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Pain Relief Options for Labor and Childbirth

Katlyn Joy |30, January 2013


Childbirth is much like parenting; you can and should prepare for what is to come but most of your decisions will be made in the moment depending on the situation that arises. The best way to prepare is to become familiar with all the options available and to understand the pros and cons of each. Then you will be knowledgeable and ready to roll with the decisions that are best for your individual situation.

Low Tech Labor Pain Management

These options generally fall under the category of natural childbirth. For some women, they may sufficient to carry them through all of labor and delivery while for others it may only be effective to a certain point in labor and then more help may be needed to cope with pain.

Breathing techniques.
Whether it's Lamaze, Bradley or some other variation, breathing patterns are focused on during contractions. These methods generally are meant to keep you relaxed and focused on something other than discomforts of labor. Some women swear by these techniques while others find them too distracting or unhelpful. You won't know until the big moment which camp you'll fall into, but by learning some breathing patterns ahead of time you will have the option to try.

Relaxation techniques.
These may involve deep relaxed breathing, self-hypnosis, systemically relaxing all your muscles in your body, having a focal point to concentrate on during contractions, or some type of yoga type breathing and relaxation. You might learn some methods of meditation which can keep your body in a calm state. Again, practicing ahead of time is important, as you can't learn it on the fly in the midst of intense contractions.

Comfort measures.
Never underestimate the power of a foot rub, tennis balls in a sock against an aching back, ice chips slowly melting on your tongue or your hair being gently brushed. Your labor partner should have a whole arsenal of ideas just for you. Talk with your partner ahead of time about what types of comfort measures you can imagine finding helpful during labor. Make a list. However, don't be surprised that the light touch on your face that you typically find relaxing may become the thing that makes you swear at your husband during active labor. You will need to let your partner know what is and isn't working. Many things may work at one stage of labor and then be an annoyance later. Having a whole list of things to try will come in handy in such cases.

Massage and acupressure.
These are often helpful during labor to help you cope with the increasing demands of labor. Knowing some methods ahead of time will help your partner be ready for different types of pain. Lots of women suffer from back labor, so knowing where to rub and how to alleviate this intense ache will make labor easier. Acupressure points can be learned to help alleviate some pain in a definitely low tech manner.

Creating a calm environment.
Using aromatherapy scents you find calming, having relaxing music playing on your iPod, surrounding yourself with photos of people or places that make you happy are all ways to increase the calm. The calmer you are the less pain you will perceive; the more stressed you are the more pain you'll feel.

Traditional Pain Relief Options

Usually these are systemic analgesics. These medications are meant to dull the perception of pain and work throughout your entire body, not just one point. It may be delivered through an IV into your vein or may be given as an injection into muscle or perhaps given as an oral medication although this will take the most time to go into effect so is less often used. These may lessen your pain but they will make both you and baby drowsy. This may make initial breastfeeding a bit more challenging.

Regional anesthesia.
This is most often an epidural block, or less often a spinal block. Spinal are used closer to birth, while an epidural can take you through even a long labor to delivery. An epidural must be administered by an anesthesiologist and will mean getting an injection in your back which will provide continuous and adjustable levels of pain relief, generally from the waist down, You will likely continue to feel pressure but not pain. You may need some help with your legs and will not be mobile any longer which may affect your ability to push somewhat. It will not make you drowsy however.

Local anesthesia.
These are shots given before an episiotomy or other procedure to numb a specific point in the body. They may not be given or even needed in many deliveries. Some women may need them during repairs of any lacerations that occurred during birth.

When you feel overwhelmed by pain in labor, and have tried all the low tech options, it's time to talk to your birth attendant about your options. Make sure you know the benefits and potential risks for both you and baby from any method. Ask anything that concerns you and make sure you understand your options clearly.

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Guest Feb 10, 2013 02:25:11 PM ET

Wow great article about

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