Labor and delivery of the new little addition to the household involves hard physical work, pain and discomfort. Woman today have options for pain relief during labor and delivery. These options include medications, natural relaxations methods, hydrotherapy, acupuncture and hypnobirthing.
This is the part of a pregnancy that most women find most concerning or worrisome. The process is often shrouded in mystery and most women haven’t had the opportunity to observe a birth before being forced into the situation themselves.
As late as the early 1900’s 95% of births were at home and attended by family, children and sometimes friends. Today 95% of births occur in hospitals and birthing centers and only 5% happen at home.
The process of labor and delivery of a new child is also a painful experience. It is possible to labor in relatively little pain but it is best to be prepared with coping techniques and pain relief during labor and child birth.
One of the biggest things that can easily increase the amount of pain and discomfort a woman feels is the amount of anxiety and stress that she is also undergoing. One of the best ways of alleviating the anxiety about the pain is to become educated about the process and the different pain management techniques that can be used.
The origin of the pain is from the contraction of the uterine muscles and by the pressure exerted on the cervix. A woman will feel cramping in the abdomen, groin and back. They will feel tired and achy all over, may experience nausea, fatigue, chills and shakiness or pain in the thighs and sides.
The perception of pain during labor and delivery is different from woman to woman and pregnancy to pregnancy. For instance some women believe the pain is more like severe menstrual cramping or cramps from diarrhea. Others experience it as pressure. And first time mothers are much more likely to rate the pain of labor higher than those women who have previously had babies.
There are several different methods that women use to prepare for the pain management during labor and child birth. But regardless of what method that is chosen regular exercise during pregnancy can help prepare the muscles and body for the stress of labor. Exercise will also increase endurance and cardiovascular endurance which is helpful not only during labor but in the coming days when mom is caring for the new little baby with little rest.
Before undertaking any pregnancy exercise program talk with the practitioner and make sure that it fits the individual needs of this pregnancy.
At childbirth classes the expectant mother and her partner will learn different techniques for handling pain from stretches, relaxation, visualization, and self-hypnosis. The two most common childbirth classes are currently the Lamaze method and the Bradley method.
Other childbirth classes teach yoga methods of pain control, self-hypnosis, meditation, walking, massage, changing positions, hydrotherapy, distraction, and acupuncture. Most childbirth classes teach a combination of these methods using breathing and position changes as the basis for pain management during labor and child birth and other techniques as adjuncts that may be used depending upon the wishes and desires of the expectant mother during the process.
There are also several types of pain medications that can potentially help during labor and delivery. Analgesics are medications that can be given intravenously – through an IV – and can be given again using a shot as needed. They don’t usually slow the progress of labor but can cause side effects in the mother and may cross the placental barrier slowing the breathing of the newborn.
The actual side effects felt by the newborn will depend upon the medication and the timing of the administration of the medication in relationship to how close the delivery is expected. Some women find that the nausea and drowsiness make it more difficult to deal with the contractions.
Medications that have a tranquilizing effect don’t relieve the pain but may decrease anxiety. They are sometimes used together with an analgesic in women who are highly anxious. The risks to mother and baby are minimal but this options should be discussed with the practitioner before labor and delivery.
Most women think the most common pain management during labor and childbirth is regional anesthesia. This type of pain management will deaden the sensation to specific areas of the body and can be used during vaginal or cesarean section deliveries.
Types of regional anesthesia are epidurals, spinals and pelvic nerve blocks. Epidurals and spinal anesthesia provide continuous relief from the belly button down during the entire procedure. In some cases spinal anesthesia can creep up past the waistline because of the way in which it is administered.
Epidurals and spinal anesthesia are administered in much the same manner, in the spinal column. The side effects and risks of spinal anesthesia are greater than an epidural and thus aren’t used as frequently.
In both cases an anesthesiologist uses a thin tube like catheter to insert the medication into the lower back. Because the medication is given at the root of the nerves less is used and less reaches the baby. There are some drawbacks however, such as it makes it more difficult for the woman to push and can cause moms blood pressure to drop. The risks to the baby are minimal.
Although there are several choices for women during labor and delivery the perfect method for preventing pain hasn’t been developed. There are factors that will help to make the decision about the pain management techniques used during labor.
- The desire of the mother to experience labor and participate in delivery.
- The amount of childbirth preparation.
- The amount of emotional support that mom receives from a partner, family and friends.
- Mom must also remain flexible in the decisions made for pain management since although labor and delivery are a natural and normal process there are unexpected circumstances that may require medical intervention and thus medications.
Once labor does begin women are best able to utilize the pain management techniques that they’ve learned by paying attention to their body’s during the pain. Creating a routine way of dealing with the contractions also helps to manage the pain by giving the mom consistency and knowledge of what to expect. Varying the techniques used as labor progresses will also help to manage the pain. Techniques that were helpful in early active labor may not be helpful at all in transition.