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So I got an epidural for my VBAC. Get over it.

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Guest post by Andrea Owen


I love passionate people. I love when people take whatever makes them want to shout out from a mountain the thing that makes them sound like a preacher at a Baptist church.  They can rant, or write about it and people shout out, “AMEN!!” 

What I also love is VBAC. I love hearing about VBAC, reading about VBAC, telling my VBAC story, educating people about VBAC and anything that has to do with VBAC.

In 2009, after I had my daughter via VBAC, The Unnecesarean was nice enough to post my birth story to her Facebook page. In efforts to give people hope that a hospital VBAC is possible, even at hospitals with higher than normal cesarean rates (the hospital I had my daughter in had a 41% cesarean rate in 2008). As the comments came in, most were warm, supportive and comforting.

And then came the not-so-supportive.

While I can’t remember the exact words, but a couple of women commented on the fact that I had opted for an epidural (gasp!). Yes, the “E” word. I do remember one saying, “I don’t like how she was told when to push” and mostly how I, at 7 centimeters dilated, had opted for pain relief. I very much remember walking away from the computer feeling one very distinct thought:


I had done it ALL WRONG.


Forget the fact that I had fought tooth and nail against my OB to have a repeat cesarean. Forget the fact that I had spent time meditating and listening to my body and maternal instincts telling me, my body and baby were healthy enough to have a successful VBAC.  Forget the fact that I had to trust myself enough to go against my OB’s “recommendation” when he had 25+ years of experience.  I had chosen to get the epidural and


I had done it ALL WRONG.

Or so I was made to feel. Now, I get that the way I felt was all my own shit, and that no one can make me feel any sort of way unless I let them. But, here’s where I get to the meat (yep, that was just potatoes, y’all).

In the past couple of years since I’ve become passionate about birth, VBAC and women’s choices in birth and parenting, what I’ve come to realize is the radical thinking and opinions of many mothers when it comes to VBAC. And yes, I know who I’m writing for; The Unnecesearean is a blog dedicated to the education and support of VBAC and ending unnecessary and unwanted cesareans.  Every post on here is opinionated and in my opinion, serving the greater good. What gets my panties in a bunch are the mothers who think that natural birth is the only way. And again, I get it. I own a copy of “The Business of Being Born” and even got a little star struck when I met Ricki Lake and took a picture with her like a giddy little girl.  I believe natural birth is what we were made for.

But, you guys, we have SO FAR to go when it comes to VBAC. Just last week I was having dinner with some girlfriends and two of them didn’t know that a vaginal birth after cesarean was even allowed. So, my big, meaty point is can we please just support each other in VBAC no matter what? So few women are “allowed” a trial of labor that the preparation for both a natural birth as well as trying to prepare for the possibility of another cesarean can be so overwhelming. If a VBAC mother opts for the epidural, my God, she had a freakin’ VBAC!

I think it’s fine to educate those who want a VBAC and give credible resources on epidural during VBAC. But, at the end of the day, I’d much rather see a woman who got her vaginal birth with an epidural than one who was so afraid of going natural that opted for an unwanted repeat c-section.

As women, we are still fighting for so much. There is so much pressure on us to be so many things and to do all of it perfectly. (Don’t even get me started on how we’re supposed to “get our bodies back”). When it comes to VBAC, can we all just get along and agree that a VBAC is a VBAC? Like I said before, I think it’s great that women are passionate about things like birth, natural birth and attachment parenting, but let’s leave the ferocity for unnecessary cesareans or hospital VBAC bans.

And while we’re at it, how about we start with the assumption that women are fully capable of making autonomous decisions about their own bodies and medical care? Especially when it comes to VBAC, let’s assume women are educated about birth and the decision to have a vaginal birth after cesarean. Being hostile or judgmental about a VBAC’er getting an epidural is like complaining about a piece of trash you might find on the ground at the Sistine Chapel.

Let’s put the guns down and stop fighting each other in terms of natural birth and VBAC. Support VBAC no matter if the mother gets the epidural or not. 



Andrea Owen is a speaker and Certified Life Coach. She is passionate about helping women empower themselves to live their own kick-ass life. You can read more about her at and find her on Facebook at






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Reader Comments (96)

Fogedaboudid, I hate labels and names, but you are one hardcore anti-epidural bigot, lady.

You wrote: "women should aim to avoid inductions (if medically possible) and yes, things like.. epidurals."

Care to break that one down?

June 3, 2011 | Registered CommenterJill

It's gratifying to see people responding positively to this post, but the overwhelming sentiment I'm left with after reading it and the comments is bewilderment about why this is any of anyone else's business at all. When did this whole thing become a spectator sport? Do your research, develop your own beliefs, make your own choices, but then trust other women to be intelligent enough to do the same-- even if they come to different conclusions than you do. No one should feel that they need to answer to some invisible chorus of judgmental birth crones.

June 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterYttrbia

YES!!! "I’d much rather see a woman who got her vaginal birth with an epidural than one who was so afraid of going natural that opted for an unwanted repeat c-section."

June 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEmily - Anthro Doula

My two cents?

I do think it's valid to weigh, in general terms, the pros and cons of things like vaginal birth vs cesarean section. It is possible to assess options and privilege one over the other. But only in this way: "All things being equal, vaginal birth is best for mothers and babies." I refuse to pretend that all options are inherently equal in and of themselves. They're not. Don't let tolerance make you stupid.

