I had an elective induction at 39 weeks w/ my dd. The pit contractions were very intense and painful, and I had an epidural as planned.
The epidural, however, didn't take the first time around. Luckily, my RN took pity on me and turned off the Pit. I got another epidural, and the pit was "cranked back up" as my OB would say. I was hooked up to the fetal monitor and contraction monitor the entire time, and in preparation for my epidural, a bag of IV fluids was dripped in along w/ my pitocin. 1 time I went to the toilet with my IV pole of pitocin--it was very difficult to move those 8 feet out of bed and to the toilet. I was stunned to be so tethered, so immobile; I had no idea it would be like that.
I also had a blood pressure cuff on my left arm, a requirement for an epidural. Lastly, a bladder catheter was inserted, because of the functioning epidural--you cannot feel when you need to pee.
Fast-forward to my second pregnancy, when I contemplated homebirth--I wasn't afraid of the pain, because I had endured the pain and agony of my pitocin-induced labor. My med-free homebirth contractions were, as I suspected, much easier to handle and cope with.
I am now planning my third birth, and of course, Pitocin has no part in my plans.
It is difficult to describe the difference in sensation btwn pit ctx and natural ctx. My L&D RN during my first birth explained this to me, and showed me what the two types of contractions look like on a graph.
I wish I could just draw you a sketch, but I can't, so bear with me. A pit contraction looks like a triangle, with a steep rise leading to a point, and a slower decay as the contraction ends. It's like a lop-sided pyramid, if you can imagine that, with the right side being drawn out.
That is the graphical representation that will show up on your printout during a pit-contraction labor, and the sensation is that of a contraction of the largest muscle in your body, your uterus, being gripped by a very strong tightening, and then it lets go.....sorta....very slowly...down.................and then you get hit with the next one.
In contrast, a natural contraction will be graphed looking like a symmetrical hill, with a rounded top. Gradually, the contraction builds, it reaches its peak and whooo..........then it goes away.
Comparing the two styles of contractions, it's easy to see why pit contractions are harder on a baby....babies were designed to endure a gradual build and a quicker decay of squeeze than you get with an artificially stimulated contraction pattern.
During my homebirth with ds, I was most suprised at how "quickly" the natural contractions ended, because all I could compare it with were the pit contractions. I was also suprised at how normal and fine I felt BETWEEN contractions. If you're contracting every 5 minutes, and they're long contractions, like, a minute or so, that's 4 minutes you're not contracting; 80% of your time spent NOT CONTRACTING, a potentially comforting thought.
I think it is possible to endure a pit labor without pain meds. I also think those are the women who deserve the medals in childbirth. I do not know if I could tolerate a pitocin-induced/augmented labor without pain meds, and I concider myself very pro-natural birth, I promote home birth, I choose home birth for myself, I am a doula and know the many non-drug comfort measures that can be offered, and I just think if the MDs were using pitocin on me, I'd need to use some pain meds to counteract that.