Well, there’s no use sugar coating it! Childbirth isn’t exactly a walk in the park, and you can expect to experience some pain. Thankfully, there are lots of ways to handle it – labor pain relief options are numerous. Here is a broken down explanation of pain relief options. To start with, we talk about natural pain relief, and then we will move into medical options (hello epidural!) that you might like to consider too. Make sure you include them in your birth plan, if you are writing one.
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Let’s Talk Natural Labor Pain Relief Options First:
Set the Scene
Take the time to get yourself as comfortable as you can: this might involve putting on a birthing music playlist you’ve put together previously (singing the songs and dancing with your birth partner is an amazing distraction). You could also use essentials oils (check with your care provider first, and know not all hospitals allow this). A relaxed mom is a mom who feels less pain.
Consider what position you labor in, and use water when you can
Despite what is depicted on the movies, laboring on your back on the bed is actually the most painful way to do it for most women. Moving around – bouncing on a birthing ball, for example, will lessen the amount of pain you experience. Also recommended: being on your hands and knees, swaying from side to side, and squatting. Water is also fantastic to use: you would be amazed it helps you cope with the labor pain. Run the bath, or have your partner sit in the shower with you while you are on your hands and knees, having them rub your back through each contraction.
A TENs machine (that stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation, FYI) is this clever little battery held device that reduces the pain you experience in labor. While researchers don’t currently know why exactly it works, many moms rave about it. Four pads are placed on your lower back. Mom presses the button, and a pulse goes through your body, giving off a tingling feeling. It’s thought to work by making endorphins (those feel good hormones) happen, and by blocking pain signals. Some hospitals keep TENs machines handy, chemists hire them out or you can buy one here.
Getting your birth partner to gently massage your muscles is proven to help provide labor pain relief (and to reduce anxiety) – likely because it helps block the pain signals from getting to your brain. Have your birth partner focus on the lower back, or if you are in the early stages of labor, consider seeing a licensed massage therapist. Often, Doula’s are able to help with massage too.
Sterile Water Injections
Sterile water can be injected into your back to reduce pain. This is particularly helpful if you are experiencing back labor. There are no known side effects either.
Medicated: Medication/Interventions to Help Provide Labor Pain Relief
Nitrous Oxide – Laughing gas!
A combination of oxygen and nitrous oxide, gas is a super non invasive labor pain relief method. You suck the gas in, and it helps you relax and it definitely takes the edge off labor pain. No side effects, although you may get a dry mouth, and some moms feel nauseous after using it. Unfortunately, it is only just starting to gain popularity in the United States, so isn’t available everywhere, but if you’re a mama in the UK, Canada, or Australia – this is very popular form of labor pain relief and is pretty much available to everybody.
If you aren’t keen for an epidural, but need something to help with the pain, opioids can be given via injection or through an IV. However, they can make you feel groggy and will reduce your ability to move around, and can make your baby sleepy too.
By far the most popular form of labor pain relief in the US (with approximately 75% of moms having one) is the epidural. ‘Epidural Analgesia’ is injected into the lower back, and numbs you from the injection site down, making it a very effective labor relief option! The Doctor injects the needle into your back, near your spinal cord, threading through a catheter which is taped to your back. The drug typically takes 10 -20 minutes to work.
You remain alert and awake but you can’t walk around with it, and you’ll need a catheter put in to help you pee. It normally lasts for around 24 hours, and the medication can be topped up as needed in small amounts. Most moms don’t have side effects or long term issues associated with their epidural, but some do (with ongoing back pain being the most common). It’s important to talk to your care provider about the pros and cons.
Similar to the epidural, a needle is injected into the lower back, in the spinal fluid (but unlike the epidural, no catheter threaded through). However, it typically only lasts for 1-3 hours, which is much shorter than the average labor.
Labor pain relief options – what do you think is right for you? Be sure to talk to your care provider and hear stories from other moms you know to hear what worked for them. Some moms love going all natural, and others (that’s me) swear epidurals are the greatest thing ever invented.