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Pain Management During Childbirth – Beyond Epidurals

woman in pain during childbirth

Pain management during childbirth is a hot topic among expectant mothers, especially those who want to minimize the amount of medications they take into their system. Labor can be a long process, and even if you opt for medications such as epidurals or spinals at some point in the process, you might want to be familiar with a variety of approaches to pain relief to get you through.

Common Drugs During Delivery

For a vaginal delivery, the two drug options include local and regional anesthetic. Local anesthetic only numbs the pain in a particular area and might be used, for example, if the doctor has to give you vaginal stitches after delivery. Some providers may choose to give what is called a pudendal block using local anesthesia

Regional anesthetic, such as an epidural or spinal, blocks pain in the lower back while you remain awake. A spinal block starts working immediately while an epidural takes 10 to 20 minutes after injection to get the full effect. The effect of an epidural can be extended as long as you need it as a catheter is usually inserted to deliver medication. While you will still feel pressure after regional anesthetic, you should get some relief with medications that will not harm your baby but will still allow you to push your baby out.

Alternative Ways of Pain Management During Childbirth

To help you make it through contractions and eventually a delivery, there are a variety of ways to lessen the pain or at least get your mind off it. The first task, however, is to pre-select a comfortable place to give birth. Make sure to take a tour that verifies that your hospital or birthing center has space to walk around, and comfortable furniture to ease your pain in a number of positions. You should also determine who will be on your team and in the delivery room with you, including any medical professionals, your birthing partner, other relatives, and maybe a Doula or Midwife. You should also read, watch videos, and attend classes to help you learn everything you need to about the birthing process. This will help you know the questions to ask your birthing team and calm your fears.

Many women go into the labor process hoping to complete it without medications. Most of the approaches are helpful to get you through part of the process, even if you later decide that you need medications to help with the pain. Some techniques include

  • Proper environmental conditions. As the birth process consumes your whole body, you might want to make sure that the birthing room has music, candles, and pleasing scents to maximize the comfortable surroundings you’ve chosen. You should try to focus your mind on something or someone else, whether it be fun time had with your child, or beach time in Hawaii.
  • Moving during labor. Walking, squatting, rocking, leaning on a chair, sitting on a birthing ball, getting on all fours, and other similar techniques can make you feel less pain than if you were lying in bed awaiting the birth of the baby. Even if you have fetal monitors attached, the doctor may be able to check in periodically or do so remotely.
  • Breathing. As you may have learned during Lamaze class, blowing out deep breaths can offer relief and help you focus on the breathing rather than pain.
  • Water. While some women love a water birth, others find that spending just part of the labor in a tub can be relaxing and make pain more manageable.
  • Massage. Gently massaging your back or feet with lotion can aid relaxation and lessen pain.

When planning how to get through labor, you should consider the options and plan to use a variety of them to make it through. For better understanding of the labor and delivery process, as well as for some insights on pain management during childbirth, talk with your doctor at Rocky Mountain Women’s Health Center.


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