Epidural or Demerol for Labor Pain Relief?

Updated on October 01, 2010
V.H. asks from Phoenixville, PA
34 answers

I wanted to ask moms who have had experience with epidural use and Demerol (IV drugs) use during their labor and delivery. Walking epidurals are not done at the hospital I'm delivering at. I know I'm going to want some kind of pain relief during my L&D but I'm nervous about what to try. I'm nervous about an epidural - it's "effective" (so effective you can't feel anything) but it literally paralyzes you, which kind of scares me, and can make pushing less effective. I would also like to avoid a urinary catheter. I want to be able to feel what I'm doing! I'm thinking of using Demerol (or other IV drugs) instead, but is it as effective when it comes to relieving the pain? My mom and my cousin didn't use ANY pain relief and said it was fine, but I'm afraid I'm not that strong. Breathing exercises will not work for me because I have cystic fibrosis and most likely will have to be put on oxygen the whole time. Please moms, help me decide! Give me some details, even if they're horror stories!

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So What Happened?

Thanks moms! I kept my options open, like most of you had said. I didn't know they could bump up or bump down the amount of meds you're receiving for an epidural. The IV meds (Stadol) from what most of you had said didn't really take the pain away and made me really out of it and mean. The epidural was great, I got a couple hours of sleep after. The initial needle was painful and intense but overall worth it. It did numb my right more than my left though!

More Answers



answers from Detroit on

2 kids, 2 epidurals, 2 demerols..so I do have experience..

for my first child.. I had the IV demerol in early labor.. it lasted for 3 hours.. then I got another dose IV which lasted about 3 hours.. then I asked for the epidural. the demerol does not take the pain away, but it puts you in a dreamy place and you can sleep.. (which was good as my labor was over night) the IV does take the pain away. my first child was a forecpet delivery and I was given a bolus does epidural when they delivered her.. but I was able to push effectively and also able to walk within 60 minutes. labor was 16 hours.

my second child .. I got 1 dose of IV demerol.. it barely took the edge off.. I complained that the drug was bad.. I then got an epidural.. but the dr also cchecked me right away and I had gone from 1- 9 centimeters in 2 hours or so.. so the IV demerol did work but I was just progresssing very quickly.

If I had it to do all over I would go for the epidural and skip the demoral.

I dont know why anyone would go through childbirth without drugs.. we dont give medals for bravery and I have nver seen anyone stating that they had an appendectomey without drugs.. take the drugs.. it makes it much more pleasant for you and your hubby.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

I was given Nubain during labor and then had an epidural. I would have placed that needle in my own back, if needed to get releif from labor pain--lol. Seriously, discuss all options with your doctor and decide what's best for YOU. Good luck!

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answers from Philadelphia on

I have had 2 deliveries with epidurals, one with no pain relief, and one with Demerol (all 4 of them induced for medical reasons). I really liked the Demerol (used for #3), but at my last delivery (4 months ago) my doctor said "they" (their practice as well as the hospital's) no longer used Demerol for pain and my options were epidural or morphine. (I never discussed my pain control options/birth plan with them before delivery in part because I delivered early -- big mistake!). I opted for the epidural, with great results. If administered correctly, you should be able to feel pressure with each contraction and push effectively. My last delivery was only 4 pushes, and I could feel each of them. I also had an epi with my first child, and I think it was too strong, because they had to use vacuum to deliver him because I couldn't push well --- but maybe that was because it was my first baby, hard to tell ... IMO, the Demerol was just as effective as the epidurals, made my labor pain free -- I basically slept for 4 hours, dilating from 1 to 10 cm, and woke up when I felt the baby coming! The one without pain relief was ok too, but I have pretty short labors/deliveries, so it is hard to say how I would have felt if that one had been more than a few hours. Good luck!

