My Epidural Didn’t Ease My Labor Pain

One mama shares how her anesthetic plan went awry.

I knew I was running out of time. My doctor had already mentioned an induction at my 40-week appointment. I really didn’t want to be induced, I knew my body could birth on its own. This was my second pregnancy after all, my body had done it once before.

When I was just over 41 weeks pregnant , I got one last ultrasound. The doctor noticed saw something that concerned him in the placenta and suggested that we induce. So we scheduled our labor and delivery on Thursday. Though I was excited to meet our baby, I was upset that my body hadn’t done what I knew it could do.

My body had two days to finally start labor on its own. I tried everything: bouncing and rocking on an exercise ball, walking (a lot), eating pineapple and, with a little help from Pinterest’s “labor kickstart” boards, made a “labor” cake full of spices. Unfortunately, my body never gave in. So on Thursday, we were ready to be induced.

We arrived at the hospital at 5:30am, and by the time my doctor  arrived, at 6am, I was 3 centimeters dilated and about 50% effaced. I wasn’t having any signs of labor though — I guess my little guy was just too comfortable. My doctor quickly broke my water and, by 6:40 am, gave me pitocin.

At 7 am, my contraction started, and by 8:30 am, I was buzzing the nurse to let her know I was ready for my epidural. At that point, I was so uncomfortable. My back was hurting, and I was stuck in bed, unable to move because I was hooked up to the pressure cuff, which went off every 5 minutes. I also had a monitor to track the baby’s heart rate, a monitor for my contractions and a catheter. There definitely wasn’t any getting up.  

I needed a whole bag of saline before I could get the epidural, which took about 45 minutes to empty. It doesn’t seem like a long time, but with contraction every minute, it was terrible and felt like an eternity.

The anesthesiologist arrived at 9:15 am. At that point, the contractions were painful and came and go every minute — I was in tears. They sent my husband out. Though I knew the nurses were here to support me, I was terrified. How was I going to be able to sit still through intense contractions while getting the epidural without him by my side? Thirty minutes later, the epidural was in, and my husband was able to come back into the room. I was feeling good again, but not for long… My right side was completely numb, but I quickly started to feel sharp contractions on my left side. Perhaps my epidural didn’t work as expected

At 11:10 am, I asked the nurse to prop my left side on a pillow, hoping that it would help even out the epidural — to no avail. At 11:40, my pain was worse. So my husband asked for the nurse to come back. She did a cervical check and informed me that I was 10 centimeters dilated.

Though the pain was excruciating, there was no time for an epidural do-over. It was time to push. I was so nervous about pushing through the pain I was feeling in my left side. I was questioning my own strength, unsure that I could do it. I remember crying, “I quit, I want to go home.” But there was no turning back. This baby had to come out, and he was coming out very soon! I couldn’t wait for it to be over, to finally hold my baby.                

Jaxon was born at 12:31pm. I was in love! I couldn’t believe that I made this beautiful tiny human –with my husband’s help, of course. He was absolutely perfect and looked exactly like his 4-year-old brother. I was, once again, so excited and terrified at the same time: excited to take him home, but terrified to start this new journey as a mom of two.

Jaxon layed on my chest, skin to skin, and we waited until the umbilical cord turned white for my husband to cut it — an exciting way for him to welcome our little guy into this world. Not long after, my placenta was delivered, and it immediately ruptured. The doctor stitched up my tear while Jaxon started to latch on. I was so amazed at how quickly my little boy found the breast that I wasn’t even paying attention to what my doctor was doing. Jaxon is now 4 weeks new and he’s such a sweet and easy-going little guy. Big brother is smitten over him too.

Asia is a married mom of two sweet boys — a preschooler and an infant. She lives in West Virginia, but calls California home. She’s an amateur photographer and loves taking pictures of her boys.

Did you get an epidural? Do you plan to? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Comments {20}

  1. I had an epidural with my first. I hated it, I felt weird, not in control, and nurse tore my urethra yanking the catheter out afterwards. It burned every time I peed for about 3 or 4 weeks. I had a natural birth my next 2, and plan on having a natural birth again with my 4th, due end of Oct. The fear of the pain made me get an epidural, since I had nothing to compare it with, I didn’t know if it would get worse. Basically, once you reach the point of pain where you think you can’t do it, you are in the last phase before pushing, and then you are almost done! For me, natural was better, it is worth the pain, since recovery time was exponentially better for me without the epidural. Really, do what’s best for you, no matter what you do, someone will have an opinion,

    1. You’ve got the whole spectrum of experiences, Nitara! Thanks for sharing. Can’t wait to hear about Baby #4!

      Jessica Pallay
  2. I had an epidural and also hated it. I could move but my legs felt so heavy and numb, i cried the entire time I got it, I couldn’t drink anything, I wasn’t allowed to try pushing on my side like I wanted, and I was SO swollen for DAYS from all of the fluids. Plus, my son hated the epidural, his heart rate went wonky and the nurse wouldn’t leave because she was so concerned. I thought that after the 23 hours of natural labor I had just done I’d need a c section. Thankfully I didn’t. For future babies I am definitely trying for a natural birth again.

