Pregnant women worry about the pain they are likely to feel and how they will cope with it during labor and delivery. As childbirth is different for each woman, there are no set criteria about the amount of pain. The amount of pain a pregnant woman feels during labor depends partly on the size of her pelvis, the size, and position of the baby, the strength of the contractions, upper limit of her tolerance to the pan, and her emotions. Developing a positive outlook on childbirth and managing fear may help some pregnant women better cope with the pain.
Pregnant women should realize that labor pain is different from pain due to illness or injury. Labor pain is caused by contractions of the uterus that are pushing your baby down and out of the birth canal. Some pregnant women with high pain threshold and positive outlook to pain do well with natural methods of pain relief. Some pregnant women blend natural methods with medications that relieve pain.
The following are different methods of dealing with pain during labor and delivery:
Natural Pain-Relief Methods
Many natural methods are available to help women to relax and make the pain more manageable. Doing the following things will help pregnant women to ease the pain:
- Try breathing and relaxation techniques.
- Taking a warm shower or bath.
- Getting massages.
- Trying hot compresses on lower back and a cold washcloth on the forehead.
- Having the supportive care of a loved one, nurse, or doula
- Finding comfortable positions while in labor (stand, crouch, sit, walk, etc.)
- Using a labor ball
- Listening to music
In water-birthing, you will remain in the water for delivery. This is called hydrotherapy. More and more women in the developed countries are opting for water birth to find comfort during labor. Undergoing labor in a tub of warm water helps you feel physically supported, and keeps you warm and relaxed. Also, it is easier for you to move and find comfortable positions in the water.
Medical Pain-Relief Methods
Many pain relief methods that work well and pose small risks are available to women in labor. Doctors use different methods for pain relief at various stages of labor. While you are in labor, your doctor will ask you if you need pain relief. The doctor will explain about risks and benefits of different pain relief methods to help you choose the best possible option for you. The doctor will consider your health history, allergies, and any problems with your pregnancy before telling you which method works better for you. Make sure to ask your doctor if any pain relief method will affect your baby or your ability to breastfeed after delivery. The following are different methods of pain relief during labor:
Methods Of Pain Relief During Labor
Opioids, also called narcotics, are medicines given intravenously (IV) or by injecting the medicine into a muscle (IM). Sometimes, opioids also are given with epidural or spinal blocks.
How Opioids Help
Opioids reduce some pain make it bearable, but they don’t affect your ability to push. After getting pain relief from opioids, you can still get an epidural or spinal block later.
Disadvantages Of Opioids
- Opioids are short-acting and they don’t get rid of all the pain.
- They can make you feel sleepy and drowsy.
- They can cause nausea and vomiting.
- They can make you feel very itchy.
- Opioids cannot be given right before delivery because they may slow the baby’s breathing and heart rate at birth.
Epidurals And Spinal Block
An epidural involves placing a tube (catheter) into the lower back, into a small space below the spinal cord. Small doses of medicine can be given through the tube as needed throughout labor.
A spinal block involves giving a small dose of medicine through a shot into the spinal fluid in the lower back. Spinal blocks usually are given only once during labor.
How Epidurals And Spinal Block Helps
Epidural and spinal blocks allow most women to be awake and alert with very little pain during labor and birth. With an epidural, pain relief starts 10 to 20 minutes after the medicine has been given. The degree of numbness you feel can be adjusted throughout your labor. With a spinal block, pain relief starts right away, but it only lasts 1 to 2 hours.
Disadvantages of Epidurals And Spinal Block
- Although you can move, you might not be able to walk if the medicine used affects motor function.
- It can lower your blood pressure, which can slow your baby’s heartbeat. Fluids given through IV are given to lower this risk. Fluids can make you shiver. But women in labor often shiver with or without an epidural.
- If the covering of the spinal cord is punctured, you can get a bad headache. Treatment can help headache.
- Backache for a few days after labor.
- Epidural can prolong the first and second stages of labor. If given late in labor or if too much medicine is used, it might be hard to push when the time comes. Studies show that epidural increases risk of assisted vaginal delivery.
A doctor injects numbing medicine into the vagina and the nearby pudendal nerve. This nerve carries sensation to the lower part of your vagina and vulva.
How Pudendal Block Helps
This is only used late in labor, usually right before the baby’s head comes out. With a pudendal block, you have some pain relief but remain awake, alert, and able to push the baby out.
Disadvantages Of Pudendal Block
Pudendal block is safe and has negligible disadvantages.