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answers from Lancaster on

Hi V., I did have an epidural and because they overdosed me, I couldn't feel anything. I felt absolutely no urge to push and after a few hours of "coached pushing" they ended up using the vaccum extractor. The most important thing is I have a beautiful, healthy baby, but next time I am going to wait longer to go to the hospital and try the demerol before asking for a walking (or light epidural) if I need it. If you want an epidural I would be sure to specify the "walking epidural." As an FYI, everyone else I know had an epidural and loved it and says theywould never give birth without it. It just didn't work out that way for me. Good luck and just stay focused on your baby! He or she is way more important than the delivery itself!

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answers from Saginaw on

Whatever you do, go in there with an open mind. Don't determine now which way your going to do it. Decide when the time comes. I think you are able to try Demerol first and if that doesn't do the trick order an epidural. You can also wait to see how far a long you can do it without any pain meds. But just be open and don't think bad of yourself if you need the pain relief.

I had one child without pain meds and one with an epidural. I loved my epidural. I too, was worried I wouldn't feel when to push, because that is what my mom had instilled in me and sorta happened to my sister. But this was not the case for me. When I got checked an told I was 10cm I had no idea I was that far along. And the pushing instinct kicked right in. It did not take me any longer to push out then it did with my first without pain meds.
In the end I was happy I had the epidural.

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answers from Washington DC on

The epidural was my best friend when I was in labor!! I would not EVER think of going through labor without it. What am I proving if I do it without drugs? Thats just my thought!! Two of my three were c-sections, but I had the epidural with the first. I did wait because I wanted to feel that labor was in full swing so to speak, but I would not have survived the last couple of hours without it.



answers from Dallas on

didn't read any other responses, but from what you've described - i'd suggest an epidural. the meds in an epidural do not get into your bloodstream, so you don't get that "drugged up" feeling, and the meds do not get to your baby either - they generally won't allow you to have a narcotic(demorol, stadol) when delivery is super close, but they will inject a local to the vaginal area when the baby is crowning. additionally, an epidural does not paralyze you. i was able to move my legs with all three of my children's births, and i had a very effective epidural with each one. i felt literally NO pain vaginally with any of them, and i pushed for UNDER ONE MINUTE with each one of them with my epidural still going at full strength. i would think that the stress of the pain would not be good for your breathing since you have CF. good luck with your decision!



answers from Scranton on

You don't KNOW you're going to need pain relief until you're there. AS for the Demoral stay away from it. It doesn NOTHING for pain. I had it twice was young and stupid and it did nothing. The second time it looped me up pretty good. I would never take anything again. My 2nd two were born with no pain meds at all. It was never unbearable or unmanageable. Even with contractions coming on top of contractions. Have people around you who can help you focus and breathe through the pain. Look into finding a Doula or midwife.
Yes a lot of damage can be done by epidurals. I have had friends where they either didn't work, only numbed one half of them, etc.



answers from Lancaster on

I don't have personal experience as I never used pain relief, but my girlfriend told me Demerol is equivalent to taking Tylenol for an arm that was being cut off. I guess she was trying to tell me it's not effective. :) Good luck with your choice and your delivery. You'll make it through the pain no matter what!



answers from New York on

You can still feel things with the epidural - if they do it right.

The one reason I was happy with the epidural was that I ended up with a c-section after 3 hours of pushing (and trust me, I could feel the pushing) and they were able to just "turn it up" and do the surgery.

With Demerol, if you did end up with a c-section (does your CF make you more likely to have complications?), especially if it were an emergency, you might have to be put out completely.

I've heard of women having issues/complications with both kinds of pain relief after the fact.

Have you thought about the Bradley Method of childbirth? Or hypnobirthing? Neither rely so much on specialized breathing if you're looking to go au natural.

Good luck!


answers from Albany on

3 kids, 3 epidurals, 3 relaxed happy enjoyable births, nuff said!



answers from Pittsburgh on

I had demerol with my first born. The hospital where I had my second no longer offers it due to the potential it has to affect the baby. I honestly think that is bunk but that's just me. I wanted an epidural with my daughter but the anesthesiologists weren't quick enough. If you are worried about pushing, they should be able to dial down your epidural when the time comes to push.

