Epidural Vs. IV Pain Meds.. or Both..

Updated on October 17, 2011
M.M. asks from Lake Charles, LA
13 answers

First off I want to say I'm NOT soliciting opinoins on natural child birth.. It's no one's business but mine and my husbands so if you're going to comment on my choices.. not interested :)

With my first I had an epidural, they did it WAY too early and my labor stopped progressing so I had to be induced, they gave me a dose of Nubane before the anesthesiologist gave me my epidural (because I was having some contractions, it was like 9:30 and they wanted me to rest as much as I could).. The anesthesiologist was a JOKE, I had never had an epidural & he didn't tell me anything (like I shouldn't be able to move my legs?!) so we didn't know that the epidural didn't work until they gave me the pitocin and my contractions were HORRID. I remember being in horrible pain for like 3 hours (wasn't close to time to push) and we were waiting on another anesthesiologist to come in and re-do the epidural I vaguely recall asking for something for pain and they told me it was too late.. The second epidural basically numbed me from my rib cage to my pubic line (making the contractions bearable but I still felt EVERYTHING).

So my question is this: My plan is to chose IV pain meds until my contractions are far enough that they won't be stopping THEN get the epidural, for those moms who chose not to get the epidural and went with IV pain meds when do they stop giving them to you? I thought it was stupid that they offered the meds when I was in early labor but when I was dying 2 hours before I even started pushing they told me it was too late... I wasn't sure if they said it was too late because I had the epidural or if it was too late in labor to safely give them.. So any insight would be helpful, we're going over our birth plan with the OB today and I wanted to be clear with him on what I wanted to do.. Again, I don't really care what anyone thinks of my choices I just wanted some more info from moms who have been there.

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So What Happened?

Thanks for all the responses!! I'm going to talk to my Dr. today to ask him when he normally orders the epidural (sorry but I don't want to get it early just because the anesthesiologist wants to go home early again) and what's "too late" for the pain meds.. we're at a different hospital that is solely dedicated to child birth and everything I've seen of how they work this time is AMAZING so after hearing from all of you I feel better! I noticed that most of you didn't get the epidural until you were at least 4 cm.. I think I was barely 3 when they ordered it.. right now I'm already at 1 so I don't see it being a problem this time and I'm not expecting the IV meds to not let me feel the pain, more like not care about them.. and not want to choke the nurses that try to give you smiles and sunshine while you're going through hell :)

More Answers



answers from Green Bay on

You are right, your labor/delivery is entirely your decision. I think maybe you should as your doctor when is "too late" for IV meds...since they were the ones who told you it was "too late" in the first place. Each doctor is different and each one will tell you when is too late. I asked my dr. when was too late for an epidural and he said it is never too late, the problem is timing the epidural procedure in between contractions that are too close or so late in the labor process that I am already so uncomfortable that it is more difficult/timely to get epidural in.

My experience - they would have given me more nubain, however, it only lasts a certain amount of time and each time you get more, it is less effective (or so I have heard)...I only had one dose of nubain and then went for the epidural because it was getting late at night and the anesthesiologist was available! :-) My experience, the epidural helped my labor progress. 45 min after the epidural, I was ready to push (was 2-3 cm at time when Epi was inserted). But I really held out for the Epidural. I prob would have waited but the nurse "sold" the idea of doing it then by telling me the anesthesiologist was available and if I wanted it in an hour, he might not be available then. Also, had I not had the Epi, there was a good chance of C-section because I was not progressing/dilating.

Also our experience - we did not have a specific birth plan. Our doctor never said those words!! So when I read about birth plans I have to chuckle! I understand there are things that you would like to happen a certain way, but nature works its course. I would have rather not had pitocin, but my water broke and 8 hours later, I still was not having contractions. So, instead of sticking to a strict "birth plan" I was able to stay flexible. Maybe your doctor pushes for a birth plan, which is great. Ours didn't, and it helped me stay flexible and accept the unexpected :-) GOOD LUCK!!!!!

Also, YES, a badly timed epidural can stop labor and sometimes to the point where even pitocin won't help and then your only choice is a c-section. Contractions are NOT fun...but it is part of the labor process. Nubain does make you feel very woosy - a lot of people don't like that feeling. I also encourage you to do your own research. Ask around - other doctors, nurses, even online. Don't simply listen and take ONE doctor's advice. Take control of your experience by researching and asking your own questions!!! (much like you are doing now...but also ask medical professionals their definition of "too late")

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

with my first I had horrible back labor--so painful. I checked in at 7cm and the anesthesiologist was still an hr out. so I was given 'Fentanyl' to help hold me over until the anesthesiologist got there. The nurse told me exactly how I would feel and she was exactly right. I still felt every contraction, but I was so loopy that I didn't react to it. she said it would last about an hr--at the 45 minute mark, I remember it wearing off and screaming for the epidural. the worst part was I couldn't move around I had to stay in the bed b/c of the IV's I hated it. and the epidural they gave me was so strong I couldn't feel anything when it came time to get my little guy out, and it totally stalled my labor. My experience that round was horrible.

My 2nd pregnancy I checked in at 7.5cm barely in pain. I was going to forego the epidural/meds based off of my first, and the fact that is seemed like the epidural slowed my labor way down. But with the nurses convincing I went ahead with the epidural. Oh my what a totally different experience. I had a trigger like apparatus that I could control if I needed more, even though the anesthesiologist said the initial dose he gave me should take me all the way up to labor, but I should be able to feel a little bit to help push. He was right on--I felt enough pressure, but no pain and was able to push my little booger right out. I never had to use the trigger either, although I have heard many who did have to use it.

