Little is known about how mitotic cells round against epithelial confinement. Here, we engineer micropillar arrays that subject cells to lateral mechanical confinement similar to that experienced in epithelia. If generating sufficient force to deform the pillars, rounding epithelial (MDCK) cells can create space to divide. However, if mitotic cells cannot create sufficient space, their rounding force, which is generated by actomyosin contraction and hydrostatic pressure, pushes the cell out of confinement. After conducting mitosis in an unperturbed manner, both daughter cells return to the confinement of the pillars. Cells that cannot round against nor escape confinement cannot orient their mitotic spindles and more likely undergo apoptosis. The results highlight how spatially constrained epithelial cells prepare for mitosis: either they are strong enough to round up or they must escape. The ability to escape from confinement and reintegrate after mitosis appears to be a basic property of epithelial cells.