Oh and on a side note, I had oxygen on with both my deliveries. You can do the breathing, it's just more difficult. I couldn't do it effectively with my son because I had a wicked headcold and couldnt breathe in or out of my nose the whole time. Good luck!



answers from Kansas City on

I had both. I had the demerol in the IV before i got my epidural. And, as others have mentioned, it didn't help so much with the pain, but it put me "out of it". I literally don't remember the hours of my labor between demerol and actually having to push. I remember getting my epidural and then back to lala land. I was alert and ready to go come time to deliver somehow. And, good to go after that. I am not sure whether this is a good or bad thing, but the important part is that i remember having my little guy.



answers from Goldsboro on

I had Maxalt shots in my IV during labor, then an epidural for my c-section (because my induction didn't work). My c-section was pretty invasive because I had scar tissue from an appendectomy in college and the tissue bled more. When I came out of surgery, I was on a Demerol "button". I could press my button when I needed pain relief and it went directly into my IV. It would only allow me to get the Demerol every 10-12 minutes, though. If it hadn't been long enough, it just wouldn't shoot it in my IV. That button was WONDERFUL!
My c-section was in the afternoon and I had the button all night. I think they came in about 6 the next morning and unhooked it. I had hydrocodone pill for pain from then on out. By the next day, I was using extra strength Tylenol.



answers from Spokane on

I did one labor with an epidural and one all natural. To be perfectly honest I would do it naturally every time in the future (if I were to have more kids). Labor was quicker (an epidural can seriously slow things down), I really didn't HAVE to push, my body just took over and out popped the baby (no, it wasn't THAT easy, of course it hurt, but it was quick!), and my recovery was almost instant (I was home that same night and playing cars on the cement with my three year old the next day). That being said - it DID require some really deep breathing and big time mental relaxation, so you may be right that your body/lungs aren't capable of handling. SO, the epidural was easy enough, the insertion didn't hurt, and one I got it I was able to nap. When I got to 8cm it started to wear off and they said I could push the button for more meds to be fed through it or just leave it be so i could feel what was going on. I left things be and THOUGHT I was feeling everything (after doing natural birth I know how much I wasn't feeling). But I felt enough pressure and all to know when to push, how to push, and after one hour of pushing he was out. I was REALLY sore for about a week after giving birth and for several hours afterwards I couldn't feel my legs AT ALL even though the nurses thought I should have by then. Everyone is going to react differently to different meds, so just use these answers as a general guide but don't expect things to go exactly the same way. Good luck, any birth experience you have is going to result in a beautiful bundle of joy - enjoy!



answers from Allentown on

I just wanted to mention one other thing that came up in my last delivery, and tell you a little about my experience. My first I had two epidurals that were ineffective. Eventually I had an emergency c-section, and had to be put to sleep because I could feel too much. I also had a lot of back pain afterwards. I mention that not to scare you, or any one else for that matter. I do often feel like I'm sitting on important information, though. Epidurals work great for some and terrible for others. In my opinion, the less medicine the better. That's all it is, my opinion based on my experience. I understand others have had better experiences. I also think that the less amount of unnatural meds you are introducing to your body and baby the better.

That said, the second time, I went into it trying to avoid all drugs (as mentioned they not only can be ineffective, but do weird things to you--grogginess, swelling, etc.). However, after hours of painful contractions at 2 min. apart, and only being 2cm, I was offered tylenol with codeine. I didn't know that was even an option, but I was thankful for it. It didn't take the pain away but allowed me to sleep in between contractions.