  3. Wow, Nitara, I’m so sorry you had to go through that.

  4. I had the almost identical experience as was described in the article. I had two natural previous births and awful back labour with both. My third labour experience was starting off the same way, awful back pain that made it hard to move around. I tried water injections and a narcotic for relief but they weren’t very effective so I opted for the epidural, same thing happened…right side was numb but I could basically still feel the intensity of each contraction. Then suddenly went from 5cm to being fully dilated so No time for another epidural and time to push! If I had more kids, I would definitely not get the epidural again as it does take some time to recover from. Labour hurts like hell but it is only temporary. It’s a personal decision everyone has to make for themselves and what seems right for them. 🙂

    1. Such a personal decision, and so insightful to hear how it went down for you, Stephanie. Thanks for sharing!

      Jessica Pallay
  5. My birth plan didn’t go as quite as I wanted it to, the epudural worked for me, although they had to give me a stringer dose because just the epural only numb one leg and I was filling all the pain, I don’t know if is just me but I think that when they gave me the epidural my pain got a lot worse but after a while I didn’t feel anything and that was good since I had two babies to push, the down side was that even though the 2 babies was headdown one came naturally and the other I had to do an emergency c-section which wasn’t plan, so I got to experience both deliveries and my recovery despite all that was really great. But what is really important is the health of the babies and ours so don’t feel bad if your birth plan don’t go as you wish or wanted to as long as you have your little one in your arms everything will be fine.

    1. Totally agree – healthy babies is the most important outcome no matter what happens during birth!

      Jessica Pallay
  6. I needed an induction due to meconium. I had started feeling mini contractions that day but the pitocin kick-started labor big time even though they only gave me a tiny dose. After 8 hours of contractions at 1-2 minute intervals I was only 3cm dilated so I decided to get an epidural to help possibly sleep as I thought it would be a long labor. My little gal had other ideas and in one hour I went from 3cm to 10cm with full effacement! I think the epidural relaxed my muscles that were super tense and allowed my body to open for the baby. I was surprised that I could feel my toes and move my legs during the process but it made me feel more in control (despite being catheterized with a bp cuff and two heart rate monitors and iv pitocin in my arm). My only difficulty has been soreness at the site post-delivery- my doctor thinks the anesthesiologist may have scratched a nerve in my back. I’m hoping this will subside with time

    1. It’s great to hear you had a mostly positive experience with your epidural, Lily. Hoping your pain subsides too!

      Jessica Pallay
  7. I had a somewhat similar experience to Asia’s. I was included at 39 weeks over concerns that our little girl wasn’t growing as expected. However, both my husband and I are small and didn’t expect to have a large baby. I was similarly upset that I wasn’t able to have the natural birth I wanted.

    When admitted on Sunday night st 10pm, I was only 1cm dilated and not effaced at all. Our little lady was clearly not ready to be evicted! They gave me a medication to induce labor, but I reacted too strongly to it, so they switched to another med; the second med didn’t do much. On Monday at 11pm they attempted to put in a balloon catheter because I was still only 1 cm dilated. They quickly took it it due to significant bleeding and because I had previously had a complete placenta previa that had been cleared, they did an ultrasound to make sure my placenta was not covering my cervix. After ruling that it wasn’t, they determined I was bleeding due to having a “fryable cervix.”

    Finally on Tuesday am they decided to give me pictocin. Well everything happened quickly from there. The contractions were intense and painful, especially in my back. I tried to fight through them, but it was too much. I had planned for a natural birth, but I gave into the epidural.

    I very much relate to Asia regarding how scary it was, especially because my husband and mother were asked to leave. I remember them telling me to hold still and my concern over having a contraction while attempting to remain still. On top of that, hearing about all of the side effects was nerve wracking in itself.

    After the epidural I did have relief from the contractions. Soon thereafter, it was time to push and let me tell you I definitely felt it. Especially when the doctor helped to stretch me- I begged him not to, but insisted saying it would help. At 12:10 after over 40 hours of being in the hospital and constant monitoring my husband delivered (with the doctor on standby) our beautiful baby girl. She was a perfect weight at 6lbs 7oz and was healthy and strong.

    Though this wasn’t the labor or birth plan I had hoped for, in the end I got everything I wanted and more!

    1. Even though it didn’t go as planned, it’s great to hear you got a beautiful baby girl out of it. Thanks for sharing your story, Kristen!

