Many women insist on a natural birth, without medication to minimize the pain, on the belief that it is safer or healthier for the child then using medication. This is a common enough phenomenon that I don't believe I need to provide any quotes to back up this belief, though I can if asked.

Do studies show that these natural births are safer or offer other health benefits to the child vs use of pain medication?

For this question I'm asking specifically for birth in a first world medical facility of a child carried to term without any sign of other medical risk factors for mother or child prior to the birth.

  • 1
    Can you give some examples? I tried, but they each seemed to have different claims, so I wasn't sure which to use. My fear is that the answer may be tackling a strawman if it doesn't address the particular concern.
    – Oddthinking
    Feb 5, 2017 at 23:15
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    Okay, then the answer should focus on c-sectionss. If it only focuses on breast feeding or autism, it isn't addressing the claim.
    – Oddthinking
    Feb 6, 2017 at 2:32
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    Why do you think that women believe in that? Probably some of them simply think: women have been doing this for million of years without medication, so why should I need them if everything is going fine?
    – Bakuriu
    Feb 8, 2017 at 20:16
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    @Bakuriu appeal to nature doesn't make an approach correct. Women also use to die in childbirth quite regularly before modern medicine, c-sections, etc became common. Clearly we have managed some improvements, the question is rather pain medication counts as one.
    – dsollen
    Feb 9, 2017 at 14:46
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    @dsollen Yes, and why do you think that all women think in absolutely rational terms? Just because a reasoning is not 100% sound does not mean that some people will do that reasoning and consider it valid. In fact I do know some women that expressed that kind of line of thought with me.
    – Bakuriu
    Feb 9, 2017 at 17:50

1 Answer 1


Using of Epidurals and painkillers during childbirth was not shown to have long lasting effects on the baby1.

It can affect the course of the birth, prolonging it and by slightly increasing chance for assisted or instrumental delivery, and, as some research suggest, that it may cause babies to have trouble “latching on” causing breastfeeding difficulties.

According a review by Pub Med

Any medication that a woman uses during labor enters the child’s bloodstream as well via the umbilical cord. This includes pain-relieving drugs and anesthetics delivered through epidurals. But anesthetics do not have a stronger effect on the baby than other painkillers that might be considered for use during childbirth. Epidurals have no known long-term disadvantages. One difference, though, is that births take a bit longer on average in women who have epidurals. Epidurals might make it more difficult for some babies to get into the best position for birth.

When women have an epidural, their baby is more likely to need to be delivered with the help of instruments that use vacuum suction (a “ventouse” delivery) or forceps. This is known as an assisted or instrumental delivery.

  • About 10 out of 100 women who do not have an epidural need an instrumental delivery, compared to

  • about 14 out of 100 women who have an epidural.

Before a child can be delivered using suction or forceps, an episiotomy (cut made in the back of the vagina) is usually necessary, which then needs to be stitched.

According to them it doesn't increase the chance for a c-section:

Having an epidural does not increase the likelihood of needing a Cesarean section

But other sources suggest that it can increase the likelihood of a c-section:

You might find that your epidural makes pushing more difficult and additional medications or interventions may be needed such forceps or cesarean.

source: the American Pregnancy Association

Because a standard epidural can decrease your ability to push, a forceps delivery or cesarean delivery (C-section) may sometimes be needed.

source: WebMd

In an article by the American Pregnancy Association it's also suggested that an Epidural procedure can cause some babies to have trouble "latching on":

Though research is somewhat ambiguous, most studies suggest that some babies will have trouble “latching on” causing breastfeeding difficulties.

1 - Epidural procedure can have side effects on the mother which are explained in the sources, but the question asks specifically about the child.

  • Since the question is about health of the child it would be good to elaborate on all the above to clarify how they affect the child's health. Presumably c-sections mean a higher risk to the child and thus do effect the child's health, but as written none of examples given directly state how they affect the child's health
    – dsollen
    Feb 6, 2017 at 15:04
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    There might be some muddling of cause and effect there...labors with epidurals are slightly shorter in part because some women having fast labors don't need or want, or can't get an epidural in time. If a baby is malpositioned, that could be the cause of both the instrumental delivery and the epidural.
    – swbarnes2
    Feb 13, 2017 at 20:46
  • @swbarnes2 Exactly. Its like saying that most people that had some type of brain surgery had problems on the brain.
    – T. Sar
    Feb 16, 2017 at 9:52

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