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Childbirth without epidurals: relieving pain otherwise

Whether you can't or don't want to have epidural, other techniques can help you relax and cope better with the intensity of contractions. But we need to discuss this with the maternity team before birth to determine what is possible or not.

Medical contraindications
Baby Might Not Be Crawling Coagulation disorders, allergy to the anesthetic product, some neurological diseases are formal contraindications to epidural anesthesia. Just like a skin infection at the puncture site or a fever outbreak on the day of delivery. Some low back conditions can also be an obstacle. Finally, a high excess weight or a vertebral malformation can cause difficulties when placing the catheter. The presence of a tattoo in the area where the anesthetist will inject the anesthetic poses no problem. The mandatory consultation with an anesthetist during the 8th month of pregnancy ensures the absence of contraindications to the epidural.

Personal motivations to refuse epidural
In France, nearly one in four women plan to give birth without epidural. Among the reasons for this refusal, we can find :

The desire for a less medicalized birth. Epidural anesthesia requires an infusion and catheter that will limit the ability to stand up. It is well known that being able to walk and position yourself at will during work or even during expulsion makes it easier for the baby to leave.
The fear of not fully experiencing childbirth. Even if it is more and rarer, it can indeed happen that the dose of analgesic is so strong that the future mother no longer feels the pushes.

Fear of the side effects of epidural. It can happen that the epidural causes headaches for sometimes a few days. These headaches are explained by the perforation of the dura mater, a membrane surrounding the spinal cord, and the flow of some cerebrospinal fluid. It is not dangerous, but it is necessary to lie as often as possible during the days following the birth until everything is in order. If this is not the case, a small intervention to close the breach of the dura mater may be necessary. Other possible pain, low back pain, but not resistant to conventional analgesics. As for the fear of remaining paralyzed, this event has become very rare. Finally, while it is true that the newborn receives a dose of the analgesic product, the latter passing into the maternal circulation, this has no impact on its health and development.

Baby Names Starting with A It is possible to change your mind at the last moment. This is one of the reasons why it is mandatory to see an anesthesiologist before giving birth, whether or not an epidural is planned. It happens that women who have considered an epidural do not need it because the delivery is fast and the intensity of the contractions bearable. On the other hand, despite excellent preparation, everyone has the right to be overwhelmed. It is therefore reassuring to think that nothing is fixed and that one can change one's mind, bearing in mind, however, that the product takes about 15 minutes to take effect.

Is the delivery without epidural faster?
It's impossible to tell if an epidural-free birth is going to be any faster. It is true that the epidural can slightly reduce the intensity of contractions and consequently lengthen the Working Time. But it can also help relax and therefore dilate the cervix more quickly.

Possible alternatives
Although less effective than epidural anesthesia, other techniques, used separately or simultaneously, can help manage pain during work and expulsion. Here is a nonexhaustive list.

Preparation for birth and parenthood
Preparing to live more calmly childbirth is one of the main objectives of the 8 birth and parenting preparation sessions offered to all future mothers. These preparations can be based on sophrology, hypnosis, prenatal song, autonomy...


Inhalation of nitrous oxide
A mask to be applied to the nose delivers nitrous oxide, an analgesic gas mixture. Inhalation should begin 30 seconds before contractions if they are regular and at the time of contractions if they are irregular. The inhalation should stop as the contraction begins to subside.

Transcutaneous nerve stimulation
A small device, the TENS, is connected by 4 electrodes to your back. By delivering an absolutely painless low current, it will block the pain messages sent to the brain and stimulate the production of endorphins, a natural analgesic. The mother-to-be controls the intensity of the current on the keyboard of the device.

Acupuncture is a great help to relieve all the small ailments of pregnancy. On D-Day, it is just as useful: it acts of course on the pain, but also on the dilatation of the cervix and the relaxation of the perineum. Some midwives are trained in an acupuncturist. It may even happen that maternity hospitals agree to welcome the mother-to-be's acupuncturist doctor into the working room. Provided of course you have discussed this beforehand.

A physiological position
Baby Names Starting With M There's nothing mandatory about lying down all the time. The most important thing is to listen to your body. Some women experience contractions better as they walk. And as long as the medical team is receptive to this type of gait, there is nothing to prevent your baby from getting out by lying on his side or squatting. These positions are known to facilitate expulsion.

A hot bath
Some maternity hospitals are equipped with baths, not to perform deliveries in the water, but to allow future mothers to spend part of the work there. They can thus enjoy the soothing and relaxing virtues of warm water when contractions are a little hard to manage.


With bare hands or with an essential oil adapted to pregnancy, a light massage of the legs and arms allows to relax the knotted muscles and thus to better support the tensions caused by the contractions. A massage of the kidneys, the pelvis, and the sacrum can relieve the back pain. These massages are usually performed by a midwife, but they can also be performed by the future father.