      Jessica Pallay
  8. My birth story is slightly different from the article but the ending was the same. I was induced at 42 weeks, I went into the hospital on Thursday at 4:30 pm and my son was finally born at 1:10am on Sunday. I was induced 3 separate times using Cervidil (in for 12 hours and removed for 12 hours x3) and while that gave me terrible non-stop contractions my cervix was not dilating. Saturday morning the doctor gave me the option to try Cervidil again or move on to pitocin. I choose pitocin, thinking to myself “how bad could it really be?” Well I got my answer to that question 1 hour after the pitocin was started, it was excruciating! I had 3 minute long contractions about 10-15 minutes apart that gradually increased to only 15-30 seconds apart. By 6 pm I couldn’t take the pain anymore and asked the nurse for an epidural. After I received the epidural I was in heaven! I couldn’t feel anything from my big old belly down to my toes. By 8pm my water had broken and I was finally progressing. 9:30 pm is when things started going downhill. I started feeling contractions on the left side of my body and gradually moving to the right side. 11pm my epidural completely stopped working and at midnight I felt the need to push. I felt absolutely everything, every push, every movement, I felt it all. Finally at 1:10 am on Valentine’s Day my son was born! He was completely healthy and absolutely beautiful but unfortunately for me I was shaking so badly after his birth that I wasn’t able to hold him for a few hours, I think I was just in shock from the amount of pain I felt. That birth is now the reason I don’t want to have anymore children, before then I wanted to have at least 2 kids but now I’m completely fine with my one perfect little boy.

    1. So glad you got some relief from your epidural, and that you got a perfect little boy out of it. Congrats!

      Jessica Pallay
  9. My first I planned to go unmedicated however back labor was really bad and he wasn’t coming down. Finally after 14 hours of back labor I caved. The worst thing ever.. my son’s heart rate dropped and the team rushed in for a c section. Luckily my midwife saved the day and informed the team I just had a epidural. Next up, I went numb chest down which they were super concerned about as I could have stopped breathing. After my son was born I almost passed out and could barely walk. Afterward for a entire week I had a spinal headache.
    My rainbow who came 2 weeks ago completely different. This time I in no way was going to cave. I didn’t and gave birth to him standing up and unmedicated. Granted I was tired afterward but I felt great.. besides the few sticks with the needle to numb me for the tear. No swelling, no headaches just felt good… To mention, I had back labor with this one too. My foul and mw both thought he was sunny side up but he came out “normal”. So in any future pregnancy I think I am Destin to have back labor..

    Elicia P
    1. Argh, back labor! Sounds so uncomfortable, but glad everything turned out ok, Elicia!

      Jessica Pallay
  10. I had an epidural with both of my children. The first worked too well. Felt like all the circulation had even cut out of my left leg, to the point where it was uncomfortable. They would flip me from side to side but I finally started asking to be left more on the right to see if the left would recover…it didn’t. I had gone into labor that morning at 3:30 but wasn’t progressing much by that afternoon and baby’s vitals weren’t where they should be so they put me on pitocin around 1:30pm. Talk about hell. Nurse had to tell me to stop screaming. I wasn’t given an epidural until I had dilated to a 3, at 10pm that night. Glad the thing worked at all but wish I hadn’t needed it in the first place. Laboring with Pit isn’t fun. Pushing was awkward, but I was able to do it and didn’t need a C-section. With my second child we decided to induce at 40 weeks because of my fear of going too long…daughter was two weeks late and had complications that kept us in the hospital 5 days. Didn’t want a repeat. I came in the night before, they gave me Cytotec to ripen my cervix, started Pit and broke my water at 8 am. Labor was miser ale on my back with Pit. Felt like my sciatica was being ripped from my back. Epidural wasn’t started for an hour and a half later. Fortunately I had learned effective breathing and focal point exercises in Lamaze classes this time. Once the epidural wa started the dang thing didn’t work, other than to knock out all feeling in my legs. Still had terrible back labor and felt every contraction. Son was born an hour later. Totally could have gone without the stupid epidural for all of that. But I was anticipating a long labor and thought I would need it. They had even given me extra medicine in the tube to see if it would help fill the spine better, it didn’t. Just made recovery take much longer. Almost got dropped by a nurse who didn’t believe that I still couldn’t feel my legs after so long. Smh. Am going with a birth center and midwife for baby #3 due in December. Wanted to do that all along but couldn’t afford it previously. Hope to never birth in a hospital again. Lol

    1. Good luck with Baby #3, Alexis, can’t wait to hear how the birth center and midwife turns out. Keep us posted!

      Jessica Pallay
  11. I did have an epidural – it was my first, and I was feeling nervous to do it without. My labor nurse at the hospital was so incredible. She knew I was nervous, and when the anesthesiologist came in he asked if I was too far along, so my nurse said she would ‘check really quick.’ I was dilated to a 9 station 2 but she fibbed a little and I got my epidural. As soon as it was in I had maybe 5-10 minutes and then was pushing. It was a whirlwind for sure! I also almost didn’t get one because they had the hardest time getting an IV in me – they had to try a total of 5 times but did finally get one. Phew!

    1. So glad it worked out for you, Amelia!

      Jessica Pallay

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