Does labor still hurt with an epidural? What DOES labor feel like WTIH an epidural, and will childbirth still hurt? Most women wonder how much does childbirth hurt, and this post is going to give you all of those answers!
Labor pain comes from your uterus contracting. There are ways to reduce it and this post will specifically talk about labor pain management. It’s part of my post on labor epidurals, but it talks about pain, in general, in labor!
Just like when you’re carrying 12 bags of groceries up 3 flights of stairs — your bicep hurts, so does your uterus.
I have a whole other post with more of the nitty-gritty on the epidural procedure. And I know all this, because I’ve been an L&D nurse since 2001, and have been in more epidural procedures than I can even count in those almost 20 years!
What does labor feel like?
Contractions (or labor pains) start as cramps, and then progress into more painful contractions. They feel very similar to horrible stomach pains that never let up. They are manageable — but many women get an epidural.
BTW, if you’re wondering about the ins and outs of labor and birth I totally recommend this class. I mostly love how it SIMPLIFIES the labor process for you. The reviews are awesome, and you can even save 10% with code PC10!
Does labor still hurt with an epidural?
The epidural is pure magic. At least, that’s what it seems like to me — on the other side of the patient. Yes, there is a lot effort and schooling that have gone into your anesthesiologist to put it in, but once it’s in it should make you fairly numb from about your bra line to your knees.
This post is mostly going talk about how pain-free you should expect to be with an epidural, but if you’re wanting to know more about the procedure/risks be sure to read my epidural procedure post.
How much pain does the epidural take away?
Notice above, I said “fairly”.
Yes, you’re still going to feel pressure, some sensation and, when done correctly — it will not make you entirely numb.
You read that right — it will NOT make you totally numb.
Yes, you’re paying thousands of dollars for that epidural, but it will cover about 80% of your pain when done right.
Why is that?
- We still need you to move a little bit. It’s still important to move from side to side and be able to assist in positioning yourself.
- You need to feel pressure — that helps you know it’s time to push.
- That pressure helps you push better, and can help decrease your pushing time. If you’re ENTIRELY numb, you can’t push well.
Of course, pressure can very much feel like pain. I can guarantee that the pain you’re feeling is much less than it would be if you didn’t have the epidural, even if you find it very painful.
Most women don’t feel the final “ring of fire” thanks to the epidural — so that is certainly awesome. 🙂 Most women also don’t feel cervical exams much after the epidural.
Some people wonder how long your epidural lasts << that post answers it all!
Does the Epidural Hurt?
I have a whole post to answer the question — does it hurt to get an epidural
But, in short — I think the placement of an epidural is very similar to the pain involved in your IV start. That at least gives you a frame of reference (as you’ll have to have an IV before you have an epidural)
Problems that can happen with an epidural
There are a few other things that can go wrong with an epidural:
- The catheter can “migrate” — or sometimes just pull out. The doctor will tape your back a LOT, but as we move you, there’s always the chance it could pull out (or could move internally)
- You might have a “window” where the nerves are bundled and the spinal medication can’t get to.
- Sometimes they don’t get it right on the first try, and it’s just not effective — in which case, the only thing they can do is try again.
Keep in mind that the placement of an epidural has many factors including:
- How you’re positioned (that’s up to you to listen to the doctor and follow orders)
- Your anatomy (and yes, skinny girls are often easier to get it in than larger girls) But, it also has to do with where your fat is located, and how your spine bends.
- Doctor skill
Think of your back as a banana. The doctor is feeling for a space like between the peel and the banana.
What you can do to make an epidural easier
Things you can do to help your epidural:
- Listen to your nurse/anesthesiologist to position yourself as well as possible (see this post about what labor nurses do)
- Stay still — a moving banana would certainly be extra hard to get it right!
- Be realistic — as I said above — your pain will be 80% taken away.
- Give your nurse as much info as you can. Did you ever get pain free, is it in a specific spot? That helps us know if there’s anything we can do?
I’d also recommend having some basic pain management skills going into labor — whether you are planning on an epidural or not. I share one of women’s favorite ways here. 🙂
And that, my friend, is the real magic (because you’ll need pain management techniques for the next 18-40 years with that child). 🙂
Common questions about an epidural:
Not usually too much. But, every person is different. Again, you will likely need to feel some pressure, so don’t plan to be pain-free. Most people find it a relief to push.
Most women don’t experience the “ring of fire” with an epidural. But you will likely feel some pressure.
I have a whole post on how long your epidural should last that answers ALL of that!
Frankly — pretty bad. Think of period cramps and stomach cramps, and then just AMPLIFY that (plus your vagina really aches as well). That’s the best example I can give.
But with some practice in some pain management and information, you should do really well!
Labor Pain Management Classes
This online prenatal class, is not full-fledged pain management class. We do teach some VERY basic pain management, and we do have a whole video on managing pain through breathing. But I believe you need a separate class that JUST does pain management.
The one I recommend is Hypnobabies. I have seen SO many successful moms use it. I have heard they have used it later in life as well — that it is just a good one for coping mechanisms.
If you purchase one of the Hypnobabies home courses through my link — I do offer my online class at 50% off
Here’s how it works:
- Purchase Hypnobabies here: https://www.HYPNOBABIES-STORE.COM/link.cgi?affiliateID=344 (to qualify — purchase SA 101 or 102)
- Fill out this form (it’s going to ask for your name, email, date & time of your purchase, as well as your IP address so I can match sales)
- I will email you with a 50% off code
You can find my Online childbirth Class here: https://www.pullingcurls.com/online-prenatal-class-couples (but, if you’re planning to do this deal, do not purchase it until I send the code).
**Again, you must purchase Hypnobabies through that link above in order to qualify for the reduced price on my course — directly after you purchase, fill out this form and I’ll send you the coupon.**
Don’t miss that other full post all about epidurals during childbirth and what to expect when they put it in.
If you have an epidural does childbirth still hurt?
In short, a bit — but if an epidural is working correctly — it should take away 80% of the pain.
So, that’s the nitty gritty on what you should expect from your epidural. Just a reminder this is part of a series all about labor epidurals. don’t miss the others:
- Does it hurt to get an epidural?
- Epidural during Labor — the procedure & more.
- How long should my epidural last?
Below, I answer the #1 question related to epidurals (and check out all my other pregnancy posts below that):