, but have forgotten a number of other skills. In a multip, with slack abdominal muscles, I have diagnosed, using Leopold’s Maneuvers, not only breech, but in some cases, even the form of the breech [frank, complete, etc.] which was confirmed with ultrasound.

          • Anna
            March 12, 2018 at 9:00 am #

            Yeah so if a midwife feels a nose it doesnt exactly mean full steam ahead on vaginal birth. C-section is best practice for a deflexed head with face presentation isnt it?

          • March 13, 2018 at 3:45 am #

            There are degrees of deflexion. Actually, although it is traumatic, a true face presentation is vaginally deliverable. What is called the “military” position — as if the baby were standing at attention upside down, is marginally deliverable, if as the head descends, it flexes. A brow presentation simply cannot pass the pelvis. Nowadays, for mother and child, a C/S is always the best option with a deflexed head and no progress.

  5. borkborkbork
    March 10, 2018 at 1:57 am #

    I am very grateful to Dr.Tuteur for posting these.

    These stories sound so similar to my own – difficult pregnancy, difficult labor, a crash c-section, difficult recovery, and extreme fear of getting pregnant again. The c-section was honestly the easiest/best part of the whole experience. And the c-section was not great – it was a major surgery, after all.

    It is somehow comforting – but also heartbreaking – to know that I am not alone in this. It seems like it is so taboo to discuss the danger and pain and fear that has always been involved in childbirth. It is good to see women discussing it, not suffering in silence. But it hurts so much to read their stories.

    Considering the serious complications I had with my c-section, I would not jump to choose an elective c-section next time. But I also wouldn’t assume that vaginal delivery would be the better option.

  6. Heidi
    March 9, 2018 at 8:43 pm #

    Some of those experiences make me feel queasy. It reminds me of my own pain post childbirth and I know I wasn’t in near the pain these women had to experience, yet I never want to repeat my relatively minor pain. Why episiotomies are so frowned upon but forceps are just fine to avoid a C-section I don’t understand.

  7. Cat
    March 9, 2018 at 4:31 pm #

    I’m glad to see that Mumsnet thread referenced here – I’d already told a couple of people in real life about it. I have a complicated relationship with Mumsnet, to say the least, but that particular thread makes powerful reading.

    In my experience, when little girls are first told about the mechanics of childbirth, their immediate gut response is “OK, well I’m never having kids then”. I don’t believe that those same little girls later come round to the view they desperately want to experience the unrelieved pain of childbirth, not without a heck of a lot of indoctrination having gone on first.

  8. mabelcruet
    March 9, 2018 at 3:54 pm #

    I think its blatantly obvious that the WHO had already decided on what they wanted the conclusion to be (that women wanted a physiological birth with no interventions), and the only way to achieve that was to ignore the people actually going through the process and speak to health care providers who have a vested interest in promoting physiologic birth and who can be relied on to spout the party line.

  9. Megan
    March 9, 2018 at 3:51 pm #

    With my oldest daughter I had a CS after four days of failed induction and it was 12 wks of hell to recover from (plus a horrible traumatizing BF experience). With my younger daughter I had a RCS that was lovely and I was back to walking our local trail in 2 weeks. (BF still didn’t work but I knew enough not to prolong the misery the second time around). Currently 30 wks with child number three and looking forward to another RCS. Nature is way overrated!

  10. Diogenes, I guess
    March 9, 2018 at 3:04 pm #

    Contrary to what the natural childbirth fetishists believe, it’s difficult to find a doctor who will do an elective c-section.

    Btw, to any obstetrician who’s reading this, I’ll tell you here what I can’t tell you in person during an appointment: I don’t give a damn how you gave birth or how you feel about it. Having to sit there half-naked and listen to you drone on about your vaginal birth is as meaningless to me as reading about how Gwyneth Paltrow budgets for her organic avocados. She’s rich and only “budgets” for fun. You’re a doctor and had a true choice in how you gave birth.

    • Empress of the Iguana People
      March 9, 2018 at 3:53 pm #

      *blink* Suddenly I’m even happier with Dr. Joel E. He doesn’t go there.

