Expecting a baby is undoubtedly a life changing event, and there are many factors to consider along the way. The crescendo of the nine month journey is of course the act of giving birth itself, but a chief concern among expecting mothers is “how will I manage my labor pain?”
There will definitely be some discomfort involved, but it can be difficult to anticipate how much. Mothers that have gone through the birthing process before may be able to reflect on what was involved the first time, but their experience could differ the second time through.
So, what all is happening during labor and why is pain management important? Firstly, the muscles are tightening and pressure is being applied to your body while your baby is delivered vaginally. There’s the potential for backaches and an urge to use the toilet during this time period.
It’s important for any expecting mother to understand their best options for pain management, and most importantly to talk to their doctor.
Pain Management Options During Labor and Pregnancy
Women react differently to labor. Some women are eager to avoid medications or other medical procedures while others would prefer to weigh all of their alternatives.
It is essential for the mother to remain flexible even if their strategy has been decided far in advance.
Pain management options range from medical pain relief to natural relief and there are several specific options within each of those categories. Regardless of which route the mother takes, it comes down to having the proper preparation and mindset.
Although new mothers won’t know what to expect, and the process can obviously change from first born to second, it’s critical that women are on the same page with their doctors throughout the process.
Learning about your best options several weeks or even months before labor actually starts is key to a safe and fruitful labor process.
Pain Medication During Labor
The good news? You will have options, but you should start discussing them with your doctor weeks before you begin labor so that you’re on the same page.
There is a plethora of safe, highly effective pain management options to take to ensure a smooth labor process. Discussing the matter with your doctor is a start so that they are aware of your preferences and they can help you plan accordingly.
Remember that once labor begins, your options may change; the delivery may be more challenging than you or your doctor had anticipated. It’s excellent to have a plan, but it’s also OK to alter it as necessary.
For expecting mothers who plan to take the pain medication approach, here are some of the most common options relied upon for optimal relief.
Analgesics and Anesthetics
Analgesics and anesthetics are used to dilute pain at varying levels.
Analgesics lessens pain but doesn’t eliminate it altogether. The mother can still feel things throughout the birthing process. On the other hand, anesthetics work to numb the entire body, eliminating all other feelings.
There are certain analgesics and anesthetics that block pain in larger areas, especially below the waist during labor. Among these are spinal blocks and the ever popular epidural block—the most common type of pain relief medication used in North America.
Epidurals help lower pain throughout the labor process while allowing the expecting mother to remain alert.
Thankfully, modern technology has made it easier to improve epidural rates and reduce the risk of complications. CompuFlo® Epidural and CathCheck™ Verification systems are two modern products that have made the labor process safer and less strenuous from start to finish.
You’ve likely heard of ‘laughing gas’ before. Well, that’s a colloquialism for nitrous oxide. This is an oxygen mixed substance that helps decrease the intensity of labor pains without eliminating the feeling altogether.
Nitrous oxide doesn’t mess with the body’s contractions and thankfully doesn’t affect the child in any capacity.
There are a few possible side effects from nitrous oxide, which include the potential for nausea and vomiting, but these are extremely rare.
Intrathecal Narcotic (ITN)
One of the lesser known labor pain relief managers, intrathecal narcotic, is delivered via a shot into the lower back. It’s usually described as an epidural alternative that’s given during the first stage of lab
Pethidine, a potent painkiller with similarities to morphine and heroin, is often injected straight into the buttock muscle and may be inserted directly into a vein.
It is one of the safest IV pain medications during labor. Effects might persist for two to four hours, depending on a number of variables. Anti-nausea drugs are often given concurrently with pethidine since it might make you feel ill.
As with everything, it’s important to talk to your doctor before electing to take any of these medications.
Drug-Free & Natural Children Birth Approaches
For women who prefer a natural birthing process, and want to tackle pain management during labor without an epidural, there are some useful pain management practices to engage with.
Since its introduction in the late 1950s, the Lamaze method—created by French physician Ferdinand Lamaze—has been used and taught extensively in the United States.
Lamaze is a relaxation exercise that involves heavy breathing to reduce the sensation of pain as well as the use of massage.
In the beginning, labor management approaches that included controlled breathing were the main emphasis. Over time, the Lamaze instructors’ expanded their thinking to other areas of the woman’s life.
Women have been encouraged to remain active, constantly moving around, and changing positions during the labor process. Giving birth on one’s back has also been discouraged with the Lamaze method.
Women are taught to listen to their body’s urges throughout the labor process. When it’s time to begin pushing, they need to follow that impulse.
The standard Lamaze class has approximately 12 hours of instruction that features just 12 couples, at most. Women who want to take the class are told to begin at the start of their seventh month of pregnancy.
As with any component of your pregnancy, it’s important to communicate with your healthcare providers in advance. Articulate your birthing preferences, medical history, and other factors that could influence your outcome.
Most importantly, Lamaze preaches the need for pregnant women to have a solid support system at home from their partner.
Acupuncture is a natural way to lessen labor pains and reduce the need to utilize forceps. Most importantly, there are zero known side effects inflicted upon mother or baby. It can keep the mother’s muscles feeling looser and more relaxed throughout the labor process. Acupuncture is also great for relieving back pain before and after labor.
Over the last several decades, giving birth while submerged in water has become more and more common. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, immersion in water throughout the first stage of labor can be associated with a shorter labor process and less need for spinal and epidural analgesia.
It’s typically recommended for otherwise healthy women who aren’t experiencing any pregnancy complications.
It’s a straight word process with the woman entering a hot tub or pool of warm water prior to birthing the child then remaining in the tub during the actual birth.
Hypnosis for pain relief during labor may be administered in two basic methods. One option is to employ a hypnotist who remains with the woman during labor and assists her in entering self-hypnosis. The second option is to have pregnant women learn self-hypnosis from a hypnotherapist or teacher.
Hypnotism is a safe, meditative way to alleviate labor pains. While it doesn’t actually eliminate all pain, it lowers the woman’s perception of pain and adjusts the centers of the central nervous system.
The name says it all. It encourages women to remain physically as active as possible during the labor process by stimulating the receptors in your brain for pain perception.
This also helps move the labor process forward by keeping the baby moving around and into a better position for the birth.
Essential oils are all about pushing you further into relaxation mode, and they can be a great utility for women in labor.
Lavender oil is among the heavy favorites along with citrus blossom and jasmine.
Choosing the Right Labor Relief Option
It ultimately comes down to the woman’s communication with her doctor in determining the best options for her.
Safety for the woman and child is the top priority throughout the labor process, regardless of whether they elect to use medication or go the all-natural route.
A woman in labor needs to feel protected and taken care of. In order to reduce stress and anxiety, it’s crucial to create a calm and soothing atmosphere within the hospital.
The sensory nature of birthing a child means that there may be some unusual reactions, including the potential for anxiety, pain, and nausea.
A laboring woman may feel more at ease with the help of dim lighting, closed doors, calm conversations, a plush cushion, and a focal point like a photo or other sentimental item from home.
Once a woman in labor properly consults with her doctor and they have a plan in place, it becomes one less thing to stress over when the time arrives.
Proper planning as well as the use of modern technological devices like the CompuFlo Epidural system might help make the birthing process more seamless and stress-free than ever before. The ability to provide ongoing monitorization of the mother’s vitals throughout the labor process allows doctors to stay on top of the situation and make adjustments as needed.