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Difference Between Epidural and Natural Birth

An epidural is an injection given into the back to help block the pain of childbirth and other conditions. Natural birth is when a baby is born vaginally without any pain blocking medicine.

What is Epidural?


An epidural is the name of an injection given into the lower back to stop pain.


Patients generally mustn’t drink or have a meal for about 6 hours before having an epidural. An antiseptic is used to wash the skin where the needle will be inserted. Local anesthetic is given first. A needle is then carefully inserted into the epidural space and medicine is injected.


An epidural is sometimes given in pregnancy to help stop the pain of labor during childbirth. Other uses include for treating the pain of spinal stenosis or herniated vertebral discs. An epidural is a nerve block.


There are potential complications of an epidural, such as bleeding in the epidural space, infection, a decrease in blood pressure, back pain, and headache.

What is Natural birth?


Natural birth is defined as childbirth where the baby passes through the vaginal canal.


During natural childbirth the muscles in the walls of the uterus begin to contract. Over time, the contractions increase in frequency and help to push the baby towards and through the cervix and vagina. The baby should be positioned head facing downwards so as to leave the body head first. 


The baby acquires antibodies and beneficial bacteria from the mother’s body while passing through the birth canal during the birthing process. Other benefits include a fast recovery time for the mother and it may be a faster birthing process than with an epidural.


There is much more pain associated with a vaginal, natural childbirth compared with when a nerve block (epidural) is given.  A natural childbirth may not be always be safe depending on the situation. Women with high-risk pregnancies, who have conditions such as pre-eclampsia or who are carrying multiple babies, may be advised against a natural birth for safety reasons.

Difference between Epidural and Natural birth


An epidural is an injection that is given into the epidural space of the backbone as a way to control pain. A natural birth is when a baby is born by passing through the vagina.


In the case of an epidural, the area is wiped with antiseptic, a local anesthetic is given, then the medicine of the epidural is injected into the epidural space. In the case of natural childbirth, the baby moves headfirst from the uterus, through the cervix, and out through the vagina.


An epidural means a pain-free labor and delivery experience for the mother. Natural childbirth is beneficial because the baby receives healthy bacteria and antibodies from the mother when it passes through the birth canal.


There are possible complications associated with an epidural such as hypotension, an increased chance of infection, chronic back pain, and a headache. The problems associated with natural childbirth include the pain of labor; women with high-risk pregnancies may not be able to safely have natural childbirth.

Hospital/medical setting is needed

An epidural is given in a medical facility like a hospital, so the patient has to be in that setting. A natural childbirth can, depending on circumstances, be done outside of a hospital.

Table comparing Epidural and Natural birth

Summary of Epidural and Natural birth

  • An epidural is an injection given to block pain.
  • Natural birth is when a baby is delivered by passing through the birth canal.
  • An epidural helps with pain but there is a risk of complications.
  • There are benefits to a natural birth but labor can be painful.


Is natural birth painful?

There is normally some pain associated with natural childbirth because of the strong contractions of the uterus and movement of the baby. Pain is a normal part of the process.

Is it better to get an epidural or not?

It depends on the situation as to if an epidural is a good idea or not. It is helpful in preventing pain during natural childbirth.

Is recovery easier without an epidural?

In many cases, it is a quicker and easier process of recovery if a woman chooses a natural childbirth.

Can I give birth without an epidural?

A person can give birth without an epidural but it may be more painful.

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References :

[0]Dietert, Rodney R. "Natural childbirth and breastfeeding as preventive measures of immune-microbiome dysbiosis and misregulated inflammation." Journal of Ancient Diseases & Preventive Remedies 1.02 (2013): 103.

[1]MacArthur, Christine, et al. "Epidural anaesthesia and long term backache after childbirth." British Medical Journal 301.6742 (1990): 9-12.

[2]Nystedt, Astrid, David Edvardsson, and Ania Willman. "Epidural analgesia for pain relief in labour and childbirth–a review with a systematic approach." Journal of clinical nursing 13.4 (2004): 455-466.

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