Reasons Why Women Don't Always Want Epidurals

woman in labor

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Many people don’t understand why a mother-to-be would want to labor without an epidural if it is available to her. Though, honestly, there is no one simple answer. Women have many reasons for choosing to forgo an epidural.

Why Some Women Don't Want an Epidural

Here are a few of the explanations as to why women wish to avoid an epidural:


Be it the needle, the procedure or whatever, some mothers are afraid of the epidural enough that they would prefer to avoid it. While some try to overcome the fear by taking a childbirth class or reading information about it, they remain more fearful of labor with an epidural than without.

Doesn't Want to Be Numb

For some mothers, they aren’t worried about the actual procedure, but they don’t want to feel numb. This may lead them to other medications like IV narcotics or they may choose to do without medications at all.

Past Experience

Sometimes you will have a mom has had a reaction to an epidural or similar medication before. She may know that by avoiding the epidural, she can hopefully avoid the reactions.

These reactions can range from simple to more serious.

“I could get more medicine to mask the itching, but isn’t it simpler just to avoid what causes the itching,” one mom said.

Desire to Feel Labor

Some mothers who enjoy labor or at least have a healthy respect for it. They prepare to use other methods of comfort during labor like relaxation, breathing, movement, and maybe even a birth ball or water tub.

Concerns About Added Risks

Some mothers choose to avoid an epidural because they are concerned about the added risks that come with the epidural.

While the really big risks are very rare, they do happen. For some mothers, even the possibility of a smaller risk that is more common, like a drop in her blood pressure isn’t worth it.

There are others who worry about problems like fetal distress. Ask your practitioner about the risks, benefits, and alternatives of epidurals if these are your concerns as well.

Seeking a Sense of Accomplishment

Some mothers believe that there is a sense of accomplishment that they experience when it comes to having an unmedicated birth.

It's not a judgment factor, as is often portrayed, but simply a goal they set for themselves to accomplish.

Just Because

Some moms don't know why; they just don't want an epidural. That's okay, too.

Truthfully, it doesn’t matter why a mother has chosen to forgo the epidural, all that matters is how we support her in that decision, particularly because the decision isn’t ours to make and/or live with during or after labor. If you have made the decision not to get an epidural, make sure those around you know best how they can support you.

1 Source
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  1. American Pregnancy Association. Epidural.

By Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH
Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH is a professor, author, childbirth and postpartum educator, certified doula, and lactation counselor.