But remember that caveat, "all things being equal?" Well, that's the kicker. Because they never are. Real life isn't a case study out of a text book. And individual women are the only...the ONLY...ones who can make that final decision for themselves about what the best choice is for them. She can look at the research, the "all things being equal, x is less risky than y." She can get input from others who have had to make similar decisions. She can listen to her doctor or midwife's recommendation and rationale. But she is the only one who can judge. She's the one who knows what's at stake, what the choices mean. Sure, she needs good input, but even if she gets misinformation, she is still making the best decision she can with what she has to work with.

So many times people assume that a woman's choice was between, say, "epidural" and "natural birth"--but that may not have been the case, at all. She may have had to choose between a natural, vaginal birth with an epidural, or having her baby pulled out of her through an incision in her abdomen. Another woman might not be choosing between vaginal birth and c-section: her choice might be: either reliving a past trauma or meeting her new baby as herself...calm, rational, present. See what I mean?

I *can* rigorously evaluate different options, massing pros and cons under their appropriate headings, compare risks, and come out with a clear winner--"all things being equal." I can also have some ideas about what I would prefer--though even that would, again, be somewhat of an "all things being equal" sort of perspective, as applied to myself and my experience up to that point. I may feel differently once in a situation myself, and I give myself the freedom and power to apply what I know about generalities to my own situation, because sometimes the context changes the meaning of those options enough that I might choose something I would not normally consider...because it might suit the situation better, it might be just the thing to get my to my goal or because my goals might have changed in the meantime.

June 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMel

I'm in.

June 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnother Rachel

If I read one more comment along the lines of "If I didn't have the epidural I wouldn't have needed the C-Section" or "Maybe if I changed positions I wouldn't have had the C Section" I will lose my mind.

Epidurals do not increase the need for a C Section.
Position changes do not decrease the need for a C Section.

The data is there.

Get the epidural. It is effective, does not cross the placenta.

June 3, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteranon

@ Jill, I"m in!

And @Mel - yes I was totally one of those women who had a choice between a vaginal birth w/ epidural and a C-section (or so it seemed)- as it was I ended up with a vacuum. I wrote a comment yesterday but it appears to have been eaten by the interwebs. My point was that I had done everything "right" - birth center, midwife, NCB education, changed positions, sat on the ball, labored at home, got in the tub, had a doula, and I still stalled out and couldn't progress. It's possible if some magical combination of things had occurred (if I HADN'T had hypermesis in pregnancy, if I HADN"T started vomiting uncontrollably in early labor leading to severe dehydration if I HADN'T had a labor that immediately began with contractions 5 minutes apart etc etc etc) I could have an unmedicated birth. But I know I wanted and needed pain relief at the point I got it, and even though I felt sad about my birth experience for a long time afterwards, given the set of circumstances I had I know I had the best outcome. I had a team of supportive people who listened respectfully to me. My nurses and midwife were so awesome that even AFTER my epidural, they helped move me into different positions so I wouldn't have to labor supine (I had some feeling in my legs, but no pain). They did this for *three hours*. I know what it's like to have a labor where you are suffering - just, really suffering, and every minute is excruciating. I also know that every labor is not like that. My next labor wasn't. I was better prepared, it's true, but I was also just LUCKIER. My labor started slowly and gently so that I was able to work on coping skills gradually. I was relaxed, happy, confident, blissful even because I was proud of myself. Transition sucked, but I was SO glad after the fact that I didn't have another epidural - I never considered it even though I was thinking during transition, this is bullsh*t!!! meaning, the pain), because I pushed so much better and more efficiently the second time than the first. I couldn't feel my body with #1 and I knew I wasn't pushing well/effectively, which is why the baby needed the vacuum, and I had terrible tearing. With #2, I pushed out an OP baby without any interventions whatsoever, and had a beautiful labor and birth experience. Yes, part of me wishes that every woman could experience that kind of birth, because it was so beautiful - calm, peaceful, focused, ecstatic. But because I also had experience #1 I know not every labor happens that way. And also that not everyone wants that experience, either, even if they could have it. I believe normal birth should be supported and many hospital practices that are not evidence based reduced or eliminated. But people should remember that coercion is coercion - it's just as coercive to withhold pain relief from someone who desperately wants it (coercive and abusive, IMO) as it is to hold someone down while they scream at you to stop. It's one thing to talk about the factors that make normal birth so difficult to accomplish, or how to reduce unnecesareans, or how to make medical care more evidence-based - but all of those discussions need to rest on a bedrock of respect for women's autonomy and judgment, and not just when woman X says something that corresponds with what I want/would do. I made a deliberate decision not to have a homebirth because I decided I wasn't comfortable with it, but I would fight tooth and nail for a woman's right to choose that for herself.

June 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterErin

@Jill: You know I'm in. :)

June 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

In contrast to my usual wordiness, a couple of simple responses...

Interventions are not inherently good or bad.

Yes! Yes! Yes!

Epidurals do not increase the need for a C Section.
Position changes do not decrease the need for a C Section.

The data is there.

Get the epidural. It is effective, does not cross the placenta.

No! No! No!

June 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDreamy

What I feel towards women who were lucky enough to have a vaginal birth after an epidural is... envy.
(And I suppose envy isn't always pretty to look at.)

June 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCato
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