It's true that you don't know what you will feel like ahead of time, what your tolerance will be. You may surprise yourself! And the only reward is a beautiful baby, no matter how it happened! (I have two!) But fear is your worst enemy at this point, and definitely in labor. Work hard at relaxing, try different positions, etc., and don't fear what is to come, just take the whole thing moment by moment. That's my best advice for you. I hope you have a safe and happy birth!


answers from Columbus on

With my first I had an epidural (drip admin), when it was time to push they turned off the drip saying the baby would be born before the effects wore off...he wasn't and I ended up feeling everything all of a sudden instead of getting there gradually. Then I had back pain where they had inserted the epidural for the next 3 1/2 years.

So when I had my second and third I opted to have Demerol instead-I don't vividly remember either of their first moments.

When I was prego with my last (4th) my husband convinced me (better hosp, anesthesiologist who specialized, etc.) to try the epidural again instead of the Demerol, which I did. I literally got the epidural less than 10 min before he was born (they didn't check me before administering) and SO could have done it w/o it!

All that being said, I would recommend the epidural if you feel you must have something, because I am still kind of sad to this day that I can't clearly remember those first few precious moments of my middle two kids' lives.


answers from Houston on

i had one of my daughters with an epidural, and one without. As scary as feeling it seems, its actually not that bad. Your body IS meant for this. Its a well oiled machine for labor. Thats what has been happening these last 9 months. The pain is tolerable. Personally id recommend as little numbing as is tolerable to you. This will make your labor quicker. Most importantly make this decision as educated and as comfortable for you as possible.



answers from Cincinnati on

If an epidural is done correctly, you can still feel some things. If you can't feel anything, they have given you too much medication! You shouldn't be able to feel the pain of the contractions, but you should be able to feel the pressure as the baby descends, and toward the end, you should be able to tell when to push. This is what they taught us in our Preparing for Birth classes at the hospital, and it was my experience during my first birth, as well. My epidural was wonderful - I held off as long as I could, but then I really wanted it! My birth was NOT completely painless, and I couldn't have just slept through it. ^_^ I had no problems knowing when I hit the peak contractions at the very end, too. I could feel the pressure, which feels like a horrible urge to poop, and I knew when to push before the nurses even told me. Talk to your OB about an epidural, and if you are worried, make sure you talk to the anesthesiologist about wanting to be able to know when to push. They can add more medication later if you find it isn't enough, so it's probably better to start out on a lower dose, anyway. I haven't given birth to my second yet (she was due Monday), but I plan to do the same thing. Good luck.


answers from Los Angeles on

you can just ask that they not turn the epidural down. Say you only want to use it to take the edge off, that you don't want to be numb. You can also start out with something like demerol and go as long as you can without epidural, so you won't be all hooked up to cathiders so early. My sister-in-law who has vaginally delivered 5 children just uses the epidural to take the edge off and chooses to feel the labor so she knows what she is doing with the pushing.


answers from Erie on

I agree with the PP's that said the epi does not "paralyze" you...i still felt quite a bit, but it took alot of the edge off during the actual laboring portion. they just turned it way down when it came time to deliver. about 20 minutes after that, i was up and walking around so it's not like you'll be laying there forever waiting for it to wear off. I had demerol first and it did nothing for me. That was all with my first child...with my second I had nothing and granted my second labor was much faster, but it was a much better experience afterwords. In my hospital, with my first because i had the drugs, they were constantly coming in to take my vitals...literally every 30 minutes which obviously equals 0 sleep! With my second, they came in once a day! That was it and the nurse said it was because there were no drugs involved. So, there's benefits to both i guess. but don't go into labor automatically thinking you will need drugs...everyone's pain tolerances are different and you'll just have to figure it out when you get there. You may go so fast that you don't have time for drugs! :)

I hate to say it too, but with my first too, i needed a urinary catheter just for a few seconds...i couldn't really get up off the table to go to the bathroom while i was pushing (haha) and it was not uncomfortable or anything. she put it in and then took it right back out. if she didn't tell me she was doing it, i never would have known she did except that after my bladder felt empty :)

