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The Pros and Cons of Having Medicine During Birth

The birth of a child is often described as one of the most exciting moments of a mother’s life.  The joy of holding your baby for the first time is hard to top.  But to get to that moment, you will have to get through the birthing process which can be painful.  The pain can be almost eliminated if you take pain medicine such as an epidural during childbirth.

There are both pros and cons to taking medicine during the birthing process that I am going to go through in this article. That way you will have enough facts to make an educated decision about whether you want pain meds or not. Keep in mind that your plans may change depending on how severe the pain is as you progress through labor.

Pro: You are Less Likely to Deal with Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression is one of those dreaded symptoms that can follow after childbirth.  It has been known to affect 1 out of 7 mothers.  One of the pros of having medicine during birth is that you are less likely to get this after birth symptom.  Keep in mind that there is still a chance of you getting postpartum depression, but the chance is lower.

Con: Has Physical Effects on the Baby

When infants are exposed to bupivacaine, a drug which is used in epidurals, they may not be as alert after birth.  Babies that are born to mothers who had an epidural are more likely to be admitted to neonatal care for a while.  Babies may also have impaired visual skills, alertness, and motor organization.

Pro: The Medicine is Helpful If the Baby Gets Stuck

If the baby gets stuck during delivery, medicine can be helpful because you won’t feel any of the pain.  When the baby gets pulled out by forceps or other instruments, it is usually a very painful experience for the mother.  However, if you choose to take medicine, you will most likely be pain-free.

Con: Your Baby May Not Breastfeed

When a mother takes medicine during birth, the baby is more likely to take a longer attempt to breastfeed.  Your baby may also cry when he is handled up to seven weeks after birth.  Some medicines, such as Demerol, can be transferred through breastfeeding.  This means that your baby will be getting a double dose of the drug.  It has also been studied that children exposed to pain-relieving drugs during birth may struggle with addiction later in life.

Pro: You Can Stay Awake and Alert if You Need a C-Section

If your doctor decides that you need a C-section, medicine such as an epidural allows you to stay awake for the delivery.  Without epidural, you would probably get a general anesthetic, which would make you unconscious.  This means that you would miss the birth of your child.

Con: There is Possibly an Increased Chance of Getting Postpartum Depression

Although I mentioned earlier that medicine during birth could decrease the chance of postpartum depression, a different study has stated that medicine during birth can increase that chance.  Because all the studies are different, it has been wondered if medicine during delivery has anything to do with postpartum depression.

Pro: There is No Pain

As you have probably already guessed, medicine during birth will allow you to be pain-free.  Since pain is never a fun experience, you will be able to deliver your child without dealing with the pain that other moms might.

Con: It Can Lengthen the Second Stage of Labor

The second stage of labor, also known as the part where you push, can be lengthened if you take medicine.  For some women labor was two hours longer because of the medicine.  So keep in mind that because you won’t be feeling any pain, you will have to deal with a longer delivery.

Con: You May Not Be Satisfied With Your Birth Experience

For most women, giving birth to their child is one of the greatest experiences in their life.  But for women who take medicine during labor, this is not always the case.  Some women have claimed not to be as satisfied with their birth experience.  While it isn’t known exactly why moms feel this way, it is a common effect that can happen to mothers.


Whether or not you choose to have pain medication during birth is your individual choice. Don’t feel guilty or led by other people’s birth stories to have to go without pain medication if you want it.  Make sure to talk to your doctor or midwife about your birth plan, and allow yourself the flexibility to change your plans whenever you want to.

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