Pain Management Basics During Labor
This is the most commonly asked question that I receive and rightly so! Labor hurts! And we are all nervous(no matter how many kids we have) about the pain! So what are our options? Here are some of the basics!
- Epidural- Oh, the gloriously controversial epidural… To get or not to get?! This is really a very personal decision that each woman should be able to make without shame! If you feel like you need it and you have the option, then, by all means, go for it. You can actually get your epidural in most places anytime between 1 & 10 cm. I would encourage you to wait as long as you can though! However, keep in mind, most facilities will not administer them past a certain point, so make sure that you know what the procedure is at your facility of choice. Anesthesia will come in once you check into the hospital at the beginning of your labor while you are still happy and excited 🙂 They will have you sign all the paperwork and explain everything so that it does not have to be done in an emergency situation later on. My advice here would be to actually listen. Even if you plan on going 100% natural (And that is fine!) plans do change…so knowing your options will be a good tool to keep in your mental toolbox.
- Spinal Block- These are usually used for c-sections. With a spinal, the anesthetic is injected once into the spinal fluid with a needle. It is rapid relief and usually lasts for about 2 hours but can last longer depending on the medication used. Whereas with an epidural, a small catheter is placed into the spinal space to deliver a continuous dose of medication.
- Nitrous Oxide– This is not used at all facilities so check with the place that you plan on delivering. This is used during contractions. You will get a mask connected to the tank and the nurse will teach you to breathe it in with the contraction and then breathe out normally. The mask has to fully seal around your face in order to get any of the nitrous. You can keep this as long as you want throughout your labor until the baby comes out. A common misconception with this medicine is that it works like laughing gas at the dentist. You will not be laughing! lol but it does help a lot of women take the edge off of the pain enough to get through the transition period of labor.
- IV Pain Meds- These are different at each facility. When you get them at 1-2cm dilated they are most likely going to just put you to sleep. Which can be a good thing allowing your body to fully relax and let labor begin. These medications are usually best until 7cm dilated. There are two important facts about IV meds. 1) If the baby is very sleepy or has a low heart rate then you will not be able to get another dose. 2) You cannot have any more pain meds if you are within 2 hours of giving birth to your child because they do not want the baby to come out with medication on board. I see a drug called Nubaine used. Some hospitals use Stadol or Dilaudid. Everywhere is different so just check with the hospital that you are going to use.
Remember This: When you use an epidural, spinal, or IV pain meds you must be on continuous fetal monitoring. This is so the nurses can monitor the baby’s movements and heart rate. They look for declarations or “decels”, which are a drop in the baby’s heart rate and can be dangerous. If it goes too low and the baby is in too much distress then an emergency c-section may be performed. In that case, they could possibly have to put you completely under with general anesthesia very quickly so that they can get the baby out safely.
There are so many natural ways to deal with pain! Most people overlook these but they can actually be very powerful. Your mind is an incredible thing and being able to stay calm and control your thoughts will help labor in so many ways! Stress causes labor to slow down a TON. Your body needs to relax for it to be able to do what it needs to do. That is easier said than done when you are having super painful contractions. Try some of these methods to stay ahead of the pain.
- Massage– Massages feel good anytime, but they can especially help with labor pain. If you are experiencing back labor try to put some counter pressure on your lower back. You experience this pain because of the position of the baby in your pelvis. Applying the pressure can help push whatever part of the baby is pressing on your nerves away from the nerve! It could cause the baby to wiggle a little so that they are no longer resting on the nerve at all. Instant relief! Shoulder, neck, and foot massages are also very relaxing.
- Breathing Techniques– Take a class! You can learn different techniques like cleansing breaths and “pant pant blow” breathing and when they are helpful. If you cannot make it to a class then I would recommend getting on YouTube! You can find a lot of very helpful videos to help you learn the different techniques. The key here is to make sure that you practice a lot at home so that when you get to the hospital the breathing is like second nature. You don’t want to be stressed trying to remember how to do your breathing when labor starts. That defeats the whole purpose.
- Make Your Favorite Mix– Music does something that relaxes the soul. You are in a new place and probably do not spend a whole bunch of time in hospitals normally so it can be very stressful. Make a mix of something that makes you happy and relaxes you. Take it with you and have some little speakers so that you can make the room a little more comfortable.
- Essential Oils! I cannot recommend the book Gentle Babies by Debra Raybern enough. This book is incredible! It has all the information you will need about using oils before, during and after labor. It also talks a lot about lactation and pretty much everything you need to know about oils and babies, how and when to use them! Seriously go check it out on Amazon! Worth every penny!
I hope this helps! Good Luck and Congratulations!