Also, you said breathing exercises won't work for you...it's not the breathing itself...it's the relaxation that the steady breathing gives you. Maybe try going to a couple prenatel yoga classes and have them teach you how to calm your breathing during labor...it really does help. I was on O2 with my first too and still did my relaxation breathing techniques :)

Whatever you decide, good luck & make it your own wonderful experience :)



answers from Dallas on

With my oldest I had two epiderals, the second was completely gone 15 minutes before my son was born. It was horrible, I got a spinal headache afterwards also. My youngest son I decided before I got pregnant to have no meds what so ever, even though my dr told me I couldnt do it. Well I did it, got to the hospital 7 1/2 cm dilated and he was born a hour and a half later. The last contaction before pushing was the hardest but other than that it was a breeze for me and I was able to leave the hospital with my healthy baby boy 33 hours later. Good luck with your decision, if you have in your head that you are strong enough then you are. I believe in you.



answers from Anchorage on

Demerol did nothing for my pain, it just made me to stoned to control my pain on my own! My epidural was kept low so it just took the edge off but I could still feel to push and could walk right away after, that is the way I would go again.



answers from State College on

I have 4 kids (16 1/2, 8, 4 and almost 1). With the first one I literally had a shot in the leg and that was it. Whatever "it" was made me drowsy and that was about it. With #2, she was 3 weeks early and 9 lbs 5 ozs and gave me a 4th degree tear. All I had with her was a something in my IV, twice. When it was time to push everything had worn off. #3 I was induced with and had an epidural. It was by far, THE best labor/delivery I had. It was awesome. Once I was dilated enough they gave the epi and I was comfortable the rest of the time. With #4, I was induced with him, too. He was 9 lbs 10 ozs. I had the epi as soon as they broke my water....it only took on half of my body. The dr said he could re-do it, but I refused. It took him literally almost 45 minutes to get it in. He had a hard time finding a spot that would work for it. It hurt so bad each time he stuck me. I felt like throwing up. It was horrible. LOL He gave me the maximum dose, but I still felt EVERYTHING on the one half of my body. I was SO disappointed. I thought it would be easy like #3. Boy was I wrong. LOL So after it taking so long to place it and how much it hurt/made me sick, I decided I'd just deal with feeling everything on half of me.
So, just be prepared that if you do get an epi, it might not work. Like I said #3 was THE best labor/delivery. That's what I expected going in with #4.



answers from Philadelphia on

I had an epidural for both kids and I wouldn't have it any other way. Women have different experiences and different bodies. You've gotten advice from many people but just let me add this piece: there are no trophies given for how much pain you've endured during labor and delivery. You know your body and how much pain you can endure. If you've never had a baby, you have no idea how much pain you will be in. I suggest keeping your options open. Best to you!



answers from Fort Collins on

Hi there.

I had some sort of narcotic pain relief with my first - I can't remember the name. I *really* did not want any pain relief, but was starting to panic, so my midwife offered me a half-dose (as she called it) of pain meds, and it took the edge off of my anxiety enough to make it through the last centimeter or two. I still felt a ton of pain, but I was able to cope with it better. My little boy was born very healthy and alert, with no obvious side effects, and I my recovery was extremely speedy and easy. I have heard horror stories about the use of narcotic pain killers though (mom hallucinating, passing out, baby being affected, etc), so I intend to stay far away from it in the future!

With my second I had an epidural right at the very end. I only labored with it for about 20 minutes, but let me tell you, it was sweet sweet relief! I felt pressure, but very little pain, and was still able to push effectively. I didn't like the recovery AT ALL though, and not being able to walk immediately. I also had a very bad back ache for 2 days after.

IF I had to choose, I would definitely chose epidural. BUT I would caution you to wait until you are far enough progressed in your labor to not stall things. Wait until you are at least in active labor (5 or 6 centimeters) and are steadily dilating.

That being said, I'm going to a birthing center this time where no meds are available. I want it as natural as possible!

