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Managing the Pain of Childbirth
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It is not uncommon to worry about how you will cope with the pain of labor and delivery. Childbirth experiences are different for every woman. There is no one who can predict how you will feel. Pain intensity depends partly upon:

• The size and position of the baby
• The size of a woman’s pelvis
• A woman’s emotions
• The strength of contractions

Types of pain relief include:

• Natural pain relief
• Waterbirthing
• Medical pain relief

Natural Pain Relief

There are many women who choose to deliver their babies without using medicine for pain relief. This method of managing pain is called “natural pain relief.” Some of the techniques women do to ease the pain include:

• Breathing and relaxation techniques
• Taking warm showers or baths
• Receiving massages
• The supportive care of a loved one or nurse
• Finding comfortable positions while in labor (this can be standing, crouching, sitting or walking, etc.)
• Use of a labor ball
• Listening to music
• Building a positive outlook on childbirth and managing fear

A woman needs to realize that labor pain is not like pain due to illness or injury. Labor pain is caused by contractions of the uterus. These contractions push the baby down and out of the birth canal. There is no other reason for this type of pain.

How can you learn to feel positive about childbirth?

• You can take a childbirth class. Usually your health care provider, a midwife, hospital or birthing center will have this information available.
• Keep a journal of your concerns and questions. Talk to your health care provider or midwife about these concerns and questions during regular visits.
• Share your fears and emotions with friends, your family, and with your partner
• Read, Read, Read as much as you can about the process of childbirth


Waterbirthing is a method of managing pain that more and more women in the United State are using. It is relatively new in the United States. There is very little research to date about its real benefits. However, some women say giving birth in the water is much faster and a lot easier. In addition, women may tear less severely and need fewer episiotomies using waterbirthing.

Laboring women get into a tub of water that is between 90 and 100 degrees. Birth can occur inside or outside the tub.

The purpose of water in the tub is:

• To help women feel physically supported
• Keeps women warm and relaxed
• Eases the pain of labor and delivery
• The water makes it easier for laboring women to move and find comfortable positions.
• Waterbirthing may be gentler for your baby and may ease the baby’s transition from the womb into its new world. The water provides an environment that is similar to the womb.
• The water may make entering the baby’s new world of light, sound and feel a little less harsh. When the baby is born, it is brought to the surface of the water and immediately wrapped in blankets.

Please note: Waterbirthing is not safe for women or babies who have health issues.

Medical Pain Relief

Not all options of medical pain relief are available at every hospital and birthing center. Your health history, allergies and any problems with your pregnancy will help decide which pain relief to use. Types of medical pain relief include:

• Intravenous or intramuscular analgesic
• Epidural anesthesia
• Pudendal block
• Spinal anesthesia

Intravenous or intramuscular analgesic involves receiving pain medicine through a tube inserted in a vein (intravenous) or by injecting the medicine into a muscle (intramuscular). The medicine goes into the blood and helps to ease the pain. Types of medicines usually used for this include:

• Opiods including morphine
• Fentanyl
• Nalbuphine

This option makes the pain bearable, but does not get rid of all the pain. You can also receive an epidural or spinal pain relief later.

What are the disadvantages of intravenous or intramuscular analgesics?

• Sleepiness and/or drowsiness
• Nausea and vomiting
• Itchy skin
• These medicines can cross into the baby’s bloodstream and affect the baby’s breathing, heart rate and cause the baby to very sleepy after birth.

Epidural Anesthesia

Medicine is injected into the lower part of the backbone or spine to block pain in the parts of the body below the shot.

What are the advantages to receiving epidural anesthesia?

• Most women remain awake and alert with very little pain
• Many women do not feel any pain during contractions and childbirth

What are the medicines used in epidurals?

• Novocaine-like drugs combined with opiods like fentanyl

What are the disadvantages of getting an epidural?

• It can cause you to shiver
• It can lower blood pressure
• Make you feel very itchy
• Cause headaches
• May not numb the entire painful area, some women continue to feel pain in an area of the abdomen and back

Pudental Block

Numbing medicine is injected into the vagina and a nearby nerve called the pudendal nerve. This is used only late in labor, and usually just before the head comes out. There are very few disadvantages and the baby is not affected. A woman experiences some pain relief, remains awake, alert and is able to push the baby out of the birth canal.

Spinal Anesthesia

Medicine is injected into the lower part of the backbone, which numbs the body below where the medicine was injected, and gives immediate pain relief. This type of pain management is often used for women who need an emergency Cesarean section. Numbing medicines similar to novocaine combined with opiods like fentanyl are used for spinal anesthesia.

What are the disadvantages of spinal anesthesia?

• Numbs the body from the chest down to the feet
• Makes you feel short of breath
• Can lower blood pressure
• Can cause headaches.

Source: National Institutes of Health Online

Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The information in this article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. All health concerns should be addressed by a qualified health care professional.

By Connie Limon
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