Pain is a natural part of labor and childbirth. Women experience pain in different degrees during labor. Some feel a lot of pain and for others, the pain is easy to manage without drugs. Knowing what is available will help you plan for labor. Become familiar with your options before the big day to ease your mind.
Natural Pain Relief Options
Some women get through labor without drugs. These women often use alternative methods of pain relief. Many natural childbirth classes, such as Bradley or Lamaze, stress breathing as a way to deal with the pain without drugs. Consider taking one of these classes during your pregnancy to learn the breathing techniques. These take practice and the more you practice, the better prepared you will be when the contractions begin.
Other natural techniques for reducing pain include using soothing music, visualization and water. Many hospitals and birthing centers now offer tubs that can be used to relieve the pain of labor. Some women find that being in the water relieves pressure and helps the pain.
Massage or pressure on the lower back can help with the pain of labor. Pressure applied to the lower back is particularly helpful if you have back labor. You will learn these techniques in natural childbirth classes. There are several books available to help you prepare as well.
Analgesic Pain Relievers
Analgesics are generally injectable medications that you are given during labor. These include Demerol and Stadol. These drugs don’t take the pain away, but can make it more bearable. Some women become drowsy and find they are able to relax better between the contractions. Keep in mind that some women experience dizziness or nausea after receiving these medications. Many women find they can better deal with the pain and avoid an epidural with analgesic medications.
The epidural will totally block the pain of labor and birth. An anesthesiologist is needed to insert the epidural. A needle is placed in the space between the vertebrae in your spine and a catheter is inserted. The catheter administers the medication, which blocks the pain. They are particularly beneficial if you are given Pitocin to bring on contractions. In some cases, the use of the epidural can slow down labor. There appears to be a link between this and an increased risk of needing a c section, but the data is not conclusive.
There are some risks associated with the epidural. In a small percentage of cases, they are not very effective and you may not experience total pain relief. There is a small risk of permanent neurological damage with this method of pain relief. Although rare, this can happen if the epidural isn’t inserted correctly. More common reactions include a “spinal headache”, which is caused by leaking spinal fluid. This is a severe headache that can last for a week or more.
Lying flat on your back can often relieve this, but if it is severe, you may be given a blood patch. This consists of some of your own blood being injected into the site of the epidural. This causes clotting and prevents more leakage of the spinal fluid. With this method, many women find the headache disappears quickly.