Pain during labor is known to be one of the toughest things to deal with as a woman. After all, it’s called labor for a reason. It has been shown that maternal satisfaction with childbirth is based on women being in control of the whole process by being in charge of their labor pain. Therefore, it is very important to know all the options you have in order to decide how to make it through labor and delivery.
ANALGESICS- Morphine, Demerol (Meperidine), Fentanyl. These are given through an IV line into your vein or an injection into your muscle. They act on your entire body instead of specifically on labor pains. You will feel sleepy. They only take the edge off the situation and lessen the pain but will not give you 100% pain relief. If you are good at handling pain and if you would rather avoid invasive procedures, this might be an option for you. Some disadvantages are that you and your baby will feel sluggish, you may be nauseous, and the effect might not last very long so you will need multiple doses. Deliveries using analgesics are associated with shorter labor.
EPIDURAL- Lidocaine, Bupivacaine.
Epidural anesthesia numbs your lower half of the body instead of acting on your whole body. When your cervix is dilated half way, a small tube will be put into an area around your spinal cord (epidural area) and the tube will stay in throughout labor. Anesthesia will either be given to you continuously or through doses given at specific times. This is the most popular form of anesthesia used in United States because it gives complete pain relief, you will not be half asleep and be able to concentrate, and the amount of medication can be changed during labor to accommodate your level of pain. Side effects can include your blood pressure suddenly dropping or you might experience a severe headache.
Spinal anesthesia is sort of similar to an Epidural in that it gives you complete pain relief in the bottom half of your body. Spinal is only a one-time shot given directly into the area protecting the spine (dura) versus a continuous infusion like in an epidural. It will give you relief within 5 minutes. If you want better control of pain later into the delivery, this is a better option. Spinal anesthesia can also be given prior to a C-section. A combined spinal and epidural anesthesia is also an option if you would rather have immediate relief while the epidural is kicking in.
There are various natural ways to reduce labor pain including acupressure, aromatherapy, acupuncture, hydrotherapy, herbal therapies, massage, reflexology and relaxation techniques. We will review a few of these here. A great resource for an in-depth look at all the natural ways to reduce labor is a book by Nicky Wesson called Labor Pain: A Natural Approach to Easing Delivery
ACUPRESSURE is done by applying pressure to various points on the body to help relief pain from labor. There are generally 5 points on the body associated with labor pain relief: the shoulder well or top of shoulders, the sacral area (right above the tail bone), in the webbing between the thumb and index finger, the tip of the little toe, and at the inner ankle bone.
HYDROTHERAPY is a more commonly used natural way to reduce labor pain. As many of you have probably seen or heard of women choosing to have their labor and childbirth immersed in water. The water helps improve circulation, ease back pain and gives you an overall sense of relaxation which calms you. A calmer you will help your muscles relax and therefore help relieve pain. Also since you are in the water, you no longer feel pressure on you back and lower spine which can help your pelvic muscles relax and open.
RELAXATION TECHNIQUES include breathing through contractions, moving around by walking or rocking, or even rolling on a Birthing ball. Massage and aromatherapy are some other relaxation techniques.
I know this information will help all of pregnant moms specially those first-time pregnant moms!! Always keep in mind that if the pain is worse than you expected or if it is way easier than you thought, you can ask to change your pain medication.