Painless Delivery- Procedure, Pros and Cons

Woman giving birth

The intense pain that a woman goes through during childbirth can be very severe and can measure above 8 on a scale of 10. This pain can be unbearable for many women, especially women going through their first pregnancy. However, with advancements in medicine, many women have the option of opting for pain relief methods to reduce the severity of the pain and enjoy the experience of childbirth.


There has been a huge spike in the number of women choosing pain relief methods during childbirth. The trend is common, especially among educated women who are aware of the benefits of the procedure and weigh the benefits and the risks to make a choice that is well suited for them.


What is Painless Delivery and is It Possible to Achieve It?

A painless normal delivery is achieved by administering an epidural anaesthesia to the mother during labour. This is a regional anaesthesia which can stop the pain in a particular part of the body. During labour, this is injected to the lower back of the women, which allows them to be comfortable throughout the process of childbirth, have some respite from the severe labour pains and experience an almost painless delivery.

Women with a lower threshold for pain or women who become pregnant after their thirties, tend to opt for C-sections as their ability to bear labour pain can be quite low. An epidural anaesthesia gives these women a chance at normal delivery by cutting down the pain to a large extent.


What is the Procedure of Painless Childbirth?

During the process of painless childbirth, you will be given intravenous or IV fluids before you receive the epidural. You will then be instructed to arch your back and stay still while sitting up. This position can increase the effectiveness of the epidural and prevent any issues.

After wiping your waistline with an antiseptic solution, your lower back will be injected with a local anaesthesia to numb it. A needle is then injected into this numbed region around your spinal cord on the lower back. After threading a thin catheter through this needle into the epidural area, the needle is removed and the catheter is taped. This catheter is used to inject the epidural anaesthesia during labour.

The drug is administered as required during pregnancy which numbs the pelvis and the region below it. However, you remain conscious and can watch the baby being delivered, while experiencing little to no pain.

Painless Delivery – Advantages and Disadvantages

Some of the pros and cons of opting for painless injection for normal delivery are as follows.

  1. Pros
  • Provides relief while retaining consciousness and mobility to watch the baby being born.
  • Helps the mother cope better with fatigue and postpartum depression.
  • Since it offers significant pain relief, the body doesn’t release stress hormones. Stress hormones are known to adversely affect the mother and cause distress to the baby.
  • This procedure can lower the blood pressure of the mother, which makes it beneficial for women with high levels of blood pressure. Blood pressure, if not controlled effectively, can get even higher during childbirth and may result in a stroke.
  • It allows for switching to an instrumental or forceps delivery without the need for additional anaesthesia.
  • Adding an epidural catheter can make it possible to switch to a caesarean delivery if required.
  • The duration of childbirth is lowered to a large extent.
  • It is well suited for patients with conditions like heart diseases or preeclampsia.

2. Cons

  • There could be a sudden drop in blood pressure which may affect the heart rate of the baby.
  • Due to numbness in the pelvic region or pelvis relaxation, you may find it difficult to push the baby so that doctors may have to switch to a forceps or a Caesarean delivery.
  • There could be dizziness or a backache or shivering on certain occasions.
  • If there is leakage of the spinal fluid, it could cause headaches.
  • You could have difficulty urinating.
  • There may be soreness or pain in the back where the injection is given.
  • You may experience numbness in the lower half of your body for a few hours after childbirth.
  • There are very rare cases of irreversible damage caused to the nerves near the area where the catheter was inserted.
  • Certain studies suggest that the baby may have trouble breastfeeding or latching on to the breast.

Who Should Have This Procedure?

In certain cases, doctors advise women to opt for painless birth delivery. It can be recommended for you in the following cases:

  • If you have certain medical conditions like preeclampsia, heart conditions or hypertension.
  • If you’ve had a caesarean delivery during your previous pregnancy and prefer a vaginal birth for the subsequent one.
  • If you’ve had a prior labour that was prolonged or complicated, then the doctors will advise you to opt for painless delivery to provide relief to both you and the baby.

Woman in labour

Who Should Avoid It?

There are certain cases when an epidural is not advised for women. If you have any of the conditions mentioned below, it is best to steer clear of epidural anaesthesia during delivery.

  • Women with bleeding disorders are at an increased risk of hematoma or spinal haemorrhage that can cause permanent neurological damage.
  • Prior surgery on the lower back: Scar tissues and risk of infection may rule out the possibility of receiving an epidural anaesthesia.
  • Skin infection in the epidural region: Injecting a needle may pose a risk of the infection spreading further.
  • Blood clotting: Women with blood clotting disorders are usually on blood thinners like heparin. This may cause excessive bleeding during delivery, especially near the spine and pose a risk of paralysis.
  • Neurological diseases: Since the needles are placed close to the spinal cord, there is a possibility of damage to the neural tissues.

Are There Any Chances of Failure of This Procedure?

While there is no standard data on the failure rate of the procedure, it is possible for an epidural anaesthesia to fail. This could be because of the incorrect placement of the needle, migration of the catheter after the initial placement, anatomical challenges in the patient that may make it harder to inject the needle, suboptimal dosage of drugs, or an unexpectedly quick delivery which the anaesthesiologist hadn’t predicted.

Does It Increase the Possibility of Caesarean Section?

There is no tangible evidence that receiving an epidural can raise your chances of having a C-section. However, in theory, if you’ve opted for normal delivery without pain through epidural anaesthesia, there may be a slow progress of labour as your muscles are weakened due to the numbness. Also, if there is a dip in your blood pressure or instances of foetal distress you may have a caesarean delivery. It is also possible that in case of a strong epidural block, your ability to push is limited and there will a failure in the progress of the labour. In such cases an emergency C-section is necessary.

Many women today prefer to go for the painless delivery method to prevent going through excruciating pain during labour. Epidural is one of the most sought-after painless delivery options that most women prefer during childbirth. You can speak to your doctor and inquire about the different types of pain relief methods available to you during labour and make an informed choice. Even though you don’t plan on taking an epidural, you can always discuss with the medical practitioner about your options to have a comfortable delivery process.