I'd say go ahead and explore your options, but also shop around for hospitals / drs who are known for good med control. I delivered at a total different hospital--I couldn't believe the difference in experiences.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Houston on

I'm surprised you didn't know you shouldn't be able to move your legs with an epidural... did you not do any preparation or reading on epidurals before hand? In any case, yes you should have been told and examined, but it's also very important to research. I had my epidural almost 10 hours before I delivered with my first, and about 5 hours before with my second... I got a good nights sleep. Some people's bodies do not respond as well as others. I know a few people who the epidural didn't work for.

I did the iv and epidural, the iv was first. Usually, they do an iv just anyways, in case you need an emergency c-section. IV didn't take much pain off, it just calmed me a bit, but I still remember shaking in agony! Also, if you wait too long to get the epidural, you likely won't have time to get one.

Really, if you are doing pictocin this time around, you have to get the epidural first. And unfortunately, labor can stop progressing at any time, it happens.

When making your birth plan, be sure you understand what is going on because it doesn't sound like you really do. Also, realize that birth plans are guidelines, that often needs to change in a moment's notice.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

A well timed epidural can be a wonderful thing. I didn't like IV meds. They made me too tired, and not able to deal with the pain (that I could still feel).

My suggestion is to get up and move for as long as you can tolerate the contractions. Try to use breathing and postion until you are dilated to a point where you feel the epidural will work best (and you are not going to stall labor).

My SIL recently had her epidural when she was about 7 cm and she said that she then dialated to 10 in the next 30 minutes.

Good luck!



answers from Dallas on

I had the iv meds and an epidural with my first and I absolutely hated the iv meds. They made me feel like I was incredibly drunk and sleepy and I have very little memory of the birth which makes me sad. My nurse told me I was allowed 2 doses of iv meds but that the second dose really doesnt do much and she was right it didn't. Also they are not allowed to give iv meds after you reach 8 centimeters. I had my second with no meds and the contractions were not as bad as the first so if you can hold out till 4-5 centimeters for the epidural I would do that!



answers from Los Angeles on

With my first I had and epidural which worked very well. Did you take antenatal classes? In our's they taught us all about each method of pain relief, including exactly what would happen with epidurals. With my second I didn't have an epidural. This led to me most definitely having an epidural with my third. IV painkillers did not really do much for the intense pain of labor, but check out 'walking epidurals'. They do exist, and if you're at a maternity hospital it is likely they either know about them, or do them.



answers from Pittsburgh on

Had the epidural & it slowed things down, then pitocin, etc, etc.
Can you "shop" anesthesiologists? You should be able to, right?

Also, I wanted Nubane in a "to go" bag! No such luck.
I think I could have got through it with the Nubane...but don't know how long they will give that throughout labor--I had it early on.


answers from Dallas on

I guess it just depends on what you can handle. I had iv pain meds with my first and it did not relieve the pain. It made me sleepy and dizzy so instead of helping I had horrid contractions but I was dizzy too boot. Yuck! Everyones experience is different. I had a epidural with my second and I too got it early (before 4 centimeter ) they upped the potcin and I felt 3 contractions from start to finish and 5 hours from my first iv to already being stitched up. Im not for natural hold birth. Why in the world would I want to be hurting if I don't have too? I hurt with. Y first due ti pre eclampsia but that epidural with my second was a god send. Good luck mama! Hope it is quick and easy!


answers from Tampa on

I had an epidural with #1 at 2 cm... because the pitocin was too horrible and after 6 hours I couldn't stand it anymore.

#2, I didn't have the epidural until I was between 7-8 cm... if my baby's body wasn't so swollen and large, I'd have probably had a 100% natural homebirth. The later you wait - PITOCIN FREE!!! - the better and faster the labor will be.

Be sure you walk, squat, rock and sway OUT OF BED as much as possible to help with the pain relief of the contractions.
I tried Staydol... for some I've heard it is enough. With the pain I had for the baby being stuff in the pelvis but still trying to get out plus the augmentation of pitocin - staydol made my head spin but feel every super contraction.



answers from New York on

I tried the pain meds too. "Like a glass of wine" NOT more like 3 martinis, and as other people said, I was just out of it and aware of being in pain,without having the mental capacity to do any of the things I knew to make it feel better. I might not have had my epidural if I hadn't tried those stupid things.



answers from Charlotte on




answers from Cleveland on

I was induced with my kid and about half way into labor my contractions were getting semi bad and my dad was in the room and him and my guy were watching the moniter telling me when i was having contractions and i just decided to get a shot of iv meds so i didnt throw something at one of them, then i didnt get anything else until about an hr after my dr broke my water and i got the epidural and i will NEVER get one again the person who did it nipped a nerve or something and 2.5 yrs later i still have back pain in that spot and it sucks


answers from Columbia on


One of my closest friends in the medical community is an anesthesiologist. He does epidurals all day long. He says that its absolutely normal for labor to stop progressing once the epidural is given. So, they add pitocin. You don't want pitocin BEFORE that epidural, but if you are one who won't progress, after the epidural is placed it will keep things rolling.


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