      • Dr Kitty
        March 10, 2018 at 4:07 pm #

        My first OB (a family friend- who still delivered breeches and twins vaginally and was basically the person you called when it went pear shaped) basically told me he put my chance of VB at 10%, but we could do whatever I wanted. I suggested we schedule a CS, and he said “OK, no problem, as long as that is what you want and you won’t be disappointed”, and then we picked a date.

        He had retired, sadly, by the time #2 was due.

        Female OB at NHS clinic kept saying “oh, but if you go into labour, why don’t you just see how it goes, you’ll have a much easier recovery”.
        I finally told her about seeing a uterine rupture with a bad outcome I’d witnessed earlier in my career, and how there was no chance I wanted a VBAC and would not co-operate with any plan to make that happen- including declining VE and augmentation if I arrived in labour.
        “Umm…I’ll just put “CS preferred” then”.

        Male OB at 37w “No problem, I’ll put in your notes that if you go into labour you want a CS ASAP and we’ll book you in at 39w0d”.
        He then had a shouting match over the phone with the MW in charge of the ElCS theatre list who was keen for me to book at 39w5d “to get the best chance of a VBAC”.
        “She doesn’t want a f***king VBAC! Book it for the Tuesday!”
        Which is how my son was born on a Tuesday and I’ve never been in labour.

        Honestly- the only people who kept second guessing my choices were MWs and female OBs- the men were “you clearly know what you want, no problem”.

  11. 3boyz
    March 9, 2018 at 2:45 pm #

    Baby 1 was vaginal with an epidural, easy peasy, no complications. Given the choice, this is what I would do every time. Unfortunately, we don’t always get to decide…
    Baby 2 was unmedicated because it happened too fast. He was born less than 5 minutes after we got to the hospital. Even though the agony didn’t last more than half an hour, it was the most horrendous agony I ever felt and I wanted to die. And I was definitely traumatized.
    Baby 3 was a C-section, and that was traumatic too because the baby was premature due to placental issues (which were also the reason for the c-section). It was an emergency C but I wasn’t in labor, I was rushed to surgery because of a bad NST result. So yeah, that was a bit traumatic because it was scary. And it is major surgery and painful to recover from. I still found it significantly less traumatic than the unmedicated birth and while I wouldn’t choose a c section over an epidural, I would absolutely choose it over no pain relief.

    • StephanieA
      March 10, 2018 at 6:58 pm #

      My second birth was also much more traumatizing than my first. My first was a dream, perfect epidural and almost no pushing. My second was too fast and he damaged my pelvic floor and gave me hemorrhoids and anal fissures. I’m pregnant with our third and scared of labor again. Also, side note, I noticed your username and am guessing you have 3 sons? I just found out we are having our third boy, we’re really in for it aren’t we (in a good way)?

      • Empress of the Iguana People
        March 10, 2018 at 7:56 pm #

        At least you’re well-versed in pee avoidance 😉

      • borkborkbork
        March 11, 2018 at 12:13 am #

        This may be a strange question, but what was the epidural like for you both? I hear so many women say they had a great experience laboring with an epidural.

        I did not. I found the numbing of my lower body disorienting and I hated not being able to move. It made labor a really terrifying experience. I’ve never encountered another woman that felt this way, though. I’m guessing my experience was an extreme outlier.

        • StephanieA
          March 11, 2018 at 5:36 am #

          I absolutely LOVED my epidural. That feeling of relief was like nothing I’ve ever felt. I didn’t mind being numb at all, because I just wanted to rest after all the hard contractions. I do have a friend that felt that way about her epidural- she didn’t like being numb and kept having to remind herself that everything was okay.

        • March 11, 2018 at 7:16 am #

          I don’t think you’re unique, but even if you were that wouldn’t make your experience something to be discounted. If there’s a next time, you and your doctor can discuss how to give you safe, adequate pain relief without that feeling.

        • fiftyfifty1
          March 11, 2018 at 9:32 am #

          Yes, my experience was different than yours. My epidural never made my lower half feel numb. It’s just that I didn’t much notice my lower half, kind of like how you forget about/don’t notice your lower half when you are sitting at a desk typing on a computer.