Good luck :) It's good to go into labor with a good knowledge base of what your options are, and to be flexible.




answers from Philadelphia on

This is a loaded question, because everyone is going to have their horror stories for both situations. Every person is different and will react differently to the medications. I have heard from lots of friends that swear by the epidural, two that had no pain relief from it and one that had it go very wrong and they messed up the dose and she couldn't feel anything or even move her legs, she also ended up with spinal headaches for a week afterward. I personally was more confident in my own abilities to handle the pain than I was in the doctor's abilities to not mess something up (I'm a control freak :)). So I did it without drugs and I used a modified version of the Bradley method. I also did lots of prenatal yoga and was able to use some meditation and breathing, but none of that ee-ee-ooo stuff you see in the movies, just controlled breathing to keep myself calm. When your body gets tense is when the pain is the worst, if you can remain calm it's not so bad. Good luck in whatever you decide, because it's only one day and then you'll have a beautiful baby and whatever you did will have been totally worth it!



answers from Missoula on

I had IV Demerol, one dose about 12 hours into labor, and I will never do it again. It doesn't take the pain away, it just makes you care about it less. For me, it made me dopey, and druggy, and really out of it. I hate that.
After 18 hours I had an epidural and I loved it. I ended up having a C-Section, so I can't speak about the effect of the epidural on pushing, but I really was happy with mine.



answers from Philadelphia on

I had pain medicine when they induced my labor. I wound up getting sick from it. I had an epidural and feel it made my experience so much better. I had no problems pushing out my son. I pushed him out in about 20 minutes when it was time. I felt pressure like I had to have a BM which meant I was ready. If you have the anethestisiologist(SP?) do it correctly you should be fine. I did not have to have and episiotomy. I had three stiches from small amount of tearing. I was up and walking around in the maternity ward shortly afterwards. By the way, I was so hungry afterwards, I ate a whole tray of food. I would say having an epidural made my delivery a more pleasant experience.


answers from Detroit on

1st of all- You're asking a loaded question. You're going to get the 'all natural' mamas telling you not to use anything no matter what.

I'm going to give you my personal stories and let you be the judge.

With my daughter (now 7), I was 3cm when I walked into the hospital. I had an epi, didn't feel any pain. I had pitocin as well. My labor was 6hrs total. I pushed 3 times and she was out. Pushing + getting cleaned up and stitched = about 30min total.

With my son, I was 5cm when I walked into the hospital. I decided an epi again. Didn't work at all because my son decided he was going to roll into the posterior position... So they turned my epi off. Him rolling into the posterior position kept me in HARD labor for 12hrs. I got 1 hour of rest when I just told everyone that I needed to relax... I don't care how... The anestesiologist (sp?) came in with a seringe full of demerol. That gave me ONE hour of relief. I fell asleep immediately and stayed asleep until that hour was up. But enough rest to be able to finish out my labor and pushing. Pushed about 6 times with him, but ALL the pain went away as soon as I NEEDED to push (and you know when it's time without an epi). No stitches. Pushing and cleanup (even after the cord snapped as it was coming out... ewwwwww) took about 45-55min.

If I knew then what I know now... I wouldn't have opted for the epi either time. I would've labored at home for as long as I could stand it... Even if it meant I had them at home and drove to the hospital afterward.



answers from Atlanta on

I had demerol for one birth and an epidural for the other.

I recommend and epidural; the demerol made my son slow to breathe and he was in the NICU for a week after birth. I wish I hadn't had that during his birth. It doesn't work very well either.



answers from Honolulu on

Anesthesia/pain meds... are administered by an Anesthesia Doctor. They use the amount per the person. Discuss it with your OB/GYN.... about both, and what to expect... and say you do not want to be completely numbed etc. See what your options are, medically, per your Doctor.

Each woman reacts differently to pain meds.



answers from Scranton on

Had an epidural for both births and LOVED IT. Would recommend it without hesitation.

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