          I didn’t know what to expect with the epidural. I thought it might be like going to the dentist and getting novocaine and then your whole jaw feels numb and tingly and not belonging–I hate that disorienting feeling. So I was pleasantly surprised when that did not turn out to be the case with the epidural. Also, I was able to move my legs. I didn’t try to walk, but I could change their position lying in bed without problem. So I didn’t feel paralyzed or trapped. I could still feel contractions, but they didn’t hurt. When the baby was actually born, I could feel it, and it hurt a little, but the pain wasn’t sharp or severe.

          Sorry yours didn’t turn out well. Sounds like it was a pretty bad experience 🙁

        • Charybdis
          March 11, 2018 at 2:01 pm #

          I loved mine. I was booked for an elective CS because my OB and a second one she asked to come and have a look-see/feel both agreed that I had a slightly wonky pelvis. I could, if I wanted, have a trial of labor and try for a vaginal delivery, but they were both of the opinion that I would wind up having a CS in the end. I thought about it for two seconds and then told them to schedule the CS. I didn’t want to be tired/worn out from a long labor and pushing if I was probably going to wind up with a CS anyway.

          Labor started at 2:30 am on the day my CS was scheduled. When we got to the hospital, my contractions were coming every 10-12 minutes and they were nauseatingly painful. The epidural was lovely and I really enjoyed the relief from knife-like, searing, soggy cramping also known as contractions or “rushes”. Couldn’t feel a thing in surgery either and my recovery was uneventful.

          I think sometimes people will lump a pre-labor/very early labor CS recovery in with a “labored for 45 hours, pushed for 4 hours (very little sleep/rest in this time) before winding up with an emergency CS” recovery. Both are recovering from the same surgery, but one of the two was not worn down/out by a grueling physical trial immediately prior to the surgery. The one who was worn smooth out by CS time will probably have a harder/longer recovery period because their reserves were scraping bottom.

        • Kelly
          March 11, 2018 at 8:45 pm #

          I have read about people who feel the same way about their epidural. You could talk to your doctor and see if they can do things differently or you could just skip it like I see a lot of woman who have these same feelings do. Just know you don’t have to think the epidural is amazing and that you are not alone in your feelings. I have had three epidurals and each was a different experience.

        • Ms. Sweaterfan
          March 12, 2018 at 11:44 am #

          I don’t think you’re alone. I have very mixed feelings about my epidural. I would never want to go through labor without one personally, but I still wouldn’t say I loved it. I wonder if a lot of the experience has to do with how different hospitals administer epis and the dose of pain medication that they provide. The original dose they gave me wasn’t quite enough to treat all the pain I was feeling. I called the anesthesiologist back at least twice to check it, and he said it was inserted a teeny tiny bit off center, which I guess meant that it was stronger on one side than the other. So, in order to treat all the pain on my left side, it had to be turned up high enough to basically paralyze my right side. I did that for a while so I could get some sleep, but once I woke up and needed help even just bending my knee for a cervix check I asked them to turn it back down. I ended up with some pretty bad pain while pushing, but I honestly don’t think I could have figured out how to push with a completely numb leg.
          I was totally unprepared to feel the amount of pain I felt – I guess I just assumed that an epidural would mean a pain free labor (probably naive on my part).

        • J.B.
          March 13, 2018 at 3:35 pm #

          I had the exact same feeling about nitrous oxide for some dental work. Not having control of my body is a nonstarter for me. Fortunately once they turned the gas off the effect resolved quickly. Some hospitals may offer that, and I believe there are some narcotics they can give. Basically to take the edge off.

        • borkborkbork
          March 17, 2018 at 5:18 am #

          I just wanted to thank everyone who replied. It was good to be able to compare experiences. It encouraged me to ask my doctor about it, as well. She contacted the OB and CNM who attended my labor. Both remembered me, and also recalled that there were serious problems with both the epidural I received and the spinal block that came after. I’ve actually been able to breathe a huge sigh of relief knowing that it was due to rare complications, and that my experience was not a normal or common one. It has done a lot to ease my fears of a future C-section.

      • Tigger_the_Wing
        March 11, 2018 at 1:45 pm #

        I have four sons and a daughter; and yes, you’re going to have fun!

        I also have four grandsons, three granddaughters and another on the way. We don’t know yet whether the new baby will balance the sexes, or be a boy with three big sisters…

  12. MelJoRo
    March 9, 2018 at 12:51 pm #

    I gave birth 3 weeks ago by elective primary c-section. This decision was obviously personal, but after weighing the risks it was the best decision for me, and I thank you for this blog and your commenters for giving me the space to realize that my fears/concerns were legitimate and not overblown. I live in the US and likely would have had access to pain relief and an OB/non wooey CNM from my chosen practice, but even with those things Labor is terrifying. I ended up going into labor the night before my schedule C-section and I will tell you that the 5 hrs of early labor I experienced were PLENTY. My recovery has been easy, my pain was well managed, and aside from some minor pelvic/abdominal weakness I expect to address with PT (surely from the pregnancy, but nothing can prevent the stress of an 8lb weight sitting inside you) I couldn’t be happier.

    • Empress of the Iguana People
      March 9, 2018 at 1:29 pm #

      Congrats on the new baby! I’m glad everything went reasonably well.

    • maidmarian555
      March 9, 2018 at 2:01 pm #


    • StephanieJR
      March 9, 2018 at 3:25 pm #


    • March 9, 2018 at 4:18 pm #

      Congratulations! I’m very glad your practitioners respected your wishes and that everything’s gone well.

    • Tigger_the_Wing
      March 9, 2018 at 4:39 pm #


    • Ms. Sweaterfan
      March 12, 2018 at 11:51 am #

      Huge congrats on the new baby!! And congrats on speaking up for your wishes and needs with your providers.
      No pressure to answer this if you aren’t comfortable, but since you mentioned you’re in the U.S. – have you encountered any difficulty with insurance coverage for an elective C/S (or did your doc have to do any workarounds with regard to insurance)? I’m curious because I’ve begun to explore the possibility of an elective induction or possible C/S if I have another child but insurance issues would potentially be a deal breaker…

      • MelJoRo
        March 12, 2018 at 12:54 pm #

        I have not had any issues getting it paid for, it processed the same as any other birth (which is predominately preventative/100% covered under the current healthcare law). Because I have a history of very painful sex, my OB just did the informed consent speech, told me many of her patients recover a bit faster from a vaginal delivery, and away we went. I don’t think anything special was done with the billing, but if you have any medical grounds for a procedure (including anxiety) it can’t hurt to hve them documented.I know that how things are paid for though vary a lot from specific plan to specific plan, so when your time comes I cannot say the same will happen for you. The most sure way to know would have been to call my insurance company, but my husband and I basically decided we were confident in my decision and didn’t want to know if it was going to end up costing us $$$. I am covered under a larger United Healthxare Policy, but HMO’s seem much less flexible in what they will pay for. I have never heard of an elective induction not being paid for, only HMOs being sticklers are their own policies within their hospitals, so hopefully if that is the route you go you would have no issues.

        My recovery has been so easy, especially considering how much pain I was in the last few weeks of pregnancy. I am sure a big part of that is luck, and being in shape before and during pregnancy. The actual surgery was a breeze, and the spinal was less uncomfortable than a dental procedure. Since I planned the surgery my husband and I were well prepared on what to expect, and that was marvelous. The worst “issues” were that my son spit up a lot of fluid/mucous the first night, which I am told is common, and my first breast feed was very stressful with all the wires and my arms quite heavy from the spinal. In hindsight I wish I had said I was feeling so overwhelmed and asked to just have a nurse help me focus on one thing (instead we were trying to pick names, my husband was awkwardly feeding my ice chips, my BP was a bit low, they were asking me about my pain…just too much). After I was out of recovery some of the wires were removed, I got to drink some water and have a snack, and things vastly improved from there. I recommend taking all the pain meds you need to be mobile and comfortable, and hopefully you will not need more than Advil/Tylenol after a few days.

        • maidmarian555
          March 12, 2018 at 3:20 pm #

          My daughter did the same thing. She had a really awful cough when she was born, but luckily was breathing fine and didn’t need any help with that. The mucous was something else though, she cleared it in the middle of the night (out of both ends) and trying to clean her up and change her on my own when I still had a catheter in was not fun at all!

        • J.B.
          March 13, 2018 at 3:39 pm #

          Congratulations. Overwhelming is definitely the word for having this little person and